What Are the Different Types of Toothache?

Toothache is what drives so many of us to the dentist, almost despite ourselves. It can be the worst of all poss­ible pains, so bad as to be almost unbearable. There are times when we would happily allow a dentist to remove all our teeth if it would guarantee a good night’s sleep or a good day’s work. In fact, toothache has been measured to be third in intensity behind the pains of childbirth and some terminal cancers. You might think that all toothaches are the same, but in fact they are very different. We can describe a number of different types.


– Pain caused by cold air or by cold drinks and food, such as ice cream. This is likely to be caused by exposed dentine resulting from wear and tear on the teeth. Dentine that has been exposed as a result of decay or part of a tooth breaking off may be sensitive to hot food and drinks as well as cold ones.

– Pain caused by sweet drinks or sugary food. Causes as above, but more likely to be decay.

– Severe, longer-lasting pain triggered by the above two – or even coming totally out of the blue -indicates the involvement of the ‘nerve’ of the tooth.

– Pain caused by pressing or biting on a tooth. A dead tooth having an acute area or abscess, or a fracture of either a filling or a tooth generally causes this. Other causes of this type of pain are high (proud) fillings or crowns after a visit to the dentist. This pain can also be caused by infections around a wisdom tooth that is not fully erupted (impacted).

– Continual pain like a gnawing headache can be caused by severe gum problems or a tooth near to dying, with the nerve of the tooth very swollen.

– Soft tissues, the gum or cheek can cause a similar pain. Typically biting on the pad of gum over an impacted wisdom tooth, or a pathos ulcer causes this.

– Pain caused by traumatic injury. This is generally a cracked or broken tooth, although it could also be a jaw fracture.


Sensitive Teeth

Some people’s teeth become sensitive to hot and cold at around this age. The enamel over the crown of the tooth and the cementum covering the root are both insensitive. But on some teeth, on some people, the dentine has been exposed. This might be as a result of gum disease, over-forceful brushing (abrasion), wear-and-tear, tooth grinding or severe erosion from gastric refluxes caused by indiges­tion.


This condition makes a tooth (or teeth) sensitive to touch and to hot, sweet and cold substances, and even cold air. It can be extremely painful. The main treatments are to reduce the acidity of the diet (especially citrus fruits) and to use specific desensitizing toothpaste such as Sensodyne. They really do work. The dentist can also apply fluoride gel.


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