Read below about molar tooth pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your molar tooth pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Tooth pain from the back of the mouth

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Molar Tooth Pain Symptoms

Adults typically have 32 permanent teeth. Twelve of these are molar teeth, which are at the back of the mouth. [9] The 4 teeth at the very back (one on each side at the top and bottom) appear last, in the late teens and early twenties, and are often called "wisdom teeth." [5] Molar teeth have mostly flat tops and are used to grind food. [11] Pain in molar teeth can be caused by any of the processes that affect other teeth. In addition, molar teeth are particularly prone to certain painful conditions because of their position far back in the mouth. [2,10]

Symptoms that can be associated with molar tooth pain include:

Molar Tooth Pain Causes Overview

Tooth abnormalities

  • Cavities: Debris that forms on the surfaces of teeth over the course of the day can host bacteria. Acid produced by bacteria creates holes in the teeth over time. [1] Molar teeth are particularly prone to cavities because their location in the back of the mouth makes them difficult to clean effectively. [2]
  • Fracture: An acute injury, biting down on hard foods, or gradual damage over time can cause a crack to develop. This results in pain if the crack extends deep into the tooth. [3]
  • Inflammation of the pulp: Either a deep cavity or an injury to the tooth can cause damage and inflammation of the pulp, the deepest part of the tooth. This results in pain with hot and cold foods and with chewing. [4]
  • Impacted tooth: Sometimes there is not enough space for a wisdom tooth to completely grow out of the gum. It may grow at an angle, damaging other teeth and contributing to infections and cavities. [5]

Gum disease

  • Loose tooth: In severe gum disease the gums erode away from the teeth. The teeth become loose, resulting in pain during chewing. [6]
  • Gum flap over tooth: The flap of gum covering an erupting wisdom tooth often becomes inflamed and painful. [5]

Infectious Molar Tooth Pain Causes

  • Local infection: Inflammation of the gum over a wisdom tooth or the pulp of a tooth can progress to a bacterial infection. [6]
  • Spreading infection: Without proper treatment, a local infection can spread, causing extensive swelling and pain. An infection in a molar tooth is particularly likely to cause a severe infection because it is located in the back of the mouth near the airway and other important structures. [7]
  • Sinusitis: An infection of the sinuses can cause referred pain to the upper molar teeth. [8]

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Molar Tooth Pain

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced molar tooth pain. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Temporomandibular Joint (Tmj) Dysfunction Disorder

    The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is located in front of the ear, and it connects the jaw to the side of the head. Temporomandibular disorder (TMD) is a painful condition which can be caused by excess tension in jaw mucles, faulty alignment between upper and lower teeth, arthritis in the joint, or injury of the jaw or face.

    Outcome is highly case-dependent.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, pain, restricted movement, and clicking sounds from jaw, history of headaches, jaw pain, pain in the back of the neck
    Symptoms that always occur with temporomandibular joint (tmj) dysfunction disorder:
    pain, restricted movement, and clicking sounds from jaw
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Dental Cavity

    Dental cavities are bacterial infections of the tooth. The bacteria produce acid that breaks down the tooth.

    1 day with proper treatment

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    dry mouth, toothache, tooth pain that makes chewing difficult, pain in the top row of teeth, tooth pain that gets worse with hot, cold, or sweet beverages
    Symptoms that never occur with dental cavity:
    spontanenous tooth pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Molar Tooth Pain Checker

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  3. 3.Acute Viral Sinusitis

    Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinus spaces behind the nose and cheeks. These spaces produce mucus, which drains into the nose. If the nose is swollen or if the mucus does not drain, this can block the sinuses and cause pain or infection.

    Symptoms should subside within 7-10 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    headache, cough, sinusitis symptoms, sore throat, congestion
    Symptoms that always occur with acute viral sinusitis:
    sinusitis symptoms
    Symptoms that never occur with acute viral sinusitis:
    being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  4. 4.Tooth Abscess (Infection)

    A tooth abscess is a collection of infected material (pus) in the center of a tooth. It is due to bacterial infection.

