Why Dental Problems Are So Painful

Dental problems, especially in their advanced forms, can be some of the most painful experiences of our lives. It’s a wonder how people in ancient times got through them, especially considering the primitive forms of dental care with which they had to work.

People all too often put off much needed dental services until the pain becomes all but unbearable. In the beginning, they often think “it will get better on its own”, or “it can’t get that bad”. They’re usually wrong on both accounts.

So, why do dental problems, especially cavities and infections, cause us such incredible amounts of pain? To understand why, you need to first understand a little bit about how the tooth is structured.


This is a protective layer surrounding the tooth. It is comprised of various minerals, and can be eroded due to plaque and acidic substances like soda. However, it can also be regenerated through improved dental hygiene and diet.

The erosion of the enamel is not painful in and of itself, however, it can result in pain it exposes the next layer of the tooth to hot and cold temperatures. That layer is called the:


This forms the bulk of your tooth. It’s hard and bony, and it’s usually what we think of when we think of our teeth. As stated above, erosion to the enamel can be repaired naturally through various means. However, damage to the dentin cannot. It can only be repaired through dental fillings or crowns.

As acid and bacteria begins to eat away at the dentin, a hole begins to appear. This is a cavity. At this point, the tooth will become very sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, sugary foods, and maybe even pressure.

You still might be wondering, “Why is any of this painful? These layers don’t contain any nerves.”

The reason for the increasing pain is the gradual exposure of the inner layer of the tooth to outside forces and substances. That layer is called the:

Tooth Pulp

As the name indicates, this is a soft, “pulpy” tissue underneath the dentin. This is what contains the tooth nerve and is kept alive with various blood vessels.

This is what leads to the gradual increase in pain from the above symptoms. As the nerve-containing tooth pulp becomes more and more exposed to temperatures and outside materials, it sends pain signals to the brain. As anyone who has suffered tooth pain will tell you, the sensation is incredibly intense. It’s often described as “sharp”, “cold”, or “electric”.

If a dental filling or crown is not administered to the cavity, the acid and bacteria in plaque will eventually lead to an infection of the tooth pulp, causing inflammation and swelling. This causes further damage and pressure upon the tooth nerve. Eventually, a pus pocket will form (usually at the gum line) called an “abscess”.

Don’t Let Dental Problems Get Worse!

Today, there are plenty of safe, clean, and effective ways of solving dental problems, most of which involve little to no pain at all. Contact your dentist if you are at any stage of tooth decay.