Oral Health: Conditions That Make Your Teeth Hurt

Clenching your jaw takes a toll on your teeth over time.

You Cope by Clenching

Do you clench your jaw in times of anger, tension, or intense concentration? Your teeth bear some of the brunt of that stress. They can ache or wiggle loose over time.

Wearing a night guard helps protect your teeth at night while you sleep.

Your Daily Grind

Sometimes even when you don't feel stressed, you might clench and grind your teeth while you sleep. It can happen when you have a sleep disorder, your bite doesn't line up correctly, or you're missing teeth. Ask your dentist if a night guard can help you prevent damage while you dream.

Some mouthwashes are high in acid that hurts sensitive teeth.

You Overdo Oral Rinses

Swishing with mouthwash multiple times a day may give you a deep clean. But it can come with a downside: sensitive teeth. Some rinses have acids that can damage your dentin, the middle layer of your teeth.

Endurance athletes suffer from higher rates of tooth decay.

You Push Your Body

Studies on triathletes show that endurance training can wear down your tooth enamel more. The more intense their workout schedule, the more likely they were to have cavities. Scientists aren't exactly sure why, but may think it has to do with how exercise changes the amount of saliva in your mouth.

A sinus infection may make your upper back teeth hurt.

Your Sinuses Are Stuffed

Pain in your upper back teeth might be a sign of a sinus infection. It's pretty common, since your teeth are close neighbors of your nasal passages.

The risk of gingivitis and tooth decay increase during pregnancy.

You've Got a Bun in the Oven

Pregnancy may have you seeing more “pink in the sink,” or blood when you brush. You're more likely to deal with gingivitis when you've got a baby on the way. You also have a higher chance of cavities, so schedule some extra checkups with your dentist while you wait for delivery day.

TMJ pain may cause pain in your teeth when you chew.

Your Jaw Is Jammed

Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects your lower jaw to your skull. When any part of your TMJ isn't working because of injury, arthritis, or something else, it can cause a whole host of symptoms, including pain when you chew and in your jaw.

Trigeminal neuralgia may cause pain when you eat, drink, or brush your teeth.

Nerve Damage

It's not common, but a condition called trigeminal neuralgia could be at the root of your tooth problem. It causes chronic nerve pain in one of the nerves in your head. The pain is often brought on by brushing your teeth, eating, and drinking.

Pain in your teeth and jaws can sometimes be a symptom of a heart attack.

Heart Problems

Upper body pain can be a symptom of a heart attack. You might feel the discomfort in your shoulders, neck, jaw, or teeth. Take note if you're dealing with other things along with your mouth, like sweating, heart palpitations, nausea, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

Teeth whitening treatments may cause tooth pain.

You've Brightened Your Smile

Dealing with dingy teeth by bleaching? Your whitener may be to blame for throbbing teeth. Sensitivity can start 2-3 days into treatment but can go away after a few more. Your gums can feel irritated as you whiten, too.

Receding gums may expose nerves that cause tooth pain.

Your Gums Are Starting to Give

When gums recede, they pull back the protective layer over your teeth's nerves and leave them aching. It can be a sign of gum disease, so be sure your dentist knows if your pain comes with teeth that look longer, or if you have pus, mouth sores, bad breath, or bleeding when you brush.

Constant mouth pain may be a symptom of oral cancer.

You Need a Cancer Check

Oral cancer commonly shows up with mouth or tooth pain that doesn't go away. Trigeminal neuralgia can also come from a tumor pressing on your facial nerves, but it's rare.

Acidic foods wear down tooth enamel.

Your Diet Is Too Acidic

Foods high in acid wear away enamel and leave teeth less protected. The top culprits include hard sugar candies, coffee, citrus fruits -- like lemons, oranges, and grapefruits -- and soda.

Frequent vomiting exposes your teeth to acid that wears down enamel.

You Throw Up a Lot

Speaking of acid, your stomach is full of it. When you vomit, that can get on your teeth. If you vomit a lot, it can start to damage them. GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), pregnancy, chronic alcoholism, and bulimia are conditions that can lead to tooth trouble from throwing up too much.

Drink water to wash away debris in your mouth.

You Don't Drink Enough Water

Not only does water wash away the bits and pieces of food left behind after you eat, depending on where you get your water, it can also be full of fluoride, which keeps teeth strong and healthy. If you don't drink enough water, your teeth could be in trouble.



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  • Mayo Clinic: "Bruxism (teeth grinding)," "Sinus Infection and toothache: Any connection?" "TMJ Disorders," "Heart attack symptoms: Know what's a medical emergency."
  • American Dental Association: "Teeth Grinding," "Is it safe to go to the dentist during pregnancy?" "Whitening," "Top 9 Foods That Damage Your Teeth," "Dental Erosion," "4 Reasons Water is the Best Beverage for Your Teeth."
  • Cleveland Clinic: "Teeth Sensitivity: Possible Causes."
  • Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports: "Effect of endurance training on dental erosion, caries, and saliva."
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Trigeminal Neuralgia Fact Sheet."
  • American Academy of Periodontology: "Gum Disease Symptoms."
  • American Cancer Society: "Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer."
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