There’s nothing worse than having a nagging toothache. It will not only occupy your time but zap your energy while you try to find relief from the pain. Sometimes it may last for only a day or two but in some cases it could last for months and even years.
What is the cause of this unfortunate pain and discomfort? Most of the time, it’s quite obvious. A routine dental exam with x-rays usually will give us the answer. Tooth decay, fractured teeth and infections are the most common explanations for these irritating situations.
But if these conditions are not the cause then what is? Sometimes the answer may be simpler than it seems. After practicing dentistry for over 28 years, one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned, that can greatly help my patients suffering from a toothache, is to remember to check their bites.
Imagine your tooth is like a shock absorber. There’s an elastic fiber called the periodontal ligament that attaches the tooth to the surrounding bony socket. These tiny fibers hold the tooth in place and allow the tooth to microscopically move up and down as it adapts to the occlusal forces placed upon them. There is no pain or discomfort in a tooth unless this “neutral zone” is violated.
When a tooth is pushed down into the socket due to an external or un-natural force, a toothache will result. Dentists can use occlusal marking paper to help identify these premature contacts and adjust the bite accordingly until your neutral zone is established again.
Our teeth are so sensitive that even if the bite is only off a quarter of a millimeter, the effects will be felt and the pain will persist until the problem is solved.
Remember these three simple rules:
1) If a new restoration or crown has been placed recently and the tooth is suddenly very sensitive, especially to cold temperatures or when chewing food, check the bite.
2) If you notice that you’re suffering from sinus congestion and you develop a toothache at the same time, check the bite. Sinus congestions can create pressure on your teeth and “push” them out of the socket, thus violating the “neutral zone.”
3) If you do have a toothache but it’s not waking you up at night, there’s a good chance it’s not a pulpitis (infection of the nerve), and, everyone all together now, “check the bite.”
When it is a bite problem and the occlusion is corrected, patients will notice relief from their pain is almost immediate and the smile on their faces will confirm that the dentist is suddenly their best friend.
A toothache doesn’t always mean that there’s decay or it’s an abscessed tooth. Too often the diagnosis may lead to unnecessary root canals or extractions that could have been avoided.
“Check the bite, make it right and you’ll be out of pain tonight.”
Thank you so much for sharing this is an excellent article.
I learned about getting my bite adjusted the hard way – two unnecessary, very expensive and painful route canals.
Thank God for the dentist who figured it out!
I hope this article finds a poor soul dealing with dull throbbing tooth pain and gives them their solution!!
I have this incorrect bite problem following a filling. I’ve been back 3 times for adjustments. This has gone on for 8 weeks. Very painful, any advice?
As we have no way of evaluating the specific situation with your filling, we can’t speculate on it or offer advice beyond just talking with your dentist again. Let them know as specifically as possible what the problem is – the kind of pain, the location, what triggers it, etc. – so they can know what they need to do to help correct it and bring you relief.
I had a medium filling in this tooth and it was sensitive to cold for a very long time about a couple months
Then finally the sensitivity went away but now it’s always aching me
It doesn’t wake me up at night and all X-rays show that there is nothing wrong
I went to the dentist and he adjusted the bite but it’s still aching?
What can it be and what can I do
What kind of dentists are best trained at adjusting the bite?
Hi, Mark! Sorry to hear you’re going through this. We can’t really speculate on what’s going on without actually seeing you as a patient. If you’d like us to evaluate the situation with that tooth, just give us a call: 314-997-2550.
All dentists are trained in adjusting the bite, but some may pursue additional training, especially if they specialize in an area such as advanced restorative dentistry. This may include things like work in gnathology, neuromuscular dentistry, and the treatment of TMJ or other head/face/neck pain.
I had a medium sized filling then
I have the same exact problem as you where my tooth was sensitive for a while then the sensitivity went away but now it aches all the time during the day
Did you ever find out what it was?
My tooth #31 has small abscess like puss coming out on the side of the gum toward the outside where I can see it.
This tooth has a gold crown and has had a root canal.
It also needed a fairly significant bite adjustment. I had that done and I am wondering if that could have caused the pussy abscess or is likely something worse like a bad tooth.
We’re sorry you’re having to deal with this, Richard. While we can’t diagnose or speculate on your situation, it does sound like something you should have evaluated in person by a biological dentist as soon as possible. If you’re in the St. Louis area, you can reach our front desk at (314) 997-2550. If you live elsewhere, you can find a biological dentist near you in the online directories of IAOMT, IABDM, and HDA:
I have been suffering with tooth pain (which I cannot pinpoint to one tooth) for over a year and have been to 3 dentists so far. I have never had a cavity or any dental work. I have Bruxism and TMJ. I was given a night guard, which only exasperated the pain, and I had 3 months of PT for TMD. You said that you make adjustments for misaligned teeth, which I’m pretty sure I have. What exactly are adjustments? How many are usually needed? Thank you!
Hi, Renee! The specific treatment depends on the nature of any misalignment and its cause(s). We can’t make treatment suggestions here on our blog, but if you give our front desk a call and let them know more about your dental situation, they should be able to give you a rough idea of the general type of treatments that may be appropriate in your case, and the time and costs involved: 314-997-2550.
I am a grinder. A Dentist did a bite adjustment on a molar tooth that has a composite filling. I had some sensitivity and it went away. Then the pain came back full strength. Now I am told that tooth has an abscess and needs a root canal and crown. I feel that the bite adjustment is the cause of this outcome. That too much of my tooth was removed. Can this happen?
Ongoing trauma to a tooth can indeed lead to the ultimate death of the tooth. While this article speaks mainly of the trauma of repeated dental procedures, you may find it interesting with respect to your situation: https://biologicaldentalhealth.com/too-much-dentistry/
I have never had any cavities until recently. I had a large cavity in my top right molar while also having fillings on the whole right side on molars. I have had specific pain in my upper molars…not really sure where exactly it’s coming from. I’ve noticed that since the fillings, I have been grinding my teeth, along with some jaw and ear pain. Could this mean my bite is off? It’s been about three weeks since the teeth have been filled.
We can’t say for sure, but it sounds likely. Have you contacted the dentist and told him or her about it? If not, we encourage you to do so, so if the bite is indeed off, your dentist can adjust it.