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Throbbing Tooth Pain: Causes and Treatments

Brown haired girl in overalls holding her mouth in pain

What is a Throbbing Tooth?

The most common symptom of a throbbing tooth is pulsating tooth pain that is usually continuous and severe, throbbing, or sharp. You may also experience sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, pain while chewing, redness or swelling in the gums, and a foul-tasting discharge if you have an abscess.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you should visit your dentist for a proper diagnosis and treatment.


What are the causes of throbbing tooth pain?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), most dental pain or a throbbing tooth sensation can be caused by multiple factors, including tooth decay, gum disease, dental abscess, sinusitis, and teeth grinding.

The most common culprits behind throbbing tooth pain include: 

  • Tooth decay and cavities
  • Infection or abscessed tooth
  • A tooth fracture or trauma
  • Teeth grinding
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth extraction
  • Impacted wisdom tooth
  • Root canal

In the following section, we will delve into the various reasons behind tooth pain and understand how they contribute to your discomfort.

Woman getting a dental checkup

Tooth Decay and Cavities

One of the most common causes of throbbing tooth pain is decay and cavities. Poor dental hygiene and a diet high in sugar can contribute to plaque buildup on your teeth, eventually leading to tooth decay.

Once a cavity has formed, it can cause pain and sensitivity, especially if left untreated.

If you suspect a cavity is the culprit behind your throbbing tooth pain, see your dentist immediately. Treatment options for cavities can range from a simple filling to a more complex root canal procedure.


Infection or Abscessed tooth

An abscess is an infection that can form in your tooth or gums. It can cause throbbing pain, swelling, and a bad taste in your mouth. Tooth abscesses can be caused by deep decay, trauma to the tooth, or gum disease.

If you are worried that a tooth infection or abscess is causing your tooth pain, seeing your dentist as soon as possible is important. Treatment may involve antibiotics, draining the abscess, and possibly a root canal.


A tooth fracture into the nerve

Lastly, trauma to the teeth can cause throbbing tooth pain. Accidents or injuries to the teeth, such as a fall or sports injury, can cause a cracked tooth, broken teeth, or even knock out a tooth entirely.

If you’ve experienced tooth trauma and are experiencing throbbing tooth pain, see your dentist immediately. Treatment options can range from a simple filling to more complex procedures such as root canals or dental implants.


Teeth grinding

If you wake up with a sore jaw and throbbing tooth pain, you may be grinding your teeth at night. Teeth grinding or bruxism can cause significant damage to your teeth over time, along with jaw pain and headaches.

If you feel like you’re grinding your teeth at night, talk to your dentist about getting a mouth guard to help protect your sensitive teeth and ease your symptoms.


Gum Disease

Another cause of throbbing tooth pain is gum disease. Gingivitis, the beginning stage of gum disease, can cause inflammation and tenderness of the gums, while periodontitis, a more advanced stage, can lead to tooth sensitivity and pain.

Regular dental cleanings and a good daily oral hygiene routine can prevent gum disease from developing.

However, if you’re already experiencing throbbing tooth pain due to gum disease, it’s important to seek treatment from your dentist. Treatment options can include deep cleaning, medication, and, in severe cases, surgery.


Throbbing Tooth Pain after Tooth Extraction

It is normal to experience some level of discomfort after a tooth extraction. The pain and discomfort you experience are due to the body’s natural healing response, which responds to the extraction process by increasing blood flow to the area to promote healing.

This process is known as inflammation, which causes your throbbing sensation. The throbbing sensation is not necessarily bad since it signifies that blood is flowing to the extraction site, which is essential in the healing process.

If you experience throbbing pain that lasts longer than one week, it may be a sign of a complication. These complications may include a dry socket, where the blood clot that forms after the extraction dislodges from the socket area, leading to increased pain.

Another complication that can cause prolonged throbbing pain is an infection. Infection can occur when bacteria enter the extraction area through food or bacteria trapped in the socket.

