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Toothache is one of the most common dental complaints. There are many reasons that cause one to suffer from a toothache. 

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Let us have a look at toothache and how you can take care to avoid it.

What is Toothache?

The sharp, pain that one suffers from in and around their teeth and jaws is called a toothache. The pain can be mild or may be severe enough to disrupt one’s daily life. The area of the jaw around the painful tooth may also get sore and feel tender.

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The oral flora, that is, bacteria living in the mouth form a sticky plaque around the teeth. This plaque is made after the bacteria acts on the sugars and starches from the food we eat or drink. This produces acid that can wear off the white enamel on the teeth, leading to a cavity. This causes the tooth to become sensitive to hot and cold food. Next, it leads to toothache that may require treatment from the dentist.

What are the Symptoms of Toothache?

Toothache is generally felt when one eats or drinks something hot or cold. The pain can be constant or may come and go. Dental decay is the most common cause of toothache.

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During a toothache one may experience:

  • Throbbing pain in and around the affected tooth
  • Sharp pain when one tries to bite or touch the tooth
  • Tenderness around the tooth
  • Shock-like sensation after drinking or eating hot or cold food
  • Continuous or intermittent pain
  • Foul-tasting discharge in some severe cases.

What Causes Toothache?

Toothache occurs when the dental pulp deep inside the tooth becomes inflamed. The dental pulp is a soft tissue that contains nerves and blood vessels.

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The inflammation of the dental pulp can occur due to:

  • Tooth decay - Cavities in the tooth can cause irritation of the pulp leading to toothache
  • Cracked tooth syndrome– Small cracks or fractures, invisible to the naked eye can expose the sensitive nerves within the tooth. This can lead to toothache when one tries to chew or bite on something
  • Abscessed tooth – infection of the tooth root and surrounding areas can lead to toothache
  • Bruxism – People who have a habit of grinding their teeth unconsciously or in their sleep, often damage the tooth enamel. This irritates the nerves leading to toothache
  • Gum infection – Bacterial infection of the gum can lead to pain in the tooth
  • Exposed root – Exposed roots of teeth can be painful to any stimuli like temperature change or chewing action
  • Sinusitis – A sinus inflammation can cause the molars to become sensitive and lead to pain
  • Wisdom Teeth – Eruption of the third molars leads to pain. These teeth erupt quite late and there is not enough space in the mouth. This causes the teeth to become impacted within the jawbone, leading to pain


If one suffers from a toothache for more than a day or two they need to visit a dentist. Sometimes when toothache is accompanied with fever, earache or pain when opening mouth, one should immediately go to their dentist.

The dentist will examine the tooth and ask questions related to the pain. He may even examine the mouth, jaw, tongue, throat, sinuses, ears, etc. In some cases, he may ask for an X-ray along with other tests such as a blood test.


Many people opt for home treatments for toothache. Many times, the home remedies for toothache help relieve the symptoms. But, at times, the pain returns with severe problems. Thus, it is always better to visit the dentist, if the pain recurs and is severe.

The dentist may prescribe antibiotics and painkillers to treat the infection, if any. In case of cavities, the dentist may drill the tooth to remove the decay and fill it up with dental materials like silver. In case of the wisdom tooth, it may have to be removed. In severe cases, a root canal may be the only treatment to get rid of the pain and discomfort.

For temporary relief at home, one can apply clove oil on their affected teeth. There are many over-the-counter pain relievers, topical dental pain relievers as well as decongestants available that help reduce the pain and discomfort.

A toothache can be prevented by brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing at least twice a week and going for dental checkups regularly. Avoid smoking, eating excessive chocolates and sweets, drinking soda, etc. A healthy diet and healthy dental routine will help avoid nasty toothaches as well as prolong the life of your irreplaceable teeth.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta Date last updated: March 24, 2015

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