10 Reasons Your Teeth Might Suddenly Start Hurting and What To Do About It!

Tooth pain in many faces

Have you ever felt a sharp jolt of pain in teeth or gums, you're not alone? Studies conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA)  revealed that tooth pain is the top oral health problem for young adults.

Good news, most causes of sudden tooth discomfort are readily treatable by your dentist and even totally preventable with regular preventative dental care.

10 reasons why your teeth might be giving you pain and when to see a dentist.


1. Exposure to extreme heat or cold

Tooth sensitivity can occur when tooth enamel has been worn down, and the dentin or the even the nerves of teeth are exposed. When these surfaces are exposed, eating or drinking something with an extremely low or high temperature may cause you to feel a sudden, sharp flash of pain.

-"Using desensitizing toothpaste can help control this uncomfortable problem. Still, only a visit to your dentist can really get to the core cause. "says San Francisco Cosmetic Dentist Edward L Loev, DMD.

2. Gum recession

Gum tissue can recede for several reasons. Gums are the pink tissue that covers the bone and surrounds the root of the tooth to help protect your teeth. As we age, and with continued brushing and the daily trauma of eating, this tissue can begin to wear down and pull away from the tooth structure, causing recession.  When this tissue recedes, it leaves the roots of your teeth exposed and makes them more vulnerable to gum disease and tooth infections. 42% of U.S. adults have some form of periodontitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control CDC. Gum recession could be the culprit, if your teeth are suddenly more sensitive than usual.

-While gum tissue will not grow back once it has receded, treatments are available at the dentist that can reduce or eliminate sensitivity and reduce further recession.

3. Enamel (dentin) erosion

Some studies estimate that at least 12 percent of people have some form of "dentin hypersensitivity" that causes them discomfort when they eat and drink. The dentin is the part of our tooth structure directly underneath the enamel. Sensitivity can be caused by many different factors that can range from consuming a highly acidic diet, brushing your teeth too hard with a hard toothbrush, or even being over-zealous with mouth wash. When the protective enamel coating is gone and not replaced sharp stabbing pains referred to clinically as zowwies, just kidding, can occur. While our nickname for this pain is funny, the electric shock and discomfort that results is no laughing matter and hurts.

-Enamel will not grow back once it is gone, but calcifying and desensitizing toothpastes can help reduce the discomfort. To permanently fix this discomfort, your dentist can cover and fill the exposed dentist with filling material, or if a large amount of dentist is enamel is missing, a crown can be used to cover the exposed tooth surface completely.

4. Tooth decay (cavity)

"When people call us at the office with dental discomfort, they most commonly tell the office that they think they have a cavity. Says Corinne, Dr. Loev's long time team member. While the other factors that we mentioned could be the core cause, tooth decay, or a cavity as it commonly is known can take quite a while to develop on a tooths surface and could cause sensitivity and discomfort.

-Unlike a wound on our skin, a dental cavity will not heal itself. If detected and treated early, it can usually be fixed with the placement of a filling. If ignored or left undetected, it can potentially lead to an infection, the need for a crown, or even loss of the tooth.

5. Gum infection

Gum disease, which is also referred to as periodontal disease, impacts more than 47 percent of adults over the age of 30. Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease, it can impact people without them even knowing they have it. Sensitive teeth and bleeding gums can be a sign of escalating gum disease.

-Periodontal disease can be treated by your dental professional and maintained through good oral home care. You knew it was coming…regular brushing and flossing are the keys to a healthy, happy mouth.

6. Cracked tooth or dental crown

A cracked tooth or crown can hurt, surprise! Not a surprise, we know, but definitely a cause of tooth pain and sensitivity. Cracks in teeth that cause discomfort can be so small that they are nearly impossible to see. Sometimes it is only through the process of elimination or specific dental tests that a cracked tooth can be detected, but sometimes a piece of a tooth or portion of a crown can all out in your sink when brushing, flossing, or eating.

-Cracked teeth and crowns must be repaired, or one runs the risk of losing the tooth that is damaged or needing a root canal to stabilize it and eliminate the infection.  

7. Sinus infection

A sinus infection can sometimes pose as a toothache. One of its symptoms is pain in your teeth and in your jaw. A sinus is simply a cavity within a bone or other tissue. When this open space becomes inflamed and filled with pressure from the infection, it can compress the nerve endings of your teeth, causing pain.

