Root Canal Pain or General Tooth Pain? Know the Difference

A young woman grimaces in dental pain due to an unknown cause.

Toothaches and pain can occur for a number of reasons. An endodontist or dentist can properly diagnose you and recommend treatment. However, tooth pain can occur for reasons other than the need for a root canal. Some of the more common causes of toothaches include:

Cavities and Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is caused when foods containing sugars (or carbohydrates, which are also sugars) are left on the tooth. Bacteria in the mouth turn these sugars into acid. This erodes the teeth and ultimately cause a cavity to be formed. If the cavity is not treated in a timely manner it can decay to the point of requiring a root canal.

Symptoms of cavities/tooth decay include tooth pain and/or sensitivity, mild to severe pain when eating or drinking things that are sweet, hot or cold. You may also experience pain when biting down, visible holes in your teeth and/or pus around the tooth in pain.

Cracked or Fractured Tooth

A tooth fracture can occur with varying levels of severity. A tooth can be fractured only on the outer layer, on the outer and inner layers, or on the outer layer, inner layer and the pulp. The latter is considered the most severe and could require a root canal.

Symptoms of a cracked or fractured tooth include pain when chewing or when applying pressure. Some patients also experience sensitivity/pain when eating or drinking hot or cold things. With a cracked or fractured tooth the pain may be intermittent, and at times it is even difficult to properly identify them on x-rays.

Grinding Teeth

Many people occasionally grind or clench their teeth. At times people do this as a result of stress, but sometimes it is a result of poor teeth alignment or missing teeth. If teeth grinding occurs too frequently it can damage teeth and cause other health problems.

Most frequently, teeth grinding occurs while people sleep, so it can be difficult to diagnose. However, common symptoms include: a constant headache or a sore jaw, especially in the morning.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is an infection of tissues around the tooth. There are two types of gum disease. Gingivitis is an infection which only impacts the gums around the tooth. Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease as it spreads and impacts the tissues and bone below the gums.

Symptoms of gum disease include: Gums that bleed easily when brushed or without clear reason, swollen gums, gums that pull away from teeth, pus coming from the gums, a change in your bite, bad breath and/or loose teeth.

If you experience toothache for more than one to two days you should contact a dentist or endodontist immediately to receive a proper diagnosis. If you need an endodontist in the Richmond, Virginia area contact us at: 804.559.3636.