    Resolves after treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    severe jaw or tooth pain, swollen jaw, jaw stiffness, tooth pain that gets worse with hot, cold, or sweet beverages, warm and red jaw swelling
    Symptoms that always occur with tooth abscess (infection):
    severe jaw or tooth pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Acute Bacterial Sinusitis

    Acute bacterial sinusitis occurs when the sinuses become infected and, in turn, inflamed, which causes pain and other symptoms. The sinuses are air-filled cavities in the face that are generally clean and empty but when they're sick collect excess mucus and can become infected. When your symptoms are persisting for 10 days or more or are getting worse over time, it's more likely that you'll have a bacterial infection as compared to a viral infection.

    7-15 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, cough, sinusitis symptoms, muscle aches
    Symptoms that always occur with acute bacterial sinusitis:
    sinusitis symptoms
    Symptoms that never occur with acute bacterial sinusitis:
    clear runny nose, being severely ill
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Molar Tooth Pain Treatments and Relief

Most causes of molar tooth pain are not an emergency. However, infections that start with a tooth and spread to other structures can be dangerous, even life-threatening, and require urgent evaluation. [7] In addition, quick treatment may be necessary to save a broken tooth. [3]

Seek emergency treatment if you have:

  • Difficulty breathing, [15] speaking, [11] or opening your mouth [8,14]
  • Facial swelling [16]
  • Fever [16]
  • Swollen lymph nodes [15]
  • Discharge with a foul taste [12]
  • A piece of a tooth broken off [11]
  • Bleeding from a tooth [16]

In some cases, even though emergency treatment isn't necessary, you may need medical evaluation and treatment. Make an appointment with your dentist if you have:

  • Tooth pain with hot and cold food and liquids [11]
  • A loose tooth [6]
  • Constant tooth pain lasting more than two days [16]
  • Swollen painful gums around a tooth [15]

Your dentist may prescribe one or more of the following treatments, depending on the cause of your molar tooth pain:

  • Filling a cavity to prevent further damage. [10]
  • Fluoride treatment to prevent progression of cavities. [10]
  • Root canal, where the pulp of the tooth is removed and the resulting space is filled. [16]
  • Antibiotics for an infection. [15]
  • Removal of a tooth. [16]

Some home treatments may help with molar tooth pain symptoms.

  • If you experience molar tooth pain with brushing or with hot and cold foods, try using a desensitizing toothpaste. [17]
  • Try placing a cold compress on your cheek over the affected tooth. [8]
  • A warm water rinse can help relieve tooth pain. [8]
  • NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help relieve pain. [8]

FAQs About Molar Tooth Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about molar tooth pain.

Why do wisdom teeth have to get removed?

Wisdom teeth are the molars at the very back of the mouth. Often there is not enough space for wisdom teeth to fully emerge from the gum. As a result, they may grow at odd angles and damage other teeth. In addition, the gum covering partially erupted teeth is prone to infection and trapping of food particles. Partially or fully erupted wisdom teeth are prone to developing cavities because they are difficult to clean and floss. Wisdom teeth are removed when they are causing problems such as pain, infection, and negative effects on surrounding teeth. [5]

Can sinusitis cause molar teeth to hurt?

Allergic inflammation or infection of the sinuses can cause tooth pain. The upper molars are most likely to hurt since they are located close to the sinuses. Unlike other causes of tooth pain, which are restricted to the tooth affected by a particular process like a cavity, the pain associated with sinusitis will be felt in multiple teeth. [18]

How can I prevent painful cavities in my molar teeth?

Unfortunately, molar teeth can be difficult to brush and floss due to their position in the back of the mouth. Brush at least twice a day and visit the dentist regularly for professional cleanings. Avoiding sugary and sticky foods will also help prevent cavities from developing. If you have a particularly high risk of cavities, your dentist may prescribe antibacterial or fluoride treatments. [10,19]

Why does one of my molar teeth hurt when I have cold or hot food and liquids?

