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Why Do My Teeth Hurt? 10 Reasons Your Teeth May Be In Pain

The pain of a toothache can be jaw-dropping. Take a look at ten of the most common causes so you can get the right treatment.

Last updated on

August 6, 2023

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Why Do My Teeth Hurt? 10 Reasons Your Teeth May Be In Pain

Toothaches are infamous for being some of the most uncomfortable types of pain. Especially when you take a sip from a hot cup of coffee or eat a cold ice cream cone, you start to notice some of its effects.

What Are the Causes of Tooth Pain?

All sorts of things can cause tooth pain, but it almost always feels excruciating no matter the reason. Some of the most common causes of tooth pain include:

  1. Jaw clenching
  2. Receding gums
  3. Enamel erosion
  4. Cracked or chipped teeth
  5. Cavities
  6. Sinus infection
  7. Gingivitis, or gum infection
  8. Teeth whitening
  9. Dental procedures
  10.  Oral cancer

Tooth pain can feel like a stinging sensation, a blunt soreness, or even a sharp, shooting feeling. But regardless, it never feels great.

1. Jaw Clenching

Jaw clenching is actually one of the most common of tooth sensitivity and jaw tension and pain. It’s often accompanied by teeth grinding at night, but clenching can occur at any point in the day. It’s often caused by a temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), which affects the joint that connects your jawbone to your skull.

The medical term for this is bruxism, and mild forms don’t require treatment. However, if it becomes severe, the pressure applied to your teeth can cause cracking and chipping, which will naturally cause some pain and discomfort.

The course of treatment for bruxism is dependent on the underlying cause. Dental interventions like mouth guards or muscle relaxant medications can help if TMJ or another jaw disorder is the culprit. However, if the cause is stress, you may benefit from stress management and relaxation techniques instead.

2. Receding Gums

A receding gum line occurs when your gums recede to expose the root surface of your tooth. This is often the result of aggressive tooth brushing, but it can also result from gum disease or periodontal disease.

When your root is exposed, it makes you more susceptible to sensitivity from hot and cold beverages or foods. Additionally, it puts you at risk of developing infections or gum disease.

Receding gums can be prevented through good oral hygiene, such as soft-bristled brushing regularly. If gum recession has become too severe, dentists may graft tissue to cover a portion of the exposed root.

3. Enamel Erosion

Does your morning coffee start to cause more pain than comfort? If you feel like your teeth are becoming sensitive to high or low-temperature foods, it’s probably due to dentin, or enamel, erosion.

Enamel is the thin outer covering of a tooth. It’s the hardest tissue in the human body that essentially acts as a shield, protecting the inner layers of your tooth from harm. However, once enamel wears away, it doesn’t grow back.

Certain foods can wear away enamel and make you more susceptible to tooth sensitivity. It’s typically high in acidity, like coffee, citrus, or candies.

You can avoid enamel erosion by limiting those foods that wear it away. However, there are also procedures like fluoride treatments that can help to protect the enamel and make it more defensive against erosion.

4. Cracked or Chipped Teeth

Cracked or chipped teeth can lead to some intense pain and discomfort in your mouth, especially depending on how severe the crack is. If the inner layers of your tooth are exposed, you may feel some intense, shooting pains at all times of the day – especially when you consume something hot or cold.

A traumatic injury can cause damage to your teeth, but it might also be caused by clenching or grinding your jaw. 

Minor cracks or chips can be corrected by a dental procedure called a filling, in which a drill is used to remove damaged areas of the tooth. Then, a gel replaces the cleaned area to restructure the tooth back to its original form.

For other chips, a bonding procedure can be used in which composite material adheres to the tooth to restore its shape and appearance.

5. Cavities

More than 80% of Americans have at least one cavity by the time they hit their mid-30s. And as common as these dental conditions are, it doesn’t change the fact that they can be the source of discomfort.

A cavity is a hole in a tooth that develops because of tooth decay. This happens when acid in the mouth wears down your tooth’s enamel, leaving small holes that make the middle layer (dentin) and innermost layer (pulp) susceptible to infection.

The closer you get to the root of your tooth, the more pain you’re likely to feel. That’s why treating a cavity as soon as it forms is essential.

