Why Does My Tooth Hurt? 5 Sudden Causes of Toothache

Whether it’s gnawing, throbbing, sharp or shooting,  few things in life are as painful or disruptive as a toothache.  Yet toothaches happen to many of us on any given day - about 22% of adults experience tooth pain every day. 

Sometimes the pain lingers or it goes away as quickly as it came. Either way, tooth pain is a sign that there’s usually something more serious going on. If you experience a toothache, please let us know as soon as you can. Don’t ride it even if your pain suddenly does go away. The longer you wait to have it checked out, the greater the problem - and the pain - can become.

Here are 5 Possible Causes of Sudden Tooth Pain

  1. You Have a Cavity - Having a cavity can trigger a sudden pain when you bite down, or tooth sensitivity when you drink or eat sweet, hot or cold foods. Cavities wear away little holes in the enamel of your tooth, which makes the inner area of the tooth, and its nerve, more susceptible to temperature changes, or pressure. The Fix: If your toothache is due to a cavity, getting a filling will prevent it from getting worse, improve your ability to eat certain foods, and help stop the pain. Fortunately, we now offer only tooth colored composite fillings, instead of those silver, amalgam fillings. These fillings are “invisible”, durable, and they're also mercury free. Still have old silver fillings? Here are 5 reasons to replace them.
  2. You Grind Your Teeth - The enamel of your teeth are super strong, but they’re not strong enough to hold up to the long-term wear and tear caused by chronic teeth grinding, or clenching, which is usually triggered subconsciously due to stress or anxiety. In fact, the teeth grinding that causes the most damage usually happens when you’re asleep. Teeth grinding will eventually wear down the enamel of your teeth, promoting tooth sensitivity. It can also crack your teeth, and damage your existing fillings, or other restorative dental work. And it can lead to tension headaches, sore jaws and disrupt your sleep. The Fix: If you suspect (or someone who sleeps near you) that you’re grinding or clenching your teeth, a custom made nightguard will help protect your teeth throughout your sleep, and they can also. help you break your teeth grinding habit. Should your teeth grinding be related to an orthodontic issue, such as a bite disorder, Invisalign might be an option. It’s helped some of our patients stop their teeth grinding, while also straightening their teeth!
  3. You Have a Damaged Filling - Sharp sudden pain when you bite down could also be related to having a broken filling. While dental fillings work wonders, they may eventually break or crack due to age, or from the excessive wear and tear of teeth grinding. Once your filling is damaged it can no longer properly seal the root of your tooth properly from bacteria getting in and causing more decay. The Fix: When a filling starts breaking down, it’s pretty hard to detect with the naked eye. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of your check-ups, so your dentist can spot any possible issues before they turn into a bigger dental concern. We’ll keep an eye on the health of your existing fillings, and know when it’s time to replace these before they give out on you, or break, and take some of your tooth’s enamel. The good news? If your old filling was silver, we'll replace it with a tooth colored filling, so your filling is repaired, and no more silver spot when you laugh!
  4. Receding Gums - Sudden tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods could also be related to the health of your gums. If you’ve noticed that your teeth appear longer, it’s probably due your receding gumline. As we age, our gum tissue begins to wear down, leading to gum recession. Receding gums pull away from your tooth surface, exposing the root surfaces of your teeth. This may lead to painful gums, tooth sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures, and having loose teeth – and eventual tooth loss. The Fix: Gum recession is one form of gum disease, and it’s usually due to poor daily oral hygiene habits. Depending of the severity, we can our dentist can help you monitor it and prevent it with regular or deep teeth cleanings and dental check-ups. But if you do wind up with severe gum recession, and you are experiencing pain, there are things that can be done to help you treat it, such as via medications, or with gum contouring.​
  5. You Have a Tooth Fracture - Sometimes it’s obvious. You just bit down on something hard, or you cracked or chipped a tooth playing sports. Other times, you may not even know you have a fractured tooth, because the crack is very slight, and difficult to detect. Either way, having chipped or cracked teeth may cause some toothaches because it exposes the sensitive nerves inside your teeth. The Fix: - Depending on the location and size of the fracture, a dental crown, veneers or filling can fix it and alleviate the pain.

While sudden tooth pain is something that happens to many of us every day, it’s not something we need to live with. And it’s also something you shouldn’t ignore. That sudden ache or pain could be a sign that something more serious is going on with your tooth, so the sooner you get it checked out the better.

If you ever experience pain with your teeth or gums, please let us know. Just call (206) 524-1000 for an exam or request an appointment online! We can help to take the pain away. Depending on the issue, we’ll develop a plan of treatment, so that you can return to as pain-free a routine, as you possibly can.

Skip to content