5 Surprising Causes of Toothaches

Pain usually follows a logical cause-and-effect cycle. You stub your toe, and your toe hurts, right? But your body is a complex piece of bioengineering, and not every instance of pain is obvious.

When it comes to your teeth and gums, pain is an entirely different game. When your dentist finds a cavity, chances are you’re completely unaware. It’s decay that has to progress a long way before nerves are affected.

Similarly, you may experience toothache pain without any sign of an immediate cause. Sure, if you’re hit in the mouth with a baseball, you likely expect to feel some tooth pain, but when a sudden ache just pops up, its cause may not be obvious. Here are five surprising reasons your teeth may suddenly give you problems.

Excess exercise

Exercise is good, isn’t it? Well, of course, it is, but if you’re a serious fitness buff or participant in sports with high endurance levels, you may be mouth-breathing away the protective effects of saliva. Since saliva is 90% water, heavy exertion can cause it to evaporate.

One of the functions of saliva is to dilute the acids in your mouth. Those acids create an environment that supports the growth of the bacteria that, in turn, cause tooth decay.

This is but one of the reasons why hydration is so important for those who work out, especially at high levels. That water you drink is necessary to keep your saliva flowing. Dry mouth is a potential risk factor for decay, gum disease, and toothaches.

Bruxism and stress

Many people who grind their teeth in their sleep aren’t even aware it’s happening. Then, one day, they bite down and — ouch — toothache. Called bruxism, nighttime teeth-grinding can lead to headaches, facial pain, and a stiff jaw. It can even lead to cracked or broken teeth.

A similar risk exists for those who clench their teeth in reaction to stress. Again, they may not be aware of it, but stress-clenching can create the same problems as bruxism. Toothaches from both bruxism and clenching can cause pain all over your mouth unless a single tooth experiences further damage, which localizes the pain.

Temporomandibular joint disorder

Called TMJ or TMD for short, temporomandibular joint disorder comes from a problem with the pivot points of your lower jaw. While pain may present as a headache or facial pain, TMJ disorder can also cause toothache pain.

Usually, TMJ disorder resolves without treatment, but if it’s an issue, avoid things like chewing gum to rest the joint and help your body repair the disorder. Only in rare cases is surgery required to resolve TMJ disorder.

Orthodontic adjustments

The pattern emerges quickly for orthodontic patients, but if you’re new to the experience, the teeth aching that’s present for 24-48 hours after an adjustment is part of the process.

During an adjustment, wires are tightened in such a way as to pull your teeth into a new position, working toward their final position. This pressure causes the general ache you feel as your teeth move. The same ache happens even when you move to a new aligner if you’re using a removable teeth alignment system.

Sinus infections

Whether from hay fever or viral infections, when your sinuses are plugged, you may feel it in your teeth. Chances are that it won’t be a single tooth, but rather an area where all teeth feel achy, generally on the top of your mouth and toward the back. The sinus floor is just above your mouth, so pressure buildup there may transfer to the upper jaw.

Anytime you have aching teeth, no matter what the cause, contact Alegria Dental Care to ensure there’s not a treatable dental problem causing the pain. As with other body pain, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


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