What Are Toothaches?

Toothaches refer to pain in or near your teeth. They’re caused by dental, mouth, and health problems that are often difficult to fix on your own and may require a dental professional's help to diagnose and treat.

Why does your tooth pain hurt so much? Your tooth's hard outer layers protect the soft pulp inside that’s filled with nerves and other tissues. Conditions that trigger or irritate these nerves can cause severe discomfort and pain.

Symptoms of tooth pain can include:

  • Sharp, throbbing, or constant pain that may be triggered by biting or chewing
  • Headache or fever
  • Swelling in the mouth

What Could Be Causing My Tooth to Hurt?

Tooth pain has a wide range of causes and can be difficult to diagnose on your own. The most common causes are damage to your teeth or mouth and problems due to improper dental hygiene or diet.

Understandably, your pain might be your biggest priority, but it’s essential to treat the toothache's underlying cause. Serious tooth pain will likely require treatment from a dental professional.

Tooth Decay

Cavities are the most common cause of tooth pain. Cavities are small, permanent holes in your teeth' hard outer layer caused by bacteria from improper hygiene, unhealthy diet, and other factors.

Sensitive Tooth

Your teeth may be sensitive to temperature, brushing, eating, or drinking. If your sensitivity is minor, you can help relieve it with over-the-counter desensitizing toothpaste.

Damaged Tooth or Filling

If your tooth is damaged from injury or chewing a hard item, it could result in pain, discomfort, or sensitivity. It’s vital to repair damaged teeth to treat your pain and prevent infection or other dental problems. Be sure to be gentle with your damaged teeth until you receive professional care.

Bacterial Infection (Abscessed Tooth)

An infection in your teeth can be caused by decay, gum disease, or a damaged tooth. Your dental professional may recommend antibiotics, debridement, or a root canal as treatment.

Tooth Erupting From Gums

When new teeth come in, they have to push out from your gums, causing discomfort and pain. This occurs for baby and adult teeth in children and wisdom teeth in adults.

Gum Disease

Bacteria in your mouth can cause gingivitis, and if left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis. These conditions can cause pain and sensitivity to your teeth and gums.

Repetitive Grinding, Clenching, or Chewing

These habits can result in wearing your enamel, leading to a greater likelihood of experiencing pain or sensitivity in your teeth.

Other Causes

It is possible that other health problems could also be the source of your toothache:

  • Pain sourced elsewhere in your body (referred pain) from a sinus infection, migraine, or another health issue.
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Viral infection, including shingles
  • Diabetes or diseases affecting your nerves
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

Helpful tip: We recommend scheduling an appointment with a dental health professional so they can help you diagnose and treat the source of your pain. Dental work can be stressful for some, but you’ll be glad to have made a healthy choice in the long run.

Tooth Pain Treatment, Prevention, and Relief

Proper treatment of your tooth pain will depend on its cause. Most causes of toothaches will require the treatment of a dentist or dental hygienist. If your dental health professional cannot manage the cause of your pain, they may recommend that you schedule an appointment with a medical professional.

To prevent tooth pain in the future, it's best to practice proper dental hygiene:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day and clean between your teeth once daily
  • Use fluoride toothpaste or drink fluoridated water (most tap water contains fluoride!)
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco products.
  • Visit a dental professional for regular dental hygiene care.

Some helpful forms of relief before you can visit a dentist:

  • Take over-the-counter medications to reduce swelling or pain per the provided instructions.
  • Press a cold compress to the site of the pain for 15-20 minutes, 3 times a day
  • Rinse with salt water (avoid using overly hot or cold water)

Keep in mind that relieving your pain doesn't treat the underlying cause of your toothache. It’s vital to see a dental health professional for diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible in most cases. After reading up on your tooth pain, you're in a great spot to treat it and avoid other dental problems in the future.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider.


What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay


What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay