Man in Pain Holding His Jaw

Common Types and Causes of Dental Pain

Like many other things we use constantly throughout our day, we tend to take our mouth, and everything in it, for granted. We strive to keep it healthy and happy by eating the right foods, avoiding the wrong foods, and adhering to proper oral hygiene habits. But although we use our mouth all day and every day, the truth is that we don’t often take the time to really think about how it feels. That is, unless it hurts. Then we often feel as though there is no other pain or discomfort quite as terrible and unbearable as dental pain.

When we experience any amount of dental pain for any length of time, we usually find difficult or impossible to focus on anything else. Dental pain can interrupt our sleep, make it hard to speak or eat normally and even distract us from working or carrying out our normal day-to-day activities. Fortunately, if you understand the common causes of dental pain, you can often work to prevent them from occurring, or at least resolve them rapidly when they do occur.

Sorting Out Dental Pain

Your oral cavity, which includes your teeth, tongue, gums and other soft tissues, is a complex system that works together in order to allow you to perform important functions like eating, speaking and even smiling. When every element in this system is healthy, the system works well and you’re happy and pain-free. When any element in this system is unhealthy, the system breaks down and you experience inconvenience and dental pain.

Though it may seem too obvious to state, it is important to remember that dental pain is a clear indication that something is wrong in your oral cavity. Taking pain medication or numbing the area with cold compresses may be soothing temporarily, but unless you address the root cause of the pain it will not only not resolve, it will likely become much worse. To that end, consider the following most common types and causes of dental pain:

  • Painful, swollen or bleeding gums. Occasionally, very aggressive tooth-brushing or flossing can cause discomfort in and bleeding of the gums. However, if you find that your gums are painful, swollen or bleeding on a more regular basis and especially if you find this to be the case without any vigorous brushing or flossing having occurred, you definitely need to check in with your dentist. These symptoms are often an indication of gum infection or disease, and while it can be treated successfully if caught early and handled aggressively, it can also cause extensive oral and general health issues if left unaddressed.
  • Pain in the jaw. While there are occasionally other causes of pain in the jaw, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJ, is one of the most common causes. Your dentist can help you treat this issue and the pain it causes, whereas leaving it unhandled can not only lead to more severe pain in the jaw, but also headaches and other discomforts and issues.
  • Toothache. As the most common cause of dental pain, as well as the most common dental issue that patients seek treatment for, toothaches can cause a considerable amount of pain and discomfort. Toothaches can be caused by injury, infection or decay, and so always require dental treatment.


There are some times when individuals who work hard to maintain good dental hygiene habits yet encounter oral health issues that cause pain and discomfort. However, in many cases, proper daily brushing and flossing, as well as twice yearly dental examinations and cleanings, can work to prevent many of the common causes of dental pain or at least arrest their development when they are still only minor issues. Whatever the type and cause of your dental pain, it is unwise to wait and see if it will go away before contacting your dentist. If you contact your dentist at the onset of dental pain, she will be able to rapidly diagnose the issue and undertake the necessary treatment so you experience relief sooner and your oral health can be restored.

For more information about dental pain, contact Dr. Saferin today.