why do my teeth hurt

People often question – why do my teeth hurt irrespective of no teeth issues? Most of us assume that a toothache means that we have a cavity or some other problem in our mouth. Usually, we visit a dentist because of a cavity or caries induced toothache. But, there are many reasons besides decay for a toothache.

Sometimes it may be something to do with our gums, bone, or nerve or it may be something that is unrelated to the teeth such as cold, an ear infection or even a throat infection.

Moving further, we will read more about other causes of a toothache which are other than teeth problems. Also, you will know the diagnosis and treatment options.

Toothaches that don’t have a dental cause

Sinus Disorders

The root apices of our upper teeth are located close to the maxillary sinus, often called the antrum.  When we develop a cold, the sinus becomes congested and inflamed (1).

Due to this pressure on the sinus, there is a pain in our upper teeth. If the sinus congestion is severe, there may also be referred pain to the lower jaw.

Similarly, an inflammation of the sinus due to any other cause, called sinusitis, may also cause a toothache.

Ear Infections

When we develop an infection in the ear, the pain on that side also affects our jaws, and we experience something similar to a toothache. This is because our ear, nose, and throat systems are all interconnected.

why do my teeth hurt

Temporomandibular Joint Problems

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint responsibility for our mouth opening movements. It is formed by our lower jaw and a bone of the skull, the temporal bone.

Sometimes, there may be a dislocation of either of the bones, or a fracture, or any other problem in the joint (2). These TMJ problems cause a toothache in our posterior teeth, which we often mistake for a problem in our teeth.


Angina is the pain one feels when there is a heart attack. It often mimics a toothache because it radiates to the lower jaw, in addition to the shoulder, and arm (3).

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is a severe condition that affects a nerve on our face. It is characterized by excruciating pain on areas of the face when specific points, called ‘trigger zones’ are touched (4).

The pain caused by this condition, though much severe, may sometimes mimic a toothache.


A migraine or a headache can also present as toothaches, though rare.

How to tell the difference between a toothache due to teeth issue and something else?

It is essential to be able to differentiate between pain due to a tooth problem or some other issue in the body. But here are some signs to look out for if a toothache is due to some other issue other than dental issues.

  • If you feel a heavy sensation throughout the face such as around your cheeks, forehead, and jaws, then it is mostly due to a cold. In case of a toothache, this kind of heaviness is not present.
  • Also, if you have a cold, then there will be discharge from the nose or throat.
  • Hoarseness of voice and pain while talking.
  • Difficulty in breathing.
  • If there is a problem with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ), then there is pain specifically while opening and closing your mouth, chewing, or talking.
  • If you have an ear infection, there is a pain in the ear of the affected side in addition to a toothache.

The best thing to do to resolve the doubt of the cause of the pain is to visit your dentist or doctor, who will conduct a thorough examination and diagnose the cause.

Treating the problem which might cause a toothache

It is imperative to address the cause of the underlying issues since a toothache is just the after effect of such issues.

  • Most commonly, your toothache is due to a cold. Some easy ways to manage a common cold at home are –
    • Consuming warm food and beverages, steam inhalation and getting adequate rest help to ease the condition.
    • When you are experiencing a hoarse throat, salt water gargles and lozenges may also be helpful.
    • Conventional medications are antibiotics and painkillers.
  • If you are suffering from an earache, get your ear examined for infection, boil or any other issues. Once the cause is known, your doctor will recommend a suitable treatment plan.
  • TMJ disorders warrant an elaborate investigative process such as scans, x-rays, etc. Based on the nature of the problem, the doctor may advise medication, exercises, or even surgery, if required.
  • The treatment for trigeminal neuralgia is very particular and the toothache may be only a small part of many other severe symptoms which require immediate attention.


It is an uncomfortable experience to have a toothache. But it is even more frustrating when you do not know what is the main cause of pain in your tooth.

If you don’t think that it is linked to your teeth, a visit to your primary healthcare provider will give you a better picture of where the problem lies and what can be done about it.