5 Causes of Toothaches and Pain in the Jaw

By Dr. James Forester | Jan 11, 2024 | General Oral Care
man's hand on face to indicate jaw pain and toothache

Toothaches and pain in the jaw can indicate a number of possible problems. When your body sends pain messages through nerves, your brain alerts you by the sensation of pain. This is your cue to find the source of the issue and resolve it so that pain in the jaw and toothaches resolve. 

Something as small as a speck of black pepper or a corn kernel shell wedged at the gum line or between teeth can cause pain. So, before you call Lifetime Smiles in Johns Creek and schedule an appointment with Dr. James G. Foster, try flossing your teeth. 

If the pain persists after flossing and brushing, you need to see the dentist. We schedule appointments as early as 7:00 am, so you can come in before work or school, if necessary. Rest assured, Dr. Foster will get to the root of the issue, share his findings and treatment plan with you, then correct the problem and relieve your toothache.

In today’s blog, we’ll cover five of the most common causes of toothaches:

  1. Tooth Decay
  2. Cracked Tooth Syndrome
  3. Internal Tooth Infection
  4. Gum Disease
  5. A Sinus Infection

Tooth Decay

Symptoms: toothache, jaw pain, dark spot on tooth

Treatment: filling or crown

Also known as cavities, tooth decay appears as a dark hole in a tooth. You can’t see cavities between teeth, and it’s hard to see cavities on molars (back teeth). Without treatment, a cavity will spread infection to the interior of the tooth, and you’ll end up needing a root canal or tooth extraction. The bacteria in tooth decay can also spread to your gums, jawbone, and even your bloodstream!

Cracked Tooth Syndrome

Symptoms: toothache, jaw pain, sharp pain when biting down

Treatment: crown, root canal therapy, extraction

Also known as CTS, cracked tooth syndrome describes a fracture in a tooth. Until you get an x-ray, the fracture’s depth is unknown. A tooth crack can pass through the tooth to affect the core (pulp space) and periodontal ligament. A crack allows bacteria to enter the tooth, so to avoid root canal therapy or extraction, it’s important that you visit Dr. Foster as soon as possible for treatment. 

Not all dental cracks indicate CTS. For cracks that result in a chip or through-and-through break have a known depth; part of the tooth breaks off. Small enamel chips may not need restoration and can be reshaped to smooth rough edges. However, a chip that extends past the enamel will need a filling or crown, depending on the severity of the chip.

Another type of dental cracking is known as crazing. This occurs when the enamel develops web-like cracks, similar to what you might see on antique china. The hairline, superficial cracks can stain and become visibly obvious, and teeth whitening will make the demineralized lines more visible. Over time, bacteria may attack the imperfections and cause cavities.

Internal Tooth Infection

Symptoms: pain in the jaw and tooth, fever

Treatment: root canal therapy or extraction and replacement of tooth

Bacteria are scavengers! They’ll seek out any defect in your tooth enamel to attack. When a deep cavity or crack permeates a tooth’s core, internal infection eventually develops. Infection in a tooth’s core kills the nerve and blood vessels, and the tooth dies. Without treatment, the infection can rapidly spread. A simple crown or filling will not suffice to repair the tooth.

To remove internal tooth infection, we perform gentle root canal therapy (RCT), which involves cleaning out bacteria and dead tissue from inside the tooth. After cleansing the tooth’s core and root canal(s), Dr. Forester inserts gutta percha, a plastic-like substance, to reinforce the tooth from within. Then, to complete the procedure, the dentist will place a filling or dental crown. After RCT, your toothache will subside, and while the tooth is no longer alive, it can remain in place long-term. 

Gum Disease

Symptoms: bleeding, red, tender, swollen gums, bad breath

Treatment: deep dental cleaning, periodontal maintenance program

Gum disease is simply an infection of gum (periodontal) tissue. When bacteria accumulate at the gum line, they irritate gum tissue and attack the connective tissues that hold gums to teeth. 

As connective tissues erode, periodontal pockets form. Bacteria thrive in the wet, warm, dark environment, and the infection spreads. Ultimately, gum disease can cause tooth loss and necrosis (death) of gum and bone tissues. Gum disease also increases a person’s risk for systemic health issues, ranging from diabetes complications to heart disease.

About half of Americans have some level of gum disease, ranging from gingivitis to acute periodontitis. The number-one cause of gum disease is poor oral health. People who don’t brush and floss regularly, as well as tobacco users, those with hormone fluctuations, and those who take certain medications are at higher risk of gum disease. 

A Sinus Infection

Symptoms: jaw pain, headache, stuffy nose, fever, clogged ears, watery eyes, sore throat

Treatment: see your physician, take over-the-counter sinus medication as per directions

In the spring and fall, you may develop sinus congestion or infection. Untreated seasonal allergies can prompt a sinus infection. Many poeple feel pain in the face: ears, eyes, head, throat, and jaw when this happens. If a dental problem isn’t at the root of your toothache, the cause could be a sinus infection.

Schedule Your Dental Appointment Now

Everyone should visit the dentist at six-month intervals, or twice a year, for a checkup and cleaning. However, if you develop a toothache or jaw pain, you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Forester immediately. 

After a thorough assessment of your oral health and x-rays, Dr. Forester will diagnose and explain the causes of your toothache or jaw pain. In some cases, TMJ disorder is the cause of jaw pain and headaches. Whatever your issue, the dentist will provide you with treatment options, and together you and he can decide on how to relieve your pain and re-establish good oral health.

Finding and treating cavities, chips, cracks, and infections in the teeth or gums in the early stages allows for the simplest treatments. When issues progress, treatment is often more invasive, costly, and time-consuming. 

We want to help you enjoy all the benefits of a healthy, beautiful smile. Located in Johns Creek, GA, Lifetime Smiles welcomes new patients. Give us a call today at 770-232-1830 to reserve your appointment with Dr. Forester.