5 Reasons Your Child Could Be Complaining of Tooth Pain

Causes of tooth pain in a child

If you think back to the last time you had a toothache, you likely wince. You aren’t making a face because it hurts now. You’re wincing because your muscle memory kicks in, reminding you how your tooth pain kept you up at night, kept you from concentrating at work, and had you scheduling the first appointment possible with your dentist. So when your child starts complaining of tooth pain, you can empathize. And you want nothing more than to take the pain away. But one of the best ways to help them get more comfortable is to understand what’s causing the toothache in the first place.

Why is my child complaining of tooth pain?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 40% of adults report tooth pain in a given year. And if that statistic isn’t staggering enough, an average of 34 million school hours are lost each year due to dental emergencies for kids who require unplanned care. That’s a lot of missed time spent battling tooth pain that could have been prevented.

So when it comes to tooth pain in kids, what are the typical causes?

1. Cavities

Cavities, also called dental caries, are formed by tooth decay. And tooth decay forms over time, starting with the development of plaque that then begins to attack the teeth, and destruction begins. Cavities often result in a toothache, as the pulp inside the tooth swells and become irritated from the bacteria. Since there is no place for the swelling to expand inside the tooth, the nerve is compressed, resulting in pain. In the most severe cases, discomfort can extend beyond the tooth root to the bone.

But if your child has a cavity, you should know they aren’t alone. According to the CDC, 57% of kids age 12 to 19 have had a cavity in their permanent teeth. And about 90% of adults age 20 or over have had a cavity too.

2. Tooth Abscess 

A bacterial infection causes a tooth abscess. Abscesses are pockets of pus that can occur in different areas near the tooth for various reasons. Dental abscesses are quite painful and can be very dangerous if not treated, so it is important to know the signs and symptoms.

  • Severe, constant throbbing toothache 
  • Pain or discomfort with hot and cold temperatures
  • Pain, discomfort, or sensitive teeth with the pressure of chewing or biting
  • Fever
  • Swelling in the face, cheek, or neck 
  • Tender, swollen lymph nodes under the jaw or in the neck
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Foul-smelling and foul-tasting, salty fluid in the mouth that comes on suddenly
  • Pain relief, if the abscess ruptures

Though dental abscesses are less common in children, they do happen. An untreated abscess can cause tooth loss and travel to the surrounding lymph nodes, the heart, and the brain. If your child shows signs of an abscess, you must contact their pediatric dentist as soon as possible.

3. Dentin Hypersensitivity 

The dentin in your tooth is the protective layer beneath your enamel that guards the tooth’s nerves and blood vessels. When the dentin loses the protection of enamel, those narrow pathways let heat and cold or sticky and acidic foods stimulate the nerves and cells inside the tooth. The result is dentin hypersensitivity (also called tooth sensitivity).

If your child is experiencing dental hypersensitivity, their pediatric dentist near Vancouver, WA, will likely recommend self-care products, including tooth powders, toothpaste, mouth rinses, and chewing gum. Know that cold and hot drinks and foods can contribute to tooth pain, and the teeth may be sensitive to toothbrushing and flossing. Be sure to let the dentist know so a treatment plan can be determined.

4. Broken or Cracked Tooth

Surprisingly enough, broken or cracked teeth aren’t all that uncommon. Rough play and sports, accidents like slips and falls, etc., can cause a broken tooth before you know it. And if your child breaks or cracks a tooth, chewing can cause movement of the pieces, and the pulp can become irritated. If your child has a broken or cracked tooth, have them rinse their mouth with warm water to clean the area, and apply a cold compress on the outside of the cheek to prevent swelling. Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as Advil and Tylenol, can reduce swelling and pain until you can get your child to the dentist.

5. Sinus infection

Sometimes, tooth pain is not related to the tooth or a problem in the mouth at all. But since the largest sinuses are located above the back teeth of the upper jaw and the roots of the upper teeth are located close to the sinus cavity, inflammation in the sinuses might cause pain in nearby teeth. Common symptoms of a sinus infection include the following:

  • Postnasal drip
  • Greenish-colored nasal discharge
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Congestion
  • Tenderness of the face under the eyes or at the bridge of the nose
  • Tooth pain
  • Headaches on the forehead or front of the face
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Halitosis (bad breath)

Contact Must Love Kids if your child has a toothache.

If your child is experiencing tooth pain, request an appointment with the team at Must Love Kids. We’ll help get to the root cause of the pain and help them feel better as soon as possible. No one likes to see kids suffer unnecessarily. We look forward to helping you and providing recommendations on good oral health to prevent future toothaches.