Tooth pain can disrupt your entire day. It changes what you eat, disturbs sleep, and can even take a bite out of your focus. Many people prefer to wait and see if the toothache goes away, but doing so could cause complications. There are several causes of tooth pain, some more serious than others.

Severe Sinus Infection

In one scenario, x-rays may reveal that the cause of an upper toothache is a severe sinus infection rather than a problem with the tooth itself. The maxillary sinuses are located just above the mouth. When inflamed, this channel can put pressure on the nerves of the upper molars, causing tooth pain. This pain often becomes more intense when standing up or bending over, but usually does not increase when the tooth is tapped on or when introduced to hot and cold stimuli. Visiting a doctor may be a good choice if you are suffering from a sinus infection in order to make sure that you do not need antibiotics. Sinus infections can become serious if left untreated. If your sinus infection is caused by a virus and not bacteria, an over-the counter anti-inflammatory, such as aspirin or ibuprofen can often relieve discomfort. In addition to medication, a person can relieve sinus pressure by using a humidifier to loosen any dried secretions that may cause inflammation. Nasal sprays may also help moisten and clear out inflamed sinuses. Some people recommend a neti pot or other nasal irrigation technique, but you have to follow instructions properly to avoid making the situation worse.


Many toothaches are caused by swelling of the dental pulp, which is composed of soft tissue, nerves, and blood capillaries inside of every tooth. This swelling is known as pulpitis. When cavities or food particles stuck in the gums irritate tooth nerves, they swell. The protective tooth casing does not offer much room for expansion, and nerves become pinched as a result, causing tooth pain. Temperature fluctuations and pressure on the tooth may cause bursts of pain. In cases of reversible pulpitis, removing decay and filling the cavity or cleaning debris from the gum line can stop the swelling. Temporary pulpitis can also be caused by a disturbance to the tooth. This can be due to trauma–like a crack to the jaw or biting down on something unexpectedly hard. It can also be caused by vibration and pressure–if you grind your teeth, had the tooth worked on, or work with vibrating tools. Even a minimally invasive procedure like porcelain veneers can result in temporary pulpitis. If not treated, this condition may turn into irreversible pulpitis. When the capillaries are pinched for too long, the nerve and other tissue inside of the tooth begins to slowly die, causing throbbing pain. At this point, removing the dental pulp is the best option. Root canal therapy can help alleviate irreversible pulpitis pain and prevent future discomfort.

Cysts and Abscesses

Pockets of infection under teeth may also cause sensations of pain. Depending on the cause of the abscess, drilling a hole in the tooth may allow the infection to drain, alleviating pressure inside of the tooth. Holes made this way are then treated like cavities and filled. In cases of severe infection, a root canal may be necessary to remove damaged and dead dental pulp. The tooth chamber is then filled and covered with a dental crown to prevent future infection. If you have tooth pain, please call (509) 581-4188 for an appointment at Collins Dentistry & Aesthetics in Spokane. Don’t wait for your tooth problems to become even more painful.