Toothache: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments


Table of Contents:

A toothache is defined as pain in or near a tooth. Minor toothaches can be caused by temporary gum irritation, which can be treated at home. More significant toothaches are caused by dental and mouth issues that will not resolve on their own and require the services of an emergency dentist.

Toothache causes can vary, but one common cause is when the nerves in the soft substance inside your tooth called pulp to become irritated or infected with bacteria (abscesses). The pulp contains nerves, tissues, and blood vessels, and these pulp nerves are among the most sensitive in your body. When they are affected, they can cause severe pain.

Toothache Symptoms

Toothache symptoms include:

  1. Swelling in and around the tooth
  2. Drainage from a tooth infection that tastes terrible
  3. Sharp, throbbing, or continuous tooth pain. Some people only feel pain when they apply pressure to their teeth (biting down on something)
  4. A fever or a headache
  5. A foul odour emanating from the mouth

Toothache Causes

Toothaches can be brought on by various factors, and some common toothache causes include:

  1. A tooth abscess (a bacterial infection inside the centre of the tooth)
  2. A broken filling
  3. Gum disease
  4. The decay of teeth
  5. Fracture of a tooth (broken tooth)
  6. Repetitive motions such as chewing gum or grinding or clenching teeth are examples of repetitive motions. These movements can cause tooth wear.
  7. Eruption (teeth coming out of the gums) or tooth extraction (for example, wisdom teeth)

These are some of the primary reasons why individuals may experience toothaches.

Toothache Treatments

Some toothaches that are caused by pain around (but not inside) your tooth can be treated without visiting the emergency dentist. Pain from a temporary irritation (redness) in the gums will go away in a few days.

Try not to chew around the affected area during this time. If your teeth are sensitive, eat soft foods like eggs and yoghurt and avoid sweets and foods that are extremely hot or cold.


What Happens When I Visit the Dentist for a Toothache?

If your toothache is worsening, temporary, homemade pain relief will not suffice. When it becomes clear that the problem in your mouth is worsening despite your best efforts, contact our emergency dentist. Your medical history will be reviewed by your dental team at the office. You’ll be asked questions like:

  1. What is the source of the pain?
  2. When did it all begin?
  3. How bad is it?
  4. What causes you pain and what relieves it?

The dental team will also perform a physical examination. The dentist will examine you:

  • Teeth
  • Jaws
  • Throat
  • Ears
  • Neck
  • Mouth
  • Gums
  • Tongue
  • Sinuses
  • Nose

You’ll most likely have X-rays of your mouth taken to help determine the source of your toothache.

How Will My Toothache Be Treated by the Dentist?

Treatment by a dental professional is dependent on the cause of your toothache:

  1. If the cause of the toothache is an infection of the tooth’s nerve, a root canal (a procedure to remove and replace the infected pulp with sealing material) may be required. Bacteria that have made their way into the inner space of the tooth’s root cause infection.
  2. If a cavity is causing the toothache, a local emergency dentist will fill the cavity or, if necessary, extract the tooth.
  3. An antibiotic may be recommended if there is a fever or swelling of the jaw. A small piece of food (such as a popcorn hull) can become lodged under the gums and cause an infection. In this scenario, a deep cleaning may be performed or advised, followed by subsequent periodontal (gum) therapy if necessary.

When Should I Visit the Dentist for a Toothache?

Consult a local emergency dentist as soon as possible if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  1. Your toothache is excruciating.
  2. You are experiencing swelling in your mouth or face.
  3. You are suffering from a toothache that lasts more than a day or two.
  4. When you open your mouth wide, you have a fever, earache, or pain.

Dental infections must be properly diagnosed and treated to avoid spreading to other parts of the face and skull, and possibly even the bloodstream. Toothaches are extremely painful, but they are not permanent as long as they are treated. A local emergency dentist can relieve your pain and prevent infections in your mouth from spreading to the rest of your body.

Can Toothaches Make Me Ill, or Even Kill Me?

Toothaches are not fatal in and of themselves. However, an untreated infection in your tooth (or any other part of your body) has the potential to spread.

You may become ill, and this illness may progress to be serious or even fatal. So, if your toothache isn’t going away, you should see the nearest emergency dentist.

Reviewed by

  • drg. Hanny Ardia, S.K.G.

    drg. Hanny Ardia, S.K.G., is a dedicated professional in the field of dentistry, with a strong educational background and a burgeoning career in the dental industry. She obtained her Bachelor's degree in Dentistry from Mahasaraswati Denpasar University in 2021 and continued her journey as a Cooperative Assistant (Co-ass) at the same institution until 2023

    Her commitment to her profession is evident through her experience as a General Dentist Intern from 2021 to 2023, where she honed her clinical skills. Currently, she serves as an International Dental Patient Consultant at Bali Dental Voyage, where she provides online consultations, showcasing her expertise in patient care and dental services on an international scale in 2023.

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