Toothache can come in many forms and can rear its ugly head at any point in our lives, due to wisdom teeth moving, tooth sensitivity, gum disease, or tooth decay, or even non-tooth related issues like damaged jaw muscles or dry sinuses. While it is most common to have some form of sensitivity to temperature or sweet or acidic foods, toothache can appear in other more unconventional fashions. One strange way in which a toothache can make itself known is by feeling a sharp pain when one is walking or running. While this is not one of the more traditional ways in which tooth pain manifests, it is also not completely rare.
There are many reasons one might have tooth pain. Damage to the tooth such as a cavity or crack exposes the dentin underneath the enamel to all manner of external stimulants. While a tooth that has been damaged in this fashion is generally more responsive to sensational pain, it may also hurt when you walk because the jaw is being jarred. Perhaps the tooth may be loose or the lower jaw is coming in contact with the upper jaw in an irregular fashion on the broken tooth causing some amount of shock.
“Teeth that are infected can be more sensitive when moving around due to the increased pressure surrounding the tooth caused by accelerated blood flow.”
A damaged tooth tends to be accompanied by a constant throbbing pain rather than a singular sharp pain. This throbbing pain can be exacerbated when walking or running because of the increased blood flow to the area. The blood running to your teeth tends to pulse in a regular and steady fashion when at rest, but when walking or running your increased heartbeat results in an increased pulse and higher blood pressure, so the pounding in your veins may be putting more pressure on an already irritated nerve when you walk or run.
The most likely reason for tooth pain when you are walking actually has very little to do with dental problems at all. Sinus infections tend to be the number one reason for tooth pain when you are walking come. This is especially true if the pain is in your upper jaw. An X-ray of your upper jaw will reveal that the nerves and tooth roots that belong to the upper teeth are so close to your sinus cavities that they may actually appear to be in the sinus cavity is themselves. Take a look at the diagram here for a good visualization of this layout. When you have a sinus infection one of two things may occur that can cause tooth pain in your upper jaw.
Sometimes when they get infected the sinuses swell and press down on the nerves that run to the upper jaw. This compression causes pain to some or all of the teeth that are attached to the nerve. Walking can cause jarring or vibration in this area to amplify the compression and therefore trigger the pain. Another reason that a sinus infection may cause tooth pain when you walk is that the sinus infection may create a referred pain situation. This is where your nervous system cannot tell the difference between the sinus area and the nerves that run to your upper jaw. So while technically the pain is originating in the sinus area your brain thinks that the pain is actually coming from your teeth and therefore that is what you feel. The reason sinus pain manifesting as dental pain is activated or worsened when you walk is because the motion is aggravating your sinuses.
If you have a sinus infection you will be prescribed antibiotics and be advised to wait for things to clear up. Once it has gone away, the pain in your teeth should stop. If you are prone to sinus infections, some people have had success with using neti pots or other nasal rinses daily in order to prevent infection altogether. These rinses irrigate the sinuses to clear out any debris before it can irritate and cause a new infection. This can especially be helpful during pollen season. Just be sure to always use distilled water or tap water that has been boiled and cooled. Water that comes straight out of the tap contains microorganisms that are easily killed off in our stomach but can grow and actually cause infections in the nasal passages.
A less common potential reason that you may be experiencing tooth pain when you walk is if you have an aggravated sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is found at the base of the spine but because of its size and central role in your nervous system, problems with a sciatic nerve can manifest as numbness and pain in locations in the body that are far away from where the problem actually is. A more common manifestation of sciatic pain is numbness and pain in one or both legs, feet, and buttocks. However, the sciatic pain can also be interpreted by your nervous system as pain northward in your body, in some cases. It is possible for sciatic issues to manifest as pain in your teeth due to the connection to the nerves in the jaw. Sciatic pain tends to be activated and aggravated when you walk because the nerve is being compressed with each step. Therefore, if the sciatic nerve is the cause of the problem your teeth may hurt as well when you walk.
Depending on the cause of your tooth pain, your dentist may or may not be able to fix it. They certainly should be able to help narrow down the cause at the very least. If the problem is a damaged tooth then they should be able to repair it through traditional means like fillings or crowns. If the problem is caused by a sinus infection, generally the only course of action is to allow it to heal and take antibiotics to help clear up the infection. If the problem is with the sciatic nerve then a general practitioner and possibly chiropractor will need to get involved to try to help relieve the problem, but this is more difficult to diagnose and treat than the other situations. In any case, over-the-counter pain medication and home remedies may offer some temporary relief until the root cause is found and dealt with.