Toothaches are no fun—but here’s how you can prevent them.

Most adults have experienced a toothache at some point in their lives, and while individual cases might vary, all will agree that tooth pain can feel downright agonizing. However, as bad as toothaches feel, the good news is the vast majority of causes behind them are preventable.

Here are the top 5 causes of toothaches—and how you can avoid experiencing them for yourself.

1. Untreated tooth decay is the most common cause of toothaches.

The most common cause of toothaches is untreated tooth decay. At any given time 27% of American adults have untreated tooth decay issues—some people are aware of the problem but are not seeking treatment while other people are completely unaware.

Untreated tooth decay leads to pain when the decay itself reaches the sensitive dentin layer inside your tooth. This means a toothache isn’t just a sign of a cavity, but a warning that serious damage has already taken place to the tooth structure.

Avoid untreated tooth decay by seeing your dentist bi-annually and always completing treatment as soon as you can. Follow a proper oral health care routine at home, avoid sugary or acidic foods, and keep up your professional cleanings and/or fluoride treatments.

2. Gum disease can lead to general mouth pain as well as tooth pain.

Gum disease symptoms aren’t always linked to isolated pain in the gums only. Many people will also experience toothaches in addition to very tender, swollen, or even bleeding gums.

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a type of infection and is usually caused by improper oral hygiene. It may begin in the gums only (gingivitis) and, left without treatment, can turn into periodontitis. Periodontitis can reach the underlying bone structure in your jaw and lead to permanent bone loss.

Avoiding gum disease means taking proper care of your teeth, avoiding tobacco products (especially chewing tobacco), eating a nutritious diet, and speaking with your dentist about medications you may be taking. Some medications are linked to gum disease and put you at high risk.

3. Abscesses are severely painful—and a serious health risk.

Abscesses can be miserably painful and extremely dangerous to your health. An abscess is essentially a pocket of infection. These can develop anywhere within the mouth, but the most painful are those that develop within the root of decayed teeth.

Abscesses often go hand in hand with untreated tooth decay—with tooth decay forming first, leading to an abscess developing as the decay eats away at the dentin layer of the tooth. These abscesses can lead to permanent bone and tissue loss within the mouth, but the most worrisome side effect is the possibility of the infection entering your blood system.

Avoiding abscesses means seeking treatment for untreated tooth decay and other damaged teeth as soon as you can. If you suspect you have an infection or an abscess (pain accompanied by pressure in the jaw), call your dentist as soon as possible. An ER visit may be warranted if your dentist’s office is closed and you’re in extreme pain coupled with facial swelling, fever, dizziness, etc.

4. Sensitivity from diet or whitening can lead to chronic soreness.

Toothaches and general soreness from tooth sensitivity are fairly common. Generally, individuals will feel a pang of tooth pain when they drink or eat something either very cold or very hot. This can also occur when biting down on a hard or crunchy food item. Most of the time the pain will feel quite sharp and then dull to a throbbing pain.

Sensitive teeth is a condition that’s almost always is linked to enamel erosion issues. Essentially the protective enamel layer on your tooth has weakened, which doesn’t leave your tooth with much of a barrier to temperature extremes. Enamel erosion can be linked back to improper oral care, a diet high in sugar and acid, and even tooth whitening.

Avoiding sensitivity-related toothaches first means speaking with your dentist about the problem. Your dentist may recommend a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth or a more permanent sealant treatment option, such as bonding or veneers. As far as whitening goes, avoid at-home whitening kits and seek professional treatment.

5. A failed filling or crown might be the culprit for isolated tooth pain.

Old or improperly fitted fillings and crowns can cause pain for a number of reasons. Old fillings or ones that have become loose over time may be harboring decay under them. The same can apply to crowns that have lifted up.

A new crown that isn’t properly fitted to your tooth can also lead to constant pain, especially while eating. Both fillings and crowns can completely pop out as well. You’ll notice immediately if your crown comes off, but it can be tricky to feel a filling come out—especially if you’re eating and happen to swallow it.

Avoiding issues with fillings and crowns means seeing your dentist on a regular basis and reporting any issues as soon as you notice them. If it’s been a week or so since a new crown or filling was placed and it still hurts, call your dentist. And if a filling or crown comes out of place, save it and get in to see your dentist ASAP.

Put a stop to toothaches and get back on track with oral health.

The easiest way of preventing future toothaches is to visit your dentist every six months and schedule appointments as soon as symptoms show. Taking a proactive approach to your oral health is the more effective way of catching problems before they turn into something more serious.

Whether you’re currently experiencing a toothache, are worried about an untreated condition, or you simply want to schedule a checkup, make an appointment with our team at Great Miami Dental Associates. Dr. Lang will help you get on the road to recovery for existing issues and support you with future care to ensure you stay smiling brightly.