Why Do My Teeth & Gums Hurt?

Taking care of your mouth is very important for maintaining good overall health. Neglecting your teeth and gums can make them susceptible to problems such as cavities, gum disease, bacterial infections, impacted wisdom teeth and temporomandibular dysfunction, which is known by the acronym TMJ. These problems can compromise your oral well-being and make your teeth and gums hurt. The American Dental Association recommends flossing daily and brushing with fluoride toothpaste to keep your teeth and gums clean, healthy and pain free 3.


If your teeth hurt, a cavity could be the culprit. Cavities occur when plaque buildup on your teeth creates tooth decay. Plaque is a combination of saliva, bacteria and food particles, and this substance sticks to your teeth as you eat. Plaque contains harmful acids that eat away at your tooth enamel and create tiny holes. According to the National Institutes of Health, if you do not regularly remove plaque deposits from your teeth, your cavities will continue to grow and eventually begin to hurt.

Tooth Infection

Cavities that remain untreated and continue to expand can ultimately reach and kill a tooth’s pulp. The pulp is the central area of a tooth that contains soft tissues, nerves and blood vessels. A tooth infection known as an abscess can develop when the bacteria in plaque reach the pulp. An abscess can cause extremely severe tooth pain. The NIH warns that an untreated abscess may ultimately result in loss of the tooth.

Gum Disease

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, lingering plaque deposits can also affect your gums 4. If not removed daily, plaque hardens into a substance called tartar that can irritate your gums and lead to gum disease. Gingivitis is a mild type of gum disease that produces swelling, redness and minor bleeding. Periodontitis is a more advanced form of gum disease. If you develop periodontitis, your gums may eventually recede from your teeth and the supporting bone and tissue may begin to break down. Severe cases of periodontitis can lead to pain, sensitivity and even tooth loss.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Some people’s wisdom teeth grow in normally without causing problems. However, if you have impacted wisdom teeth, they can potentially become infected and begin to hurt. An impacted wisdom tooth is one that grows in the wrong direction. This can occur if your mouth is crowded and there is no room for the teeth to come in. According to MayoClinic.com, impacted wisdom teeth can lead to further complications like cysts, bone damage or damage to a neighboring tooth 1.


According to the NIH, you may also experience pain if you have a condition known as temporomandibular joint dysfunction. TMJ occurs when excessive stress is placed on the cartilage, muscles, ligaments or nerves surrounding your temporomandibular joints. These joints are located on both sides of your head and serve to connect your jaw to your skull. Potential TMJ causes include an irregular bite and teeth grinding. TMJ can cause pain, headaches, jaw stiffness and difficulty chewing.