Tooth Pain and Exercise: Why Do My Teeth Hurt When I Run?

Among many athletes and people who are trying to get into better shape, running is a favorite activity for improving overall and cardiovascular health. For some, though, this exercise can cause pain. One of those possible, but rarely talked about, pains can be in your teeth. If this is something you've experienced, we have some information on what may be causing the pain and how to reduce it.


Tooth Pain and Exercise

Image via Flickr by brett lohmeyer

Cavity or Infection

One of the more likely causes for your tooth pain is a cavity, which is caused by a buildup of bacteria in the mouth. When this bacteria is not removed by proper brushing and regular dental visits, it eats through the first two layers of your teeth, the enamel and dentin, which gives it access to the nerves of the tooth, causing pain.

It's common for cavities to go unnoticed at first. Tooth sensitivity is one of the early signs, whether to temperature or running. Foods with extreme temperatures, such as ice cream or hot coffee, can cause a sharp, surging pain in your mouth.

Weather extremes can cause similar pain. Running while breathing through your nose can reduce this type of pain and also reduces dry mouth, which contributes to tooth decay and cavities.

You might feel tooth pain while running due to increased blood flow to areas inflamed by infection.

If a cavity is left untreated, it can lead to an infection, a cause of more severe tooth pain. Infections occur in the tooth pulp, and, in serious cases, in the jaw bone, which can cause extreme discomfort and possibly require surgery. 

Cavities can easily be fixed at the dentist with a filling before they lead to these complications.

Gritting Your Teeth

Another cause for tooth pain while running is gritting your teeth. When running, the striking of your foot on the ground not only sends shock waves into your foot, those waves continue all the way up your body and into your jaw. Most people feel this kind of tooth pain as soon as their foot impacts the ground. Whether you grit your teeth only when running or all the time, the impact from running can exacerbate the issue.

Structural Damage

Though uncommon, it's possible to have structural damage to your teeth without knowing it. If you've recently had trauma to your face, it's important to have a dentist look at your teeth to make sure nothing was damaged. Most often, people are aware of structural damage because it can be seen by the naked eye or feels rough when you run your tongue over it.

Sinus Infection

One cause of tooth pain that you might find surprising is a sinus infection. The resulting mucus buildup and inflamed sinuses can cause referred pain, meaning that pain is felt in another part of the body from its origin. Hence, inflammation in the sinuses can cause tooth or jaw pain. An ear infection can cause a similar phenomenon. 

Poor Posture

If you've visited your dentist and none of these issues seem to be the cause of your pain, it's time to look at your running alignment. If you have an injury on one side of your body, you may compensate, relying more on the other side. This slight change in your alignment can cause a stronger impact on one side of the body, which can show up as pain in your teeth.

Visit Your Dentist

Whatever the cause of your tooth pain, it's very important to visit your dentist to create a treatment plan. To help your dentist diagnose your problem, gather as much information about your pain as possible. Notice when the pain starts and stops, if it's sharp or dull, if it's localized, and what activities cause it.

Short-Term Fixes

Once you've made an appointment with your dentist, there are a few short-term fixes to reduce pain. Try an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory to reduce the swelling and pain. Nerve pain in the tooth can be reduced by coating the tooth with clove oil. Massaging the muscles in your face, neck and jaw can relieve tension and start the relaxation process.

Long-Term Prevention

In the long term, proper oral care at home and regular visits to the dentist are the best ways to prevent or reduce tooth pain while exercising. It's important to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time, and to floss once a day to get at the space between teeth. Visit your dentist for cleaning once or twice a year. Once your pain recedes, you can continue your running routine to keep your body and heart healthy.

Related Articles