September 23, 2019

The alarming moment of experiencing tooth pain can be one of the most uncomfortable things to wake up to. What is this pain and what’s causing it?!

This blog is about the different types of tooth pain and the possible sources of their cause.

When tooth pain is experienced you should see your dentist as soon as possible.

In order to understand tooth pain better, first we’ll cover a brief overview of the different parts of a tooth.

The 3 outer layers of a tooth are called the:

  • dentin
  • cementum
  • enamelwhat causes tooth pain?

The cementum covers the tooth’s root and is connected to the dentin. Dentin is an organic material and is less mineralized and brittle than enamel. In a healthy tooth, enamel completely covers the dentin and the dentin layer is not exposed to anything.

(Fun fact! – dentin has a natural yellowish color and contributes largely to the natural, yellowish tint of an aging smile.)

The enamel is the outermost part of a tooth that you see. It is hard, brittle and completely mineralized.

Anything that damages the enamel and exposes the inner layers of the tooth can cause sharp tooth pain.

Types of tooth pain

There are two types of tooth pain:

  • dull, throbbing pain
  • sharp, shooting pain
  • Dull tooth pain

Dull, throbbing pain is often prolonged and can go on for days. Rather than being specific to a tooth it is often a steady ache that feels general to an area around the mouth or jaw. This type of pain can be hard to localize to a specific tooth.

This prolonged achy pain may indicate a kind of infection. There are many types of infections that can happen in the mouth and your dentist will work to find its’ source. During an examination the dentist may apply pressure to, or take x-rays of specific areas of the mouth. Your dentist will perform a variety of “tests” to determine where the pain is coming from. Once the source of this pain has been discovered different options of treatment will be recommended to eliminate the infection. Removing tissue, draining abscesses or performing a root canal may proposed as treatment plans for healing the infection and eliminating the tooth pain.

Sharp tooth pain

Have you experienced a shooting, sharp pain come from your teeth? Usually the source of this pain is just from one tooth and often it is quite easy to identify which tooth is being irritated. It is a poignant yet short-lived sensation that may happen rarely, or very often in response to certain stimuli.

Exerting pressure on the tooth by biting on something may trigger this jolting pain. Similarly, sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures or sweet and sour flavor profiles may trigger this sharp sensitivity.

Sharp tooth pain may be caused by:

  • a cavity
  • a cracked tooth
  • a tooth that has had impact trauma
  • an exposed tooth or root

A tooth’s nerves live in the most inner layer of the tooth. This inner layer is called the pulp and it is the tooth’s nerve and blood supply. When anything touches, triggers or find its way into the pulp the nerves within the tooth will fire and cause short-lived, sharp pain. Teeth have protective coverings over the pulp that protects the nerves and blood vessels from being exposed.

Tooth decay can cause a cavity so deep that it penetrates beyond the enamel and into the dentin or even pulpal layer. Similarly, chipped or cracked teeth may cause sharp, shooting pains. Exposure to the dentin, the tooth’s root and the pulp will cause sharp discomforts and shooting pain within the mouth.

Receding gums may expose the cementum layer protecting the tooth’s root. Cementum is softer than enamel and it can be worn away easily. Exposed cementum is a clear ingredient for tooth pain.

If you are experiencing tooth pain visit your dentist as soon as possible. There are a variety of treatments to correct and protect the vulnerable teeth that have been damaged and are causing pain.

Bell Harbour Dental – Downtown Seattle is a family owned dental practice in Belltown, Seattle. We are home to periodontist Dr. Adrian Pawlowski and to general dentist Dr. Suzanna McAninley.

Please give us a call or send us a message through our website if you would like to learn more about our services or to book a consultation appointment to see if our practice is the right fit for you.


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