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What Causes a Toothache? Your Emergency Dentist Explains

man with toothacheIs there anything worse than a toothache? Pain in your mouth not only affects the way you eat, but it can impact every aspect of your life. You might even need a major dental procedure to remedy the situation. What exactly causes a toothache, though? Your emergency dentist in Renton is here to explain.

Tooth Decay

Your enamel and dentin, the two outermost layers of your teeth, have to put up with a lot throughout the day. If you eat a lot of acidic or sugary foods, or you don’t brush and floss as regularly as you should, your teeth may start to decay. Cavities can lead to sensitivity and serious pain.

When you go in for your regular dental visits, your dentist can look for signs of decay and fill cavities before they start to cause you a lot of discomfort. However, if the problem advances far enough, a filling won’t be able to solve it. You may need a root canal or even an extraction.


If your tooth has a cavity or one of your pearly whites gets cracked, bacteria can sneak into it and infect the pulp at the tooth’s center. This can cause extreme sensitivity and pain, especially when you’re eating. Infections can also get into your gums and cause even more agony. In severe cases, the bacteria can get into the bone and cause an abscessed tooth.


Do you play sports? Wearing a mouth guard can drastically reduce the chances that you’ll suffer from an oral injury, but you still might get knocked around. You could end up injuring a tooth and experiencing a toothache.

Sports aren’t the only way you might accidentally damage your teeth, though. If you bite down on something too hard, or if you grind your teeth at night, you might harm your pearly whites.

Other Causes of Toothaches

A few other things that might cause toothaches include:

  • TMJ disorder
  • Tooth eruption
  • A misaligned bite

If one of your teeth is hurting, don’t ignore your pain. Even if you think it’s nothing serious, call your dentist and describe your symptoms so you’ll know if you need to receive medical attention. Something might be seriously wrong if you’re experiencing any of the following along with your toothache:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Fever
  • A foul-tasting discharge
  • Long-lasting pain

Handling a toothache

You might not be able to contact your emergency dentist right away if you have a toothache. In such a case, there are things you can do to care for your tooth and soothe your pain:

  • Floss gently to get rid of any bits of food that might be stuck between your teeth.
  • Rub clove oil and/or an antiseptic on your gums.
  • Use a cold compress to keep swelling down.
  • Use an over the counter painkiller.

Regardless of what is causing your toothache, the situation is nothing to take lightly. Contact your dentist to find out what your next steps should be.

About the Dentist

Dr. Sam DK Kim leads the team at SDK Dental Care in Renton. He and his team are always willing to help with dental emergencies, including toothaches. If your mouth is in pain, contact our office at 253-277-8767.