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What to expect from root canal treatment

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

Root canal treatment, also known as root canal therapy or endodontic therapy, is a dental treatment for removing an infection from inside a tooth. It can also protect the tooth from future infections.

It is carried out in the pulp of the tooth, which is the root canal.

Fast facts about root canal therapy

  • Root canal therapy is used to remove nerves from the pulp of a tooth.

  • It is thought to be very painful but is a pain-relieving treatment.

  • The procedure often referred to as root canal is called endodontic therapy.

  • Root canal therapy costs vary, but it is a less costly option than having a tooth removed and replaced with a crown or bridge.

What is root canal treatment?

Root canal treatment has a false reputation for being painful.

A “root canal” is not a treatment, but part of a tooth. It is the hollow section of a tooth that contains the nerve tissue, blood vessels, and other cells, also known as the pulp.

A tooth consists of a crown and roots. The crown is mainly above the gum, while the roots are below it. The roots attach the tooth to the jawbone.

Inside the crown and the root, or the root canal, is the pulp. The pulp nourishes the tooth and provides moisture to the surrounding material. The nerves in the pulp sense hot and cold temperatures as pain.

The name of the dental procedure commonly referred to as a “root canal” is actually endodontic therapy, which means “inside the tooth.”

However, the term “root canal” has come to be commonly used to talk about the procedure.

What are the steps?

Root canal therapy is done in three steps, and it takes between one and three sessions to complete.

1. Cleaning the root canal

First, the dentist removes everything that is inside the root canal.

With the patient under local anesthesia, the dentist makes a small access hole on the surface of the tooth and removes the diseased and dead pulp tissue with very small files.

2. Filling the root canal

Next, the dentist cleans, shapes and decontaminates the hollow area, using tiny files and irrigation solutions. Then, the tooth is filled with a rubber-like material, using an adhesive cement to seal the canals completely.

After root canal therapy, the tooth is dead. The patient will no longer feel any pain in that tooth because the nerve tissue has been removed, and the infection has been eliminated.

3. Adding a crown or filling

However, the tooth will be now more fragile than it was before. A tooth with no pulp must receive its nourishment from the ligament that attaches the tooth to the bone. This supply is adequate, but in time, the tooth will become more brittle, so a crown or filling offers protection.

Until the crown or filling is complete, the patient should not chew or bite on the tooth. Once there is a crown or filling is done, the person can use the tooth as before.

Treatment often takes only one appointment, but if there are curved canals, multi-canals, or large infections, this could take one or two additional appointments.

How painful is it?

One of the great fears about this kind of treatment is that it will be painful, but the treatment that is carried out by a trained dental surgeon should be relatively painless.

The pain that is felt comes from the infection and not from the treatment. The treatment does not cause pain; it helps to alleviate it.

The dental surgeon will relieve the pain of the procedure by numbing the tooth and surrounding area with local anesthesia.

After the treatment, some tenderness is normal. It is temporary, and over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication may be enough to relieve it. If needed, prescription drugs, such as codeine, are available.

The dentist may prescribe an antibiotic to treat or prevent infection.

Who needs it?

Root canal treats infected or injured pulp. This helps to repair a tooth before it requires extraction.

If the pulp becomes injured or diseased, it cannot repair itself, and the tissue dies.

If there is a deep cavity, a cracked tooth, or a loose filling, bacteria can enter the pulp.

The bacteria will eventually destroy the pulp. If the bacteria penetrate through the root openings, it can cause an infection in the bone.

An infection will weaken the bone and break it down. The ligaments around the tooth will swell, and the tooth will become loose.

A pulp injury will make the tooth sensitive to high and low temperatures. There may be pain when chewing, and some people have a continuous, throbbing pain.

Without treatment, the infection will spread. Eventually, the tooth will become loose and need extracting.

Some patients opt for extraction, especially if it hurts a lot or if the tooth cannot be restored, for example, if there is large decay, trauma, or loss of bone due to periodontal, or gum, disease.

However, removing a tooth may mean that the surrounding teeth start to move and become crooked. This can look unsightly, and it can make it hard to have a good bite.

Root canal therapy will usually save the tooth and eliminate the pain.

If the tooth cannot be saved, the next best option is an implant.

However, saving the natural tooth is best, if possible, because nothing functions as well as a natural tooth.

What does it cost?

The cost of dental treatment varies widely, but saving the tooth with a root canal is relatively cost-efficient.