Pain with exposure to hot and cold indicates pulpitis, meaning inflammation of the pulp (the deepest part of the tooth). There may be damage due to a deep cavity or tooth trauma. Depending on the severity of pulpitis, the pain may immediately disappear after exposure to temperature extremes or may persist. It is important to seek treatment so that further damage can be prevented. [8,16]

How do I know if my painful molar tooth is infected?

Molar tooth pain can be due to a developing infection within the tooth itself or the surrounding structures. An infection causes constant, severe tooth pain. As an untreated infection spreads, other signs like swelling and discharge may be present. In the most severe case where a tooth infection spreads through the mouth, fever, difficulty opening the mouth, and difficulty breathing will occur, requiring emergency treatment. [16]

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Molar Tooth Pain

  • Q.Were you hit or injured anywhere on your face? If so, where?
  • Q.Has your dentist or significant other ever told you that you grind your teeth in your sleep?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Do you have a cough?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our molar tooth pain symptom checker to find out more.

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Molar Tooth Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced molar tooth pain have also experienced:

    • 10% Pain in the Lower Pre - Molar
    • 8% Toothache
    • 7% Headache
  • People who have experienced molar tooth pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 41% Less Than a Week
    • 31% Less Than a Day
    • 11% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced molar tooth pain were most often matched with:

    • 50% Dental Cavity
    • 37% Temporomandibular Joint (Tmj) Dysfunction Disorder
    • 12% Acute Viral Sinusitis
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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References

  1. Tooth Decay. NHS. Updated July 4, 2016. NHS Link.
  2. Seal Out Tooth Decay: A Fact Sheet for Parents. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Published February 2013. NIDCR Link.
  3. Cracked Teeth. American Association of Endodontists. AAE Link.
  4. The Effects of Antibiotics on Toothache Caused By Inflammation or Infection at the Root of the Tooth in Adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Published June 26, 2014. NCBI Link.
  5. Removal of Impacted Wisdom Teeth. British Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons. BAOMS Link.
  6. Receding Gums. California Dental Association. CDA Link.
  7. Yilmaz S, Bas B, Ozden B, Selcuk U, Kurnaz SC. Deep Neck Infection After Third Molar Extraction. Journal of Istanbul University Faculty of Dentistry. 2015;49(2):41-45. NCBI Link.
  8. Causes of Tooth Pain. Broadway Dental. Broadway Dental Link.
  9. Teeth Eruption Timetable. Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic Link.
  10. What Makes You Prone to Cavities? New Image Dental. Published September 26, 2016. New Image Dental Link.
  11. Teeth. Better Health Channel. Updated February 2018. Better Health Channel Link.
  12. Severe Dental Pain. Taktent.org.uk. Published 2009. Taktent.org.uk Link.
  13. Ibiyemi O, Taiwo JO. Psychosocial Aspect of Anterior Tooth Discoloration Among Adolescents in Igbo-Ora, Southwestern Nigeria. Annals of Ibadan Postgraduate Medicine. 2011;9(2):94-99. NCBI Link.
  14. Gupta SK, Rana AS, Gupta D, Jain G, Kalra P. Unusual Causes of Reduced Mouth Opening and It's Suitable Surgical Management: Our Experience. National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery. 2010;1(1):86-90. NCBI Link.
  15. Wolfsdorf J. Dentoalveolar Infections. Nicklaus Children's Hospital. Updated March 23, 2018. Nicklaus Children's Hospital Link.
  16. Roberts G, Scully C, Shotts R. Dental Emergencies. Western Journal of Medicine. 2001;175(1):51-54. NCBI Link.
  17. Tooth Pain. American Association of Endodontists. AAE Link.
  18. Carr A. Sinus Infection and Toothache: Any Connection? Mayo Clinic. Published February 17, 2016. Mayo Clinic Link.
  19. How to Keep Your Teeth Clean. NHS. Updated August 29, 2018. NHS Link.