What Causes a Toothache?

what causes tootachesYou take pride in keeping your smile healthy and beautiful, and in showing it to the world as often as possible. Yet, despite the diligent time you put in at the bathroom sink brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day, you suddenly realize that your tooth hurts.

The good news is that, usually, there’s no reason to panic. Toothaches can be caused by a number of factors, and barring significant damage to your tooth, your dentist can likely alleviate the pain quickly and without the need for extensive dental work.

Common Reasons for Toothaches

Weak tooth enamel

Enamel is the super-strong, semi-translucent layer of minerals that surrounds your teeth. It’s made mostly of calcium, phosphate, and other minerals, and though it is the most resilient substance your body produces, it can grow weak when exposed to plaque and tartar. As the layer loses density, the more sensitive tooth structure underneath becomes irritated. Your dentist may be able to strengthen tooth enamel before a cavity develops with topical fluoride treatment and recommendations for an improved daily hygiene routine.


A cavity is a hole in your tooth, and it forms when enamel is compromised and bacteria infect the tooth structure underneath it (called dentin). As the cavity grows, more and more of the tooth’s nerves become irritated and exposed, and the toothache will grow more severe. Minor to moderate cavities can typically be treated with a tooth-colored filling, which fills the cavity, stops the infection, and restores the tooth’s strength and appearance.

Receding gums

When your gums recede, it may be because of gum disease, or may be because of excessive pressure from bruxism. It can also be that you are genetically predisposed to gum recession thanks to past family members. In either case, receding gums can leave the roots of your teeth exposed to bacteria and irritants. Since they’re not covered by enamel, teeth roots are immediately sensitive to stimulation, and your teeth will continue to ache until your gums are restored.