What’s Causing Your Toothache?

Your tooth right? Not so fast. Toothaches are usually caused by deep decay reaching into the pulp of the tooth, commonly referred to as “the nerve.” Other sources of a toothache are inflammation of the gums due to gingivitis or periodontal disease. But, what if you are experiencing a toothache without apparent decay or other dental problems? Some toothaches can be of non-dental origin. If you are experiencing a toothache, contact your Cerritos, CA oral surgeon, Dr. Shawn Hofkes, for a thorough evaluation of your dentition, supporting gingival (gum) tissue, and bone to determine if your pain is non-dental related.

Possible Causes Of Non-Dental Related Pain

Non-dental related tooth pain can be due to impairment of other structures of the oral cavity including the jaw and jaw muscles. Because the pain presents as a toothache, identifying the cause can often be tricky. Some causes of non-dental related pain include:

  • A Cracked Tooth: A cracked tooth can be difficult to diagnose when the crack is in the root of the tooth, or not noticeable in the tooth structure. Diagnosis is often made using transillumination–shining a bright light through the tooth.
  • Periodontal Ligament Pain: Periodontal ligaments are the fibrous tissues that connect the root of the tooth to the supporting bone. Clenching, bruxing, malocclusion (misalignment of teeth or improper bite), or other trauma can cause inflammation of the periodontal ligaments, resulting in a “toothache.”
  • Referred Muscle Pain: Aching face or jaw muscles can localize in one area, or the pain can be referred to the teeth presenting as a toothache. Overuse of the muscles can increase the pain.
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia: The trigeminal nerve provides sensation to the face and is responsible for certain motor functions such as biting and chewing. Stimulation of the orofacial area such as touching your face, eating, or brushing your teeth, can cause episodes of pain that can be mistaken for a toothache.



Pain from a dental or non-dental related toothache can present in many ways, and seems to be radiating from the tooth, gum, or bone. Some symptoms include:

  • A dull or throbbing ache
  • A sharp, shooting pain
  • A constant pain
  • A recurring pain
  • A migrating pain



Shawn Hofkes, DDS, is highly qualified to address complex issues, including the diagnosis and removal of adult wisdom teeth. To schedule your appointment or consultation with Dr. Hofkes, contact us today by calling 562-584-4082. We proudly serve patients of all ages from Cerritos, Lakewood, Long Beach, Buena Park, and all surrounding communities.