Filling procedures are used to treat cavities at the more minor stages, but if they progress to a point where the inner pulp is infected, you’ll probably need a root canal. 

Root canals are an endodontic procedure where the infected pulp and nerve endings are removed to alleviate pain. Then, a filling is placed inside the tooth to restore its structure.

Finally, if a cavity becomes so severe that a root canal won’t be able to save it, you may need a tooth extraction in which the infected tooth is removed from the gums entirely. 

You may then also get a dental implant procedure to replace it.

6. Sinus Infection

A sinus infection can make your nose feel congested, and your head feels full – but did you know that it might also be the source of that nagging toothache you’ve been feeling? Pain in the upper back teeth is actually a fairly common symptom of sinus infection or sinusitis.

Sinuses are empty spaces in your skull connected to the nasal cavity. When they become infected, they also swell and become inflamed. Your largest sinuses exist above the back teeth in your upper jaw, so if they become inflamed, they may push against the roots in your upper jaw and cause feelings of pressure and discomfort.

Most sinus infections are caused by a bacterial or viral infection that just needs to run its course. However, you can use nasal saline sprays to alleviate inflammation and hopefully ease the discomfort. Additionally, a doctor might be able to prescribe antibiotic medications to help your infection subside sooner.

7. Gingivitis (Gum Infection)

A gum infection, also known as gingivitis or periodontitis, is a common disease that is easily preventable. Gum infection occurs when the soft tissue of the gums becomes infected. Over time, this starts to destroy the bone that supports and protects your teeth.

One of the most common causes of gum infection is poor oral hygiene. When you don’t brush and floss regularly, plaque builds up on the tooth’s surface. This hardens into tartar, which eats away at the tooth’s enamel. The problem with tartar is that it can only be removed by an oral hygienist using a special tool, as it is much harder than plaque alone.

Avoiding a gum infection can be as simple as regular brushing and flossing, but it is also important to see your oral hygienist for routine cleaning twice a year so they can scrape off plaque before it does too much damage. This can also alleviate an infection if it has already occurred.

8. Teeth Whitening

Everyone wants to have pearly white teeth and avoid teeth yellowing, but whitening products may do more harm than good. Whitening strips or bleaching gels can put you at a higher risk of tooth sensitivity because it can wear away your outer layer of enamel.

With that said, pain due to teeth bleaching is often temporary and subsides once you stop treatment. However, there are some less abrasive teeth whitening alternatives, such as baking soda instead of over-the-counter whitening products.

9. Dental Procedures

You might also have some temporary pain or sensitivity if you recently had some dental work completed in your mouth. Specifically, drilling, cleanings, fillings, or fluoride treatment might leave your teeth feeling sensitive for a short period. If you feel major discomfort after your dental procedure, be sure to contact your dentist as soon as possible.

10. Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can develop on the tongue, the lining of the mouth, back of the throat, or the gums. Most oral cancer is linked to excessive tobacco use, alcohol use, or infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV).

There are many symptoms of oral cancer, but one of the most common signs is irritation or pain in the jaw or other areas of the mouth. When detected early, oral cancer is highly treatable and can often be eliminated through radiation therapy or surgery combination treatments.

You can avoid the risk of developing oral cancer by limiting tobacco use and alcohol use, as well as going to a bi-yearly oral exam by a dental hygienist so they can detect early warning signs of this disease.


Most of these underlying problems can be easily treated by a dental professional. The problem – oral procedures can be expensive. And since dental insurance is separate from most health insurance plans, many people are without the necessary oral care that they need.

Flossy is a membership-based program made for people without dental insurance. Our free membership comes with no annual premiums or monthly memberships, and you’ll only pay for the services you receive. You’ll get access to top-rated dentists in your area at discounts of up to 50% off the national average.

Ready to get relief from that toothache that’s been bothering you for months? Find a dentist near you and get started today.


TMJ disorders - Symptoms and causes | The Mayo Clinic

Bruxism (teeth grinding) - Symptoms and causes | The Mayo Clinic

Dental Fillings: Materials, Types, Sensitivity & Allergy Issues | Cleveland Clinic

Cavities: Tooth Decay, Toothache, Causes, Prevention & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic.

Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) | Antibiotic Use | CDC

Sinus infection and toothache: Any connection? | The Mayo Clinic

Oral Cancer | National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

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