There's never a good time for a toothache. But if your teeth hurt when running or walking, finding the cause and a solution is critical if you want to keep pounding the pavement. And while dental distress stems from various issues, there are some common culprits for tooth pain during exercise.
Read more: Can I Exercise After a Single Tooth Extraction?
Causes of Tooth Pain
Tooth pain can sideline even the most fit runners and walkers. If exercise is causing more pain in your mouth than your muscles, you might be dealing with a dental issue. Here are some causes of tooth pain while running or walking:
Sensitivity to Cold
"Sensitivity increases, especially when your mouth is open and the cold blast can directly hit your teeth," says Joseph Salim, DMD, dentist and founder of Sutton Place Dental Associates in New York City. If you have receding gums and the roots are exposed to the cold, Dr. Salim says you may experience pain and sensitivity. "Your teeth lack enamel and have no insulation against the cold stimuli," he says.
Existing cavities may also be to blame. "Outside factors such as the sudden change in temperature in the tooth can trigger pain," Dr. Salim says. However, he says pulsating pain from a cavity can occur when running or jumping up and down. "The cavity may be underneath an old filling, and the sudden movement can trigger the pain. This happens from the percussion and vibration of the impacted tooth, as the pain stimulus is triggered and reaches the nerve," he says.
Sniffles and Sinusitis
Tooth pain while exercising can also be related to sinusitis. "If you're congested, your sinuses may be inflamed, and since they are located right above your teeth, the inflammation can make your teeth ache while you run," says Umang Patel, DDS, an Illinois-based dentist.
Clenching and Grinding
Another cause for tooth pain while running is clenching or grinding, also called bruxism. "If you clench or grind, especially at night, the teeth can never fully rest, and the nerves are constantly irritated due to this continuous trauma," Dr. Salim says.
Serious Dental Issues
Pain while running could also be the onset of periodontal disease (gum disease), which you could be at greater risk for if you have diabetes, a weak immune system, poor dental hygiene, certain genes or you smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "When you run, it increases your blood pressure, and that increase in blood flow can put pressure on your gums," Dr. Patel adds.
How to Stop the Pain
If the pain and sensitivity are not a medical emergency, there are some natural remedies for toothaches you can try to help reduce or eliminate tooth pain while running or walking.
Wearing a mouthguard during activity can significantly reduce the stress caused when clenching your teeth. According to the American Dental Association, wearing a mouthguard can reduce the risk of sports-related dental injuries.
"Gum disease can cause gum recession, but in many cases, it's from grinding and clenching the teeth or aggressive brushing habits," Dr. Salim says. If your dentist determines the cause is grinding and clenching, Dr. Salim says wearing a customized night guard can help reduce the pain. And if the cause is aggressive brushing habits, using an extra-soft toothbrush and brushing much more gently should do the trick. And having regular dental checkups to make sure there are no cavities or recessions of the gums is critical.
If you think the pain is related to your sinuses, make an appointment to see your doctor.
Bottom line: Depending on the severity and frequency of the pain, if exercise is giving you a toothache, a call to your doctor or dentist might be in order to get to the root of the problem.