Toothache (cont.)

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Impaction and eruption

Dental pain can come from teeth that are growing out ("erupting" or "cutting") or are impacted (tooth has failed to emerge into its proper position and remains under gum and/or bone). When a molar (the largest teeth at the back of the jaw) tooth erupts, the surrounding gum can become inflamed and swollen. Impacted teeth cause pain when they put pressure onto other teeth, bone, and gum. It is further aggravated by infection. Treatment for impacted teeth includes pain medication, antibiotics (for infections), and surgical removal. This most commonly occurs with impacted third molar (wisdom) teeth.

What are non-dental causes of toothaches?

Sometimes, a toothache may be caused by a problem not originating from a tooth or the jaw. Pain around the teeth and the jaws can be symptoms of problems in other areas of the body including the heart, ears, and sinuses.

The pain of angina (inadequate supply of oxygenated blood to the heart muscle because of narrowing of the arteries to the heart) is usually located in the chest or the arm. However, in some patients with angina, a toothache or jaw pain is the only symptom of their heart problem.

Infections and diseases of the ears and sinuses can also cause pain around the teeth and jaws. Due to the proximity of the ears and sinuses to the teeth, pain related to these structures can feel as if it originates from teeth. For example, the maxillary sinuses are located just above the roots of the upper posterior teeth. A sinus infection near these upper teeth can be mistaken for a tooth problem. Because infections and diseases outside of the mouth can be the cause of such pain that is described as a "toothache," evaluations by both dentists and doctors are sometimes necessary to diagnose medical illnesses.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/11/2013

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