Updated: 2/5/2020 There’s nothing like a pain in your teeth to completely ruin your day. Once it starts up, it’s all you can think about: what is the problem, how much…

Woman with Tooth Pain

7 Things Your Tooth Pain Might Be Telling You

Updated: 2/5/2020

There’s nothing like a pain in your teeth to completely ruin your day. Once it starts up, it’s all you can think about: what is the problem, how much is this going to cost me, what do I do? There are several different kinds of pain with widely different possible causes, so it might be helpful to understand your symptoms better to identify the measures you’ll have to take.


A toothache is your standard deep pain that comes from deep in the root of your tooth (or teeth). It’s often felt as a throbbing pain, but can be less or more severe than that. Often, a toothache could be a result of you grinding your teeth at night. It’s important to get checked out by your dentist for other possible causes if the pain lasts more than a couple of weeks.

Consistent Sharp Pain

If you feel a sharp pain when you bite down on food, pay attention to this area. If the pain is concentrated to one area, and the pain persists when pressure is put on the tooth for over a week, you most likely have a cavity forming and will need to get it filled quickly.

Occasional Sharp Pain

Occasionally, you may feel the same sharp pain when you bite down but not see any particular pattern. If this is happening infrequently and in a variety of spots, it probably isn’t anything to worry about. Try to refrain from chewing on anything too hard if it continues to bother you.

Swollen Gums

Gums that are swollen and tender to the touch can come about from non-dental influences, such as pregnancy. But most often, it’s a sign of an oncoming gum or periodontal disease. Try to floss more often than normal, but if you don’t see any improvement you’ll need to see your dentist for an official diagnosis and treatment.

Pain on a Tooth’s Surface

A tooth’s surface refers to the front, back, and sides of the tooth. If you notice that an individual spot on the surface of your tooth is increasingly sensitive to heat, cold, or sugar, you may have a cavity forming. These types of cavities will require a more-expensive white filling to look more aesthetically pleasing, so be sure to brush these areas well to avoid the problem. Pay attention to any pain or sensitivity that comes from air blowing between your teeth, as you may have a cavity forming on the narrow sides.

Pain in Upper Teeth

If you are experiencing a throbbing pain in your top few teeth but none others, it may not be a dental problem. Often people who suffer from a temporary sinus infection will feel the pressure all throughout the area, including at the roots of their front teeth. Your dentist can recommend some decongestants if this seems to be the problem.

Jaw Pain

An overall ache in your jaw most often indicates a tendency to clench or grind, which could require a mouth guard to protect your teeth. However, in some cases jaw pain can actually point to an increased risk for an oncoming heart attack. If the pain increases gradually, and you have any suspicions that this may be the case, seek a doctor immediately.


This guide will help you pinpoint any preliminary questions or concerns you may have about your symptoms, but it’s by no means meant to serve as a stand-alone resource. The advice and treatment of your dentist is the only foolproof way to rid yourself of any tooth discomfort, so don’t be scared to pencil in a visit.


Guest Writer

Drew Kobb, in addition to studying civil law, loves long-distance running and considers himself a health and fitness enthusiast. His interests range all over the medical field, and Drew highlights that range on his blog, Dr. Ouch. For more information on cutting-edge pain-relief devices, visit Totale Medical at their website.


Natasha is 1Dental’s managing editor and copywriter, focusing content on dental and health news, advice and tips straight from the experts. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and has since been a book editor and now copywriter and managing editor on dental and health. You can find her on Twitter and all of 1Dental’s social networks.

  1. I recently had what I thought was a tooth ache. It felt like I would need a root canal. The dentist x-rayed it and could find nothing wrong with the tooth. Then I started having pain in my upper teeth and tongue, I worried I had tongue cancer. I was told it must be TMJ and that I needed a night time guard because I was grinding my teeth, but I usually sleep with my mouth open and I wasn’t aware of grinding during the day. When the pain started, I was using a water pick every day and rinsing my mouth with peroxide as well as brushing several times a day. I am 65 and was told I needed a deep cleaning which I had done. Suddenly the pain has stopped completely. One of my lower crowns has a lot of room on both side of the tooth where food gets stuck. My next step is to replace this crown with a larger one to eliminate this problem. I was told periodontal disease is not painful, but the combination of the deep pockets (5) next to the small tooth caused inflammation and pocket which effected the whole side of my mouth. I have other pockets, but they are only 2s and 3s. The too small crown was really the cause of the whole problem.
    If a tooth is too long due to an ill fitting crown and the bite is not perfect it can throw off your whole jaw, and eventually one has jaw pain. Dentists are very quick to diagnose this as TMJ. My front tooth actually broke in half because it had too much stress on it. I had a “filling” put on the broken part, but the tooth was filed shorter than it had been, no more TMJ!

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