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Toothache? Common Causes That Aren't Cavities

Woman Suffering From Toothache
If you have a toothache, you may have a simple nagging ache in the back of your mouth, or the pain could be so intense that it makes your whole head throb. What's the cause of your pain? It could be an infected or decaying tooth. Or it could be something that has nothing to do with dental decay.
Before you assume that a root canal or filling is in your future, you need a professional evaluation. Take a look at some of the possible causes of dental pain, what the red flag symptoms to watch out for are, and what you can do to find comfort.

Sinus Infection

A sinus infection has plenty of familiar symptoms, including pain under your eye, a runny nose, and maybe even a fever. But that's not all. In some cases, a sinus infection can also cause a toothache.
This kind of toothache doesn't mean your tooth is infected or that the infection has spread outside of the sinus cavity. Instead, the inflammation of the sinus tissue is putting pressure on your teeth. This type of toothache typically results in pain in the top, back area of your mouth. In other words, the pain is directly below your sinus area.
You will still need a dental exam to rule out an actual oral cause. Along with the exam, the dentist may ask you if you've had sensitivity to extreme temperatures (cold or hot foods and drinks) or have had trouble eating.
If the dentist doesn't see signs of decay or infection in the area, they may send you to your primary care physician for a sinus evaluation. If the doctor feels that the infection is bacterial, they will prescribe antibiotics to clear it up and help you to heal. Keep in mind, the antibiotics remove the sinus infection and don’t act on your tooth itself. But as the inflammation from the infection decreases, you should start to feel dental relief.

Allergies and Sensitivities

Allergies can affect your mouth in several different ways. Like sinus infections, nasal allergies can cause facial inflammation that puts pressure on your molars. This can cause dental pain that mimics the discomfort caused by decay.
Again, you'll need a dentist to rule out a true dental cause and a medical doctor to diagnose and treat the actual problem. Antihistamines and other allergy medications can alleviate the nasal symptoms, removing the cause of the dental pain.
Along with allergy-induced pressure toothaches, an oral sensitivity or allergy can cause serious dental discomfit. Foods, beverages, toothpastes, mouthwash products, and other oral care items can all act as potential allergens. An allergic oral reaction (or a systemic reaction that results in oral involvement) can cause redness, swelling and irritation in any area of the mouth. Ulcers and lesions can also form on the tongue, gums, or other areas of the mouth.
These often cause pain that feels like a toothache — especially if the lesion is located on the gum or near a tooth. If you don't know what to look for, you could possibly mistake an allergic irritation or ulcer for tooth trouble. The dentist can diagnose and treat the true problem.

Abscesses and Infection

Even though sinus issues, nasal problems, and allergic reactions can all cause tooth pain, some patients experience dental discomfort as a result of oral infection or an abscess. Untreated decay, an injured tooth, or gum disease can all eventually lead to an abscess. This doesn't mean these issues will always result in an abscess, but it is a very real possibility for some dental patients.
An abscess is a serious infection in which bacteria can invade the pulp of the tooth, causing a pus pocket to build up. This is a potentially serious condition that requires immediate professional treatment. Treatment may include drainage of the pus pocket, a root canal, or antibiotics.
Do you have a questionable toothache? Contact Jay A. Hollander, DDS for more information on treatments.