Internet Explorer is not supported for this application. For the best experience, use a supported browser such as Firefox, Safari, Chrome or Edge.

Illnesses and Tooth Pain

Your tooth pain might be coming from an unexpected place.

Illnesses That Can Cause Tooth Pain

Many illnesses can present with symptoms, affecting parts of our bodies that we wouldn't expect. For example, inflammation of the appendix (appendicitis), which is located in the lower right abdomen, can cause shooting pain in the left shoulder! This is just one example of how interconnected our bodily and nervous systems are.

Though many toothaches stem from actual dental issues, some medical conditions can cause dental pain:

  • Sinus Infections - viral or bacterial infections of the sinus cavity, or sinusitis, inflammation of the sinuses, can often cause pain in the upper teeth. This is because our sinuses, particularly the maxillary sinus, are located near our upper molars. When these sinuses are inflamed, it can impact the nerve of teeth, causing pain. When this occurs, the pain is likely to remain until the inflammation has gone down as the illness runs its course.
  • Ear Infection - as our ears are also very close to our jaws and teeth, those who have developed an ear infection may notice tooth pain on the same side of the head as the ear infection. Again, once the illness runs its course and other symptoms have reduced, any tooth pain associated with the ear infection should subside. Conversely, tooth and jaw problems can cause ear pain.
  • Angina - this type of chest pain caused from lowered amounts of blood reaching the heart due to coronary artery disease can actually travel, reaching the teeth and jaw. Angina can be very serious, and in many cases, lead to a heart attack.

Should I See a Doctor?

It is always best to see a doctor when experiencing chest pain, ear pain, or sinus problems, with or without a toothache - especially if the pain is persistent. It also might be easy to write off a toothache if you've had a recent cold, but there's always a chance that a dental issue is also present, so seeking professional advice is always the best way to go.

Other Surprising Reasons for Tooth Pain

Again, ruling out actual dental issues, there are a surprising number of factors that can contribute to an achy tooth:

  • Acids - An acidic diet (citrus, coffee) or stomach acid (frequent vomiting, GERD) weakens tooth enamel
  • Clenching/Grinding - Extra pressure from clenching (stress, anger) or grinding while sleeping affects your teeth
  • Oral Care - Tooth whitening products can cause sensitivity; overusing acidic oral rinses can damage enamel/dentin
  • Intense Workout Regimes - Endurance training may wear down enamel, increasing the risk of cavities; the reason is unclear, but scientists believe it may be linked to the amount of saliva in the mouth
  • Pregnancy - Hormonal changes leaves the mother to be at higher risk for gum disease and tooth decay