If you experience prolonged throbbing pain, visiting your dentist for further evaluation is best.


Throbbing Tooth Pain in the Wisdom Tooth

An impacted wisdom tooth is one of the most common causes of tooth throbbing. This happens when the tooth gets stuck beneath the gum line and cannot fully emerge. An impaction can cause swelling, pressure, and pain in the surrounding area.

If left untreated, an impacted wisdom tooth can lead to gum infection, cyst, or even damage nearby teeth. If you suspect you have an impacted tooth, it’s important to visit your dentist immediately.

Believe it or not, your wisdom tooth can also cause throbbing pain in your sinuses. If your upper wisdom teeth are too close to your sinuses, they can pressure them, leading to sinus pain and headaches.

If you are experiencing this type of pain along with your wisdom tooth, you should consult an ear, nose, and throat specialist to rule out any sinus issues.


Throbbing Tooth Pain after Root Canal

If you’ve ever had a root canal, you know that it’s not exactly a walk in the park. And if you’re experiencing throbbing tooth pain after the procedure, it can be even more frustrating. You might be wondering why this is happening, and if there’s anything you can do to make it better. Here are a few reasons why you might have throbbing tooth pain after a root canal.


After a root canal, your tooth will be inflamed. This is because the procedure involves removing the infected pulp from your front tooth’s nerve and replacing it with a filling. The process can cause inflammation in the surrounding tissues, leading to discomfort and throbbing pain. Typically, this inflammation will subside in a few days, but in some cases, it can persist for longer.

Residual Infection: 

Another possible reason for throbbing pain after a root canal is that there might be some residual infection that wasn’t entirely removed during the procedure. This is more common if the infection was severe before the root canal or if the procedure wasn’t carried out correctly. In such cases, you’ll need to contact your dentist, who may prescribe antibiotics to help you manage the infection.

 Nerve Damage: 

Although rare, nerve damage can occur during a root canal. It typically happens when the procedure involves extensive work on your tooth. In such cases, you may experience severe throbbing pain that doesn’t go away.

If you’re experiencing this type of pain, it’s crucial to contact your dentist as soon as possible, as they may need to take additional steps to manage the pain.

Woman getting a dental checkup

What Treatments Are Available for a Toothache?

Over-the-counter painkillers

The first line of treatment for a toothache is usually an over-the-counter painkiller, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen. These medications can help relieve pain and inflammation associated with a toothache.

However, you should be careful about taking too many painkillers, as it may lead to other complications. Follow the instructions provided on the label or ask your dentist for advice.

Saltwater rinse

A saltwater rinse can provide temporary relief for a toothache. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and rinse your mouth with it for about 30 seconds. The saltwater helps to reduce inflammation and fight infections that may be causing the toothache. Repeat the process several times a day for better results.

Apply a cold compress

Applying a cold compress to the affected area can help reduce swelling and numb the pain. Take an ice pack or a clean towel, wrap it with ice cubes, and place it on the painful tooth. Hold it there for 15-20 minutes at a time, then take a break before reapplying. Avoid placing the ice pack directly on the skin to avoid further complications.

Visit a dentist

If the pain and discomfort persist after trying these remedies, you should seek professional help. A dentist can identify the underlying cause of the persistent pain or toothache and provide appropriate treatment. The dental treatments available for a toothache include a root canal, dental filling, tooth extraction, or gum treatment.

Good oral hygiene

Prevention is always better than cure. Practice good oral hygiene, such as brushing your teeth twice daily, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash.


How Can Toothaches Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent a throbbing tooth is to maintain good oral hygiene habits like brushing twice daily, flossing regularly, and visiting your dentist for regular checkups.

You should also avoid consuming sugary or acidic foods and drinks, which can increase the likelihood of tooth decay. If you have a habit of grinding your teeth, using a mouth guard can help protect your teeth.