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The most common cause of toothache, or pain in the region of the jaws and face, is pulpitis – inflammation of the pulp of the tooth. The short, sharp pains usually occur in response to hot, cold or sweet stimuli.
If left untreated, the pulp dies and becomes infected, leading to the formation of a dental abscess. The pain from a dental abscess tends to be in response to pressure on the tooth, and is throbbing and continuous.
What causes toothache?
• Dental decay.
• A fracture of the tooth.
• A cracked tooth. This may be invisible and so can be difficult to diagnose.
• An exposed tooth root, which can occur if the gums recede or are damaged by over-vigorous brushing.
The following problems can also cause symptoms similar to toothache, even though the teeth themselves may be free of disease:
• An abscess in the gum (lateral periodontal abscess).
• Ulceration of the gums (acute ulcerative gingivitis).
• Ulceration of the soft tissues can sometimes be mistaken for toothache.
• Inflammation of the gum around a tooth which is in the process of growing/breaking through (pericoronitis).
• Inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis) can be mistaken for toothache in the upper jaw.
It is worth remembering that the nerves supplying the teeth sometimes give the wrong message to the brain. This means that, although you feel pain in a particular tooth, the problem may actually be in a different tooth – even one located in the opposite jaw.