Smile by Design - Dr. BriAnna Schraw - Fort Mill, SC
When to See the Dentist for Tooth Pain

When to See the Dentist for Tooth Pain


You’ve just taken a bite of your favorite food and felt a sudden sharp pain. Is this pain something you can ignore, or is it time to make a dentist appointment? The answer isn’t always simple, but there are some clues you can use to determine whether to pick up the phone right away or wait to see if it corrects itself.

There are two types of tooth pain you might feel. The first type is what is commonly called a “toothache.” It almost always indicates that there is a problem only your dentist will be able to help solve. The second sensation is usually considered “sensitivity,” rather than tooth pain.

Tooth Pain

If your tooth hurts all the time, not just when you are chewing, then you have the classic “toothache.” But just because your tooth pain isn’t a constant throbbing sensation, doesn’t mean you don’t have a dental problem. Some people will have shooting pain every time they bite down with a specific tooth. The most common causes of this type of tooth pain are:

  • Tooth decay
  • Cracked teeth
  • Worn fillings
  • Gum disease

The number one cause of tooth pain is tooth decay. Tooth decay begins a long time before you feel pain. Bacteria slowly destroy the outside surface of the tooth. Eventually, the infection breaks through the outside of the tooth and causes sudden pain. If you have a cracked tooth or a worn filling, the bacteria may be able to get into the inside of the tooth without working through the hard enamel. The result is the same though, an infection that needs to be treated.

Gum disease can also cause tooth pain, even though the actual structure of the tooth may be fine. Gum disease causes the gums to recede or shrink and this can expose the tooth root. When the tooth root is exposed, it will become irritated and you’ll feel pain.

The most important step to treating tooth pain is to make a dental appointment so you can be properly evaluated and the exact cause of the tooth pain can be diagnosed. If the tooth pain lasts more than a few hours or regularly occurs (such as every time you chew) then you most likely have one of the problems listed above.

If you are experiencing this type of tooth pain, please call us for an appointment right away.

Home Tooth Pain Treatment

Until you are able to visit us and receive dental treatment for your tooth pain, there are a few things you can do at home to reduce your pain.

  1. Rinse your mouth out with warm water
  2. Use an over-the-counter pain reliever
  3. Avoid foods and beverages that may trigger more pain

Tooth Sensitivity

It is not unusual to experience sensitivity to hot or cold liquids, or sugary foods occasionally. One common cause of tooth sensitivity is the use of whitening products. If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, you should stop using whitening toothpaste and other whitening products. Often, the sensitivity will go away within a few days.

Sometimes, your toothpaste can cause sensitivity, even if it doesn’t contain a whitener. This is even true of special toothpastes that are supposed to be for people with sensitive teeth. If you are having sensitivity problems and have stopped using whitening products for a while, then consider switching toothpaste. We’ll be happy to help you figure out which toothpaste might work best for you.

Another possible cause of tooth sensitivity and even tooth pain is clenching and grinding of your teeth. When your teeth are under pressure from clenching or pushed together forcefully when grinding, the root of the tooth can become irritated. Many people only grind or clench their teeth at night and don’t even realize they are doing it. An oral exam can help us determine if you are grinding or clenching your teeth.

If you’ve stopped using whitening products for several days and the sensitivity persists, then it is best to schedule an appointment. Just like stronger tooth pain, sensitivity can be a sign of a dental problem that needs treatment to be corrected.

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