What is causing my tooth to ache?

I know the obvious answer to this question is to see my dentist and have him check it out. I already did. Last Monday, in fact, I went to visit him to find out why my tooth was hurting. When he took an X-ray of the affected area (lower left side towards the back) he didn’t see any indication of any problems and he couldn’t find anything wrong. I have had a great deal of dental work done in my mouth and I had a filling done in this same area back in June. He’s a good dentist whom I trust and have been going to for several years, so I don’t want to go seek a second opinion from another dentist.

I went to WebMD to get more information. It listed the following as possible causes for a toothache, all of which had been ruled out:

I thought it might also be caused by a food particle stuck in between two teeth, or an adjacent tooth that might be pressing up against the tooth that is hurting, but these causes, too, were ruled out.

My dentist told me to call him if the problem continued or if it gets worse, which it has (and pain meds can only do so much), so I’ll be making another appointment, but if he can’t find anything this time, either, what more can I do? Any dentist Dopers out there who can help, please do. My jaw is throbbing mercilessly as I write this.

Okay, it is possible that your nerve is inflamed and in the process of dying. Have you travelled by airplane recently? Apparently the change in pressure can very occasionally be a problem for those of us with crappy teeth.

If you need a root canal and it is not caused by decay or a crack it might not show up on an x-ray (I’m not sure). There are diagnostic tests involving hot and cold that can help your dentist determine if there is a problem inside the tooth.

A couple of years ago I spent a week skiing. My front tooth was a little irritated from the cold and during the plane flight my nerve died from the pressure. The pain that night was indescribable. I woke up weeping from the pain every 4 hours when the advil would wear off! My dentist did the diagnostics and hustled my into an endodontist that day.

When they opened up my tooth, the nerve was completely rotted and sorta dripped out. Horrible.

There isn’t much you can do about the pain, other than advil (you can take more than they say on the box, ask your dentist for guidelines and be sure to drink a LOT of water). Eat all your food lukewarm if heat/cold tends to trigger it.

Feel better soon! It really really sucks.

My vote: Sinuses.

Maybe you have a cold.

X-rays don’t always show a cavity, or so my dentist recently told me. Parental is right also - if you have a cold or sinus infection (even if it’s not a bad one), it can very well make your teeth hurt. A LOT.

As to what you can do, if your dentist again says it’s nothing, than no how much you like him you are only screwing yourself by not getting someone else to look at it. You don’t owe him anything - if he cannot help you with your problem, find someone who can.

Thanks for the responses so far.

Hello Again: The last time I flew on a plane was in July. I don’t know if this counts as recent or not. I have flown many times before and have never encountered any dental pain afterwards, though. The dentist ran a cold test on the suspected teeth but none of them was especially sensitive to the cold. My dentist wrote me a prescription for Vicodin, so this will help alleviate the pain through the weekend. He said he would look at it again if the pain becomes too unbearable. I aprpeciate your feel-better wishes.

ParentalAdvisory and missbunny: I have had some minor sinus congestion lately, but not a full-blown cold, and these symptoms have subsided since the pain started. Still, this could be affecting my teeth, though the pain is on the bottom row. My mother told me the top row is more likely to be affected by sinus pressure.

Do you still have your wisdom teeth by any chance? I had a tooth coming in at an odd angle that didn’t bother me for years and years and then 1 day at the age of 28 it began to extert agonizing pressure on a back molar.

That was pain that started annoying/troubling, and slowly steadily got worse, as opposed to coming on nearly overnight as in the emergency root canal experience.

Sounds like your dentist already thought of the root canal angle if the did the hot/cold tests on you. So much for that theory (although you might consider being evaluated by a reputable endodontic specialist if your dentist doesn’t do root canals routinely him/herself.)

The cause of the toothache may not show on radiograph for another month.

The good news is: the more intense the pain, the easier it is to locate the offending pain.

If there is no improvement, schedule another appointment in a month. If the pain increases or localizes to a specific tooth, schedule another appointment immediately.

Even if your regular dentist does root canals, if you need one done, go to a board-certified endodontist.

The Tooth Beaver is at work. He doesn’t show up on x-rays because he jumps out of your mouth when you get to the dentist’s office. Better do something quick before the Nerve-Ending Fairy comes!

I have one remaining wisdom tooth, kinda tall and handsome, standing alone since its neighbor was pulled a couple years ago. (Don’t get the wrong impression! I have a face full of teeth! It’s just that one corner…)

About six months ago, I consulted a dentist – a good one, I think – about pain emanating from that area, and after a couple hundred dollars worth of x-rays and other such fol-de-rol, he pronounced that I was afflicted with “dead tooth syndrome.”

Yes, ladies and germs, that’s what the man said.

As he described it, “DTS” applies when a tooth’s root nerves die for no apparent reason, i.e., no cavity, no chip, no crack, no bullet holes, etc. He could find nothing whatsoever wrong with the tooth, but declared it dead anyway and strongly urged me to schedule a root canal and crown installation – about $1500.

I took his advice – and shitcanned it immediately. I also took his scrip for antibiotics, which cleared up the problem pronto. The tooth, “dead” as it may be, is still keeping one corner of my skull from collapsing, and giving me no shit whatsoever in the process.

I don’t know what happened, but I don’t believe that my stalwart remaining wisdom tooth allowed any pesky bacteria to pass. There was definitely infection, but the man didn’t prove to me that it got there by way of a perfectly solid tooth, sydromes aside.

Several years back, I had a mysterious pain in the lower back and had to practically overdose on Codine just to be able to stand the pain ( I was projectile vomiting); yet, the dentist could not locate the problem. I finally went to another dentist and he used the technique of numbing one tooth at a time until the pain disappeared. He was quickly able to narrow it down to the offending tooth. It was a number of years ago, so I don’t remember why it wasn’t obvious on the x-ray. The first dentist (Military) came very close to accusing me of having an overative imagination and exaggerating the pain. They tapped on each tooth to locate it but as much as it hurt it wasn’t sensitive to the tapping. It had to be extracted; WHAT a relief! I still remember that feeling of release when the pain was gone. I feel so sorry for you because it’s a really helpless feeling when the dentist says they can’t help you and you are in such pain.

I forgot to mention that tooth pain can be referred so it may be that it’s hurting one place, but the source is actually someplace else. so, it could be something as simple as decay.

Here’s my followup. I’ve been coping with the pain over the weekend (the end of DST only means I’ve had to deal with it for an hour longer). My dentist gave me a prescription for Vicodin, which my dad, being a pharmacist, filled for me. Between this and some Ambesol gel, this has kept the pain down, just a few flare-ups every now and then. There’s still no sign of swelling or other obvious self-diagnosable causes.

I had my wisdom teeth taken out when I was 17, about 16 years ago, so we can rule that out, too.My dentist will do root canal work, but he doesn’t want to go to this if he doesn’t have to, for my sake and his, but he’ll do it if that’s the only option I have. I am hoping that with the increased pain I am feeling this will make it easier for the dentist to spot the cause of the problem. I’ll have to ask him if he has ever heard of dead tooth syndrome (maybe I’ll print out this thread and take it in with me).

Thanks for the responses, everyone.