You’re enjoying a nice meal when suddenly you feel a throbbing sensation in your tooth. You wait for it to go away, but the pain only gets worse. You try to tough it out, but after an hour, you can’t take it anymore. You take some pain medication and go to bed, hoping that the pain will be gone by morning. But when you wake up, the pain is still there. What could be causing this throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes?
What is throbbing tooth pain?
Throbbing tooth pain is a persistent, intense headache-like sensation in your teeth. It may come and go or be consistent enough to interfere with everyday activities like eating and drinking. An infection or tooth decay often causes throbbing pain in your teeth. If left untreated, throbbing pain can lead to serious dental problems that require immediate attention from the dentist. Ignoring throbbing tooth pain until it goes away on its own can result in long-term damage that is harder and more expensive to treat. As a precaution, visiting your dentist as soon as you feel throbbing tooth pain is important. They can identify and address any underlying issues before they become more severe.
What Causes Throbbing Tooth Pain?
The causes of throbbing tooth pain are widely diverse. The most common causes are the following:
Tooth cavities (Tooth decay)
When bacteria from plaque build up in your mouth, they can cause decay in your teeth. This tooth decay can lead to holes in your teeth, called cavities. Cavities can cause a dull ache or sharp pain when they come into contact with hot or cold food or drinks.
If tooth decay is left untreated, it will eventually lead to an infection. Infections can cause severe throbbing pain that comes and goes.
An abscess is a sac of pus that forms at the point of a gum or tooth infection. Abscesses can cause throbbing tooth pain and swelling of your gums caused by bacteria from plaque buildup. If left untreated, an abscess can spread into other areas of your mouth, resulting in more severe and painful symptoms.
Gum disease, or periodontal disease, occurs due to plaque buildup on the gum tissue surrounding your teeth. If the plaque remains on your teeth, it can harden into tartar. Tartar can irritate your gums and inflame them. Inflammation of the gums can cause them to pull away from your teeth, creating pockets. Bacteria can get trapped in these pockets and cause an infection. Advanced gum disease can also cause tooth loss if it is not treated.
Cracked or broken teeth can be caused by biting hard objects, grinding your teeth at night, or traumatic injury to the mouth. Cracks in teeth can range from small fissures to large cracks that extend all the way through the tooth leading to a fractured tooth. Cracks in teeth can cause sharp pain when you bite down or eat hot or cold foods and drinks.
Damaged or broken fillings and crowns can cause sharp, throbbing pain in your teeth. If the filling is loose or broken, bacteria can get inside the cavity and cause an infection. An infection will cause swelling and pain that come and go but may become more severe if left untreated.
Grinding or clenching
Grinding or clenching your teeth can cause a lot of wear and tear on them and can lead to painful symptoms. Teeth grinding is often caused by stress, tension and anxiety, but it can also be due to an imbalanced bite. If you notice that your teeth are sensitive or you have jaw pain, it could be due to grinding or clenching.
Impacted wisdom tooth
Impacted wisdom teeth are considered a common cause of throbbing tooth pain.
Wisdom teeth are the last molars to come in and usually develop during your late teens or early twenties.
If there is not enough room in your mouth for the wisdom teeth to erupt, they can become impacted and stuck inside the gum line. This can cause pressure on other teeth, resulting in pain and swelling.
Sensitive teeth can be caused by thinning gums or worn tooth enamel. When your gums recede, the tooth roots (the dental pulp) are exposed and can cause pain when you eat hot or cold foods and drinks. Worn enamel can also make your teeth sensitive to temperature changes.
A sinus infection can cause throbbing pain in your upper teeth. This is because the roots of your upper teeth are connected to the maxillary sinuses. Sinus infections can cause pressure in your sinuses, which can be felt as a dull ache or sharp pain in your teeth.
Temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMJ disorder, is a disease that affects the jaw joint and muscles of the face. TMJ can cause pain in your jaw, headache-like pain near your temples, and even pain in your teeth. It can also cause clicking or popping of your jaw when you open or close your mouth.
Treatment Options for Throbbing Tooth Pain That Comes and Goes
The treatment for your particular case of throbbing tooth pain will depend on its cause.
- If a cavity causes pain from tooth decay, your dentist will likely recommend a filling.
- If the pain is caused by gum disease, your dentist will recommend a deep cleaning and may also prescribe antibiotics.
- If the pain is caused by a cracked tooth, your dentist will likely recommend a crown.
- If the pain is caused by bruxism (teeth grinding), your dentist may recommend a mouth guard.
- If the pain is caused by a tooth abscess, your dentist will likely prescribe antibiotics and may also recommend a root canal treatment.
- If the pain is caused by dental nerve damage, your dentist may recommend a root canal or extraction.
- If an impacted tooth causes pain, your dentist may recommend tooth extraction or surgically opening up the area to allow it to erupt properly.
- If the pain is due to tooth sensitivity, your dentist may recommend a desensitising toothpaste or fluoride treatment.
- If the pain is caused by sinusitis, your dentist may recommend antibiotics and/or decongestants to help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms.
- If the pain is caused by TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), your dentist may recommend physical therapy or surgery.
7 Tips for Managing Tooth Pain at Home
Your oral health is the key to preventing many dental diseases. You can follow the following tips to alleviate your throbbing tooth pain.
- Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash twice daily.
- Avoid sugary snacks and drinks, which increase plaque buildup surrounding teeth and gums.
- Use over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications as approved by a dentist or doctor.
- Apply an ice cube or a cold compress to the painful area for temporary relief
- If your pain lasts longer than a few days, see a dentist as soon as possible to identify the cause.
- Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga which can help reduce tension in facial muscles.
Signs That You Should See a Dentist Right Away
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, it is important to ask for the help of a dentist as soon as possible:
- Intense pain that refuses to go away with over-the-counter medications
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Discoloration or spots on your teeth
- Difficulty opening your mouth or trouble breathing through your mouth due to pain
- A sense of bad taste in your mouth that does not go away despite brushing and flossing.
These can be signs of an underlying dental issue requiring prompt, professional attention. Visiting the dentist right away will allow them to diagnose what is causing your throbbing tooth pain and provide the necessary treatment to help relieve your pain and prevent further damage.
If you are experiencing recurring throbbing teeth, it could be caused by multiple factors such as gum disease, tooth decay /abscesses, jaw clenching/grinding during sleep etc. Knowing these causes is key to getting the most effective treatment for your condition.
At Woonona Dentists, we understand the discomfort that tooth pain can cause, and our team of experienced dental professionals is here to help. Our clinic offers a variety of dental services to address any issues with your teeth or gums, including regular check-ups and cleanings, restorative treatments and cosmetic procedures. So if you’re suffering from tooth pain, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with us. Call us today at (02) 4208 0638.
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