Common Causes of a Toothache

by | Oct 25, 2022 | Blog Posts

Common Causes of a Toothache

A common occurrence that people experience is toothaches. Most people have had a toothache at some point in their lives, and the causes can range from temporary gum irritation to a more serious dental issue that needs to be treated by a dentist.

Find out more about the common causes of toothaches and what you can do to fix them.

What Is a Toothache?

A toothache is pain in or around a tooth.[1] This can be caused by minor and temporary issues like gum irritation, which may be treated at home. They may also signify a more significant dental problem that needs to be corrected. Otherwise, it will only get worse.

Teeth contain a soft material inside that’s packed with nerves, tissues, and blood vessels called the pulp. The pulp nerves are among the most sensitive nerves in the body, so when they’re irritated or infected, the pain can be severe.

Common Causes of a Toothache

Potential causes for toothaches include:[1]

Symptoms of a Toothache

Tooth pain can have different symptoms based on its cause, such as:[1]

  • Constant, sharp, or throbbing tooth pain
  • Pain that occurs when pressure is applied, like biting down on something
  • Exposure to extreme hot or cold foods
  • Swelling around the tooth
  • Foul-tasting drainage from the affected tooth
  • Bad breath
  • Fever or headache

Will a Toothache Go Away on Its Own?

Many toothaches are caused by the pain around the tooth, which may resolve independently. This temporary irritation usually involves the gum and resolves within a few days. If this is the case, giving the tooth a rest by chewing on the other side of your mouth, eating soft foods, and avoiding hot or cold foods will give it time to heal.

Can I Treat a Toothache at Home?

Regardless, if your toothache is caused by minor irritation or you’re waiting for an appointment with your dentist, you can get temporary relief by:[2]

  • Rinsing the tooth with warm salt water to loosen food debris and reduce inflammation. Simply stir a teaspoon of salt into warm water and rinse your mouth.
  • Use a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain. Hold a cold compress of ice wrapped in a towel to the outside of your mouth over the painful area. Keep the compress on your mouth for 20-minute periods every few hours.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medications to reduce inflammation, which will reduce pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are effective, but you can also take acetaminophen.

Natural remedies that are effective for minor toothaches include:

  • Clove oil: This is a natural antiseptic that numbs pain and reduces inflammation. Add clove oil to a glass of water, rinse, or use it directly on the painful tooth.
  • Peppermint: Peppermint has soothing and antiseptic properties. You can use a cooled peppermint tea bag directly on the tooth and gums to relieve pain.

What If the Toothache Doesn’t Go Away?

Sometimes, toothaches are caused by temporary irritation that resolves independently. If your toothache doesn’t go away or gets worse, it could mean there’s a problem with the tooth, and you need a dentist.

Here are the signs that you need to see a dentist:

  • Pain that lasts several days
  • Severe pain or swelling
  • The presence of a fever, earache, or pain

When you go to your appointment, you will be asked about the nature of the pain, its location, its severity, when it started, and what makes it worse. You’ll also be asked what, if anything, provides relief.

Your dentist will also perform an exam to identify the cause of the toothache and evaluate treatment options. This may include X-rays of your mouth and an exam of the inside of your mouth, teeth, gums, jaw, tongue, throat, sinuses, and ears.

How Are Toothaches Treated?

The treatment for a toothache depends on its cause. If a cavity is causing your tooth pain, your dentist will fill the cavity or extract the tooth as needed. If the decay progresses to the tooth’s pulp, you may need a root canal treatment to remove the pulp and replace it with sealing material. You may need the tooth extracted if a crack or fracture causes the pain.

A dental cleaning can help with tooth pain that is caused by gum irritation. Severe cases of gum disease may require a follow-up visit with a periodontist.

How to Prevent a Toothache

Dental health issues cause most toothaches. Good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent toothaches. Regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing must occur twice daily. It’s also crucial that you visit your dentist at least twice a year for professional dental cleanings and a complete oral exam.

Correct the Causes of a Toothache at Empire Dental Care

Seeking treatment for a toothache can help resolve the pain. At Empire Dental Care, we provide general and cosmetic dentistry with a gentle, caring touch. Contact us today to schedule your appointment! 585-671-1650






Dr. Cohen has been practicing dentistry in private and public settings for over 10 years, completing her DMD degree in 2010 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Committed to providing dental care of the highest level, Dr. Cohen relocated to Rochester in 2016 to pursue advanced dental trainings at the Dental Urgent Care Fellowship at The University of Rochester, Eastman Institute for Oral Health, graduating in 2017, and the AEGD Residency program in 2019. She recently completed an additional advanced General Practice Residency program at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany NY. This summer she moved back to Rochester with her husband Kevin, a native Rochesterian, to be closer to family. Throughout her career and personal life, Dr. Cohen has shown her genuine compassion and care to people and patients from all walks of life. She volunteered in underserved areas, practiced in clinics for patients with complex special needs, and treated medically compromised patients among others. She also taught and mentored other dentists and students helping them achieve their professional and personal goals. Most of all, Dr. Cohen’s warm personality and love of people create a welcoming, comfortable feeling for both patients and staff.