-Oral antibiotics are the most common treatment for sinus infections and must be prescribed by a medical doctor. Some sinus infections can be prevented through the use of nasal decongestants and oral antihistamines. On rare occasions for those with frequent severe sinus infections,  surgery is indicated.

8. Clenching and grinding of jaws

Clenching and grinding one's teeth and jaws can lead to chronic tooth sensitivity, as it can lead to severe wear on the enamel and receding gums. It is not unusual for many people to occasionally clench or grind their teeth during times of high stress, focus, or due to poor sleep. When this habit becomes chronic, however, it can really impact people's daily lives and oral health.

-Oral appliances such as the custom fabricated occlusal guards (night guards) fabricated by dentists and those that can be purchased from drug stores help protect teeth and gums from the impact of clenching and grinding. Ideally, these tools should be coupled with changes in lifestyle or stress-relieving activities to help treat the cause of the problem, not just the result.

9. Dental procedures

A visit to the dentist can cause tooth sensitivity. Recent fillings or dental work involving drilling can temporarily inflame the nerve endings of your teeth and make them more sensitive. Deep cleanings and long overdue dental cleanings can also cause some minor tooth discomfort. Dental treatment sensitivity generally only lasts a couple of days but can, in some people, last as long as two weeks.

-If you recently had a filling or crown and after a couple of days, you still have sensitivity reach out to your dentist, your bite might be slightly wrong, or the nerve of the tooth can be acting up and should be examined sooner rather than later.

10. Teeth bleaching products

The price of beauty.. some might say, but teeth whitening strips, bleaching gels, or having an in-office teeth-whitening procedure can put you at a higher risk of tooth sensitivity. Pain in your teeth that's caused by teeth bleaching is often temporary and will usually subside if you stop using whitening products. Bleaching toothpaste can also cause sensitivity in some people.

-If your teeth bleaching is being done by a professional, and you have had tooth sensitivity in the past, let the provider know so that they can offer you a desensitizing treatment to help reduce any after-treatment pain. If you are bleaching using an over-the-counter treatment, try waiting for a day or two between treatments or try a different product.

Visiting the dentist or doctor:

If your teeth suddenly become sensitive or feel painful, don't wait, make an appointment with your dentist. A simple check and minor treatment can often eliminate the discomfort quickly and prevent future pain. Regular preventative treatment such as dental cleanings and examinations can allow dentists and hygienists to detect problems early and solve them using the most conservative methods possible. "By the time, sensitivity or pain occurs, it is often too late for the complete prevention of tooth damage, but we can certainly contain the damage that has been done and put systems in place to prevent further damage." Says Dr. Loev

Don't ignore these symptoms, see your dentist right away, or contact another health professional, if you experience the following:


As we slowly return to our new "normal," it is essential to remember that staying healthy is more than just wearing a mask, keeping six feet distance, and washing hands. It is crucial that in addition to eating a healthy diet, staying physically active and mentally happy that we continue to care for our body and mouth. Healthcare providers around the globe have been provided with information and as they begin opening back up again, established policies and protocols in their respective offices to keep their teams and patients safe. Please don't ignore health symptoms that arise during this stressful and uncertain time or put off regular dental cleanings, doctor's examinations, or treatment that has been scheduled. Listen to your body and take care of it. This crazy time will eventually pass, make sure that you are taking care of yourself so that you will be healthy enough to enjoy it. Call healthcare providers that you are appointed to see and find out what measures they have taken to protect you and what they expect of you during your visit. Most of all stay safe and follow social distancing protocols so that we can keep each other healthy. We are all in this together!


San Francisco Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD has been caring for his patients for decades from his dental office that overlooks San Francisco's Union Square. He and his team take pride in providing the best quality and most gentle dental care available. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area and are in need or want of a new dentist, Dr. Loev and his team would love the opportunity to meet you and earn your trust and loyalty, call them at 415-392-2072 or schedule an appointment online today

Team Loev Team Loev is comprised of highly dedicated professionals who along with San Francisco Cosmetic, Restorative and Implant Dentist Dr. Edward Loev are committed to educating and hopefully entertaining in-person and virtual patients and making their lives a bit healthier and brighter

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