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Tooth pain: Common causes and prevention

Tooth pain: Common causes and prevention | 3 snacks you should have in your desk drawer | Causes of heartburn

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By University of Utah Health

Your dentist knows best: Brush at least twice a day, floss every day and be sure to brush your gum line. Taking good care of your teeth greatly reduces the likelihood and severity of tooth pain. Common causes of tooth pain are often related to poor oral hygiene. But if you are experiencing persistent tooth pain, visit your dentist as soon as you can.

Tooth decay

“The most common cause of tooth pain is also considered the No. 1 disease in the world,” says Dr. Robert S. Richards, DDS, at the University of Utah School of Dentistry. What’s the main culprit behind tooth decay? Bacteria, which produces acids that break down minerals in your teeth. These bacteria thrive on the consumption of sugary foods, treats and sodas, as well as food high in carbs and acids. Age is also a factor in tooth decay, so you need to be more vigilant about oral hygiene as you get older. When the enamel and minerals in a tooth are broken down by bacteria, cavities can form and sensitive nerves become exposed. That’s when the pain really strikes. And if neglected for too long, the tooth can become infected and abscessed.

Receding gums

Receding gums are also a sign of poor oral hygiene. Gums recede when bacteria gets caught between the gum and tooth. As the gum recedes, the more sensitive part of the tooth is exposed. Hot and cold beverages, as well as sweets, usually trigger sharp pain in these areas. It’s important to brush the gum line during your daily routine to help reduce receding gums.

Tooth trauma

Injury to a tooth will most likely cause pain. This, of course, is an obvious cause-and-effect relationship. “However, pain due to tooth trauma might not show up for years after the event,” Dr. Richards explains. Perhaps you hit your front tooth on the monkey bars when you were a kid. It probably hurt for a short period of time, then the pain went away. The pain may resurface years later, seemingly for no reason at all. Life is unpredictable and it’s nearly impossible to prevent all injuries. But if you engage in sports or extreme physical activities, it’s always a good idea to wear mouth protection. If you experience major tooth trauma, see your dentist immediately.

Teeth grinding

There are many symptoms of stress. Teeth grinding can be among the most painful. Those who experience high levels of stress or anxiety often grind their teeth, usually during sleep. The key here is to address the stress itself. If it can be alleviated through self-help, therapy and/or medication, the gnashing of the teeth will most likely diminish.

Wisdom teeth

The extra set of molars that sit under the gums usually emerge between the ages of 18 and 25. As wisdom teeth come in, the process can be painful, much like a baby teething. And if a tooth has only partially broken through, bacteria can get stuck and cause problems, leading to pain. If a wisdom tooth comes in crooked, it can interfere with the surrounding teeth. The tooth that sits above or below a crooked wisdom tooth may be hit in an awkward way, which can cause inflammation and create pain. The solution is to get the wisdom teeth removed.


Heredity isn’t really a cause of tooth pain. However, it can play a role. Some people are simply born with more sensitive teeth than others. If this is the case for you, you can thank your ancestral lineage. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about this. But you will probably want to take extra care of your teeth and limit those sweets.[/bs_col][bs_col class=”col-sm-4″][bs_well size=”lg”]


Heartburn can be uncomfortable and frustrating. But do you know what causes yours and how to prevent it? On today’s “Health Minute,” Dr. Tom Miller talks about the causes and preventions of heartburn.

Learn more about this health topic in the full-length interview here.


It’s time to clear out the candy in your drawer. On today’s “Health Minute,” registered dietitian Theresa Dvorak has three tasty, healthy snacks you should have in your desk drawer to help keep you away from that vending machine and in control of your diet.

Learn more about this health topic in the full-length interview.

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