What is Referred Tooth Pain and What to Do About It?

You have a pain in your tooth, but you can’t locate the specific area involved.  It confuses you to an extent whether it’s single tooth pain or multiple teeth are involved.

Sometimes pain from jaw region may mimic a toothache. This discomfort is generally called as referred tooth pain.


It becomes tough to differentiate different types of orofacial pain. Knowing about this type of tooth pain will help you to understand about it better.

Keep in mind the following points to self-diagnose referred tooth pain.

What is referred tooth pain?                                       

Referred pain is a type of dental pain perceived at a location which is other than the site of the painful stimulus.

Sometimes it gets difficult to tell which tooth is causing dental pain. At times, something felt as being a toothache may not be caused by a tooth at all.

Sensation to all teeth is supplied by one major nerve called the trigeminal nerve. Different branches of trigeminal nerve supply the upper and the lower teeth.

Pain that is felt arising from an upper tooth where the cause of the pain may be a lower tooth or the other way round. This referred dental pain may be mild, dull, aching or sharp, intense, severe, and even excruciating.

The brain fails to locate the exact source of pain. Instead, it will tell you the area or the quadrant of the mouth involved. In most of the cases, the brain cannot differentiate between the pain signals from upper teeth and lower teeth

 A careful exam by the dentist will locate which tooth is causing the problem. (1)

Things to keep in mind

A referred pain may not always involve the tooth. Other factors that contribute to dental pain include –

  • Pain from recent dental treatment
  • Sinusitis
  • Trigeminal neuralgia and occipital neuralgia
  • Problems related to the heart and lungs (2)

Though your dental pain may not be caused due to tooth decay, you should continue to maintain your oral health routine by flossing once a day and brushing twice a day with a good fluoridated toothpaste.

A toothache isn’t something you should ignore. If you have pain in your tooth, visit a dentist as soon as possible.


Your dentist can find out if your discomfort is due to dental decay or if it’s signaling another problem with your health.

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