The other option is extraction, and the cost of an implant or bridge to replace the tooth afterward is usually more expensive.Extraction can also lead to malocclusion, or misaligned teeth, and difficulty chewing.


As with any procedure, complications can occur.

  • Sometimes the dentist only finds three root canals in a tooth that has four. If one canal remains untreated, the infection might continue and spread into the bone.

  • The dentist must also make sure the filling material goes far enough into the canal, to fill it up. If the root canal is not properly sealed, the infection could return.

  • During the procedure, the root of the tooth may crack, or the instruments can break in the canal or perforate the canal. This makes it hard to fill the tooth effectively.

If complications occur, a specialist can try to correct the problem and complete the root canal.

To avoid complications, patients should always follow the dentist’s instructions. If an antibiotic is needed, it is important to finish the entire prescription.

It is essential to have a permanent restoration placed, such as a crown, once the root canal therapy is complete.


To prevent infections, tooth decay, and gum disease, dentists recommend:

  • brushing teeth last thing at bedtime and at least one other time each day

  • using toothpaste that contains fluoride

  • using a suitable toothbrush and replacing it regularly

  • attending regular dental checkups and cleanings

  • flossing to clean between the teeth and prevent the buildup of plaque

  • avoiding sugary drinks and foods, and following a healthy diet.

Dental sealants can also prevent decay.

How to treat a toothache at home

A toothache can result from tooth decay, an infection, loose or broken fillings, or receding gums. Home treatment options include applying a cold compress, gargling with salt water, and drinking peppermint tea.

If the pain lasts for more than 1 or 2 days, it is best to see a dentist immediately to have it treated.

Until then, the following simple remedies made from ingredients usually available at home may provide temporary relief from the discomfort.

1. Cold compress or ice pack

If toothache pain lasts more than 1 or 2 days then seeing a dentist is recommended.

A cold compress or an ice pack can help ease dental pain, especially if a toothache is due to injury or swollen gums.

A person can try holding the ice pack or a bag of frozen peas, for example, against the outside of the cheek above the painful tooth for a few minutes at a time.

The application of a cold treatment constricts the blood vessels, slowing the flow of blood to the affected area. This helps numb the pain and reduce swelling and inflammation.

2. Saltwater mouthwash

Rinsing the mouth with warm salt water helps to loosen debris lodged in cavities or between teeth. It may also reduce swellingTrusted Source, boost healing, and relieve a sore throat.

A saltwater rinse can be made by dissolving 1 teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and swish around in the mouth for about 30 seconds before spitting out. This process can be repeated as often as needed.

3. Painkillers

Over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can provide temporary pain relief for a toothache.

Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years old.

4. Garlic

Garlic has been widely used for medicinal purposes throughout history. It contains a compound called allicin, which accounts for its powerful antibacterial propertiesTrusted Source.

A fresh clove of garlic should first be crushed and then mixed with a little salt, and the mixture applied to the affected tooth.

5. Peppermint tea

Peppermint tea may help to soothe toothache due to its numbing properties.

Like cloves, peppermint has numbing properties that can soothe a toothache. Menthol, which gives peppermint its minty flavor and smell, is also known to be antibacterial.

One teaspoon of dried peppermint leaves can be put in a cup of boiling water and steeped for 20 minutes. After allowing to cool, it can be swished around in the mouth then spat out or swallowed.

A slightly warm, wet tea bag can also be used and held against the tooth for several minutes until the pain lessens.

A few drops of peppermint oil on a cotton ball can also be placed against the affected tooth as a temporary remedy.

6. Thyme

Thyme is known for its medicinal uses and is an effective remedy for chest infections, such as bronchitis or whooping cough. Thymol, the main component of the essential oil, has antiseptic and antifungal properties.

One drop of thyme essential oil can be added to a glass of water to make a mouthwash.

Another method is to sprinkle a few drops of thyme essential oil and water onto a cotton ball. After adding the water, press it against the painful tooth.

7. Aloe vera

Aloe vera gel, which can be found within the succulent plant’s leaves, has long been used to heal burns and minor cuts. Some people now use the gel to clean and soothe gums.

Studies have shownTrusted Source that aloe vera has natural antibacterial qualities and can destroy germs that cause tooth decay.

The gel should be applied to the painful area of the mouth and gently massaged.

8. Hydrogen peroxide rinse

Rinsing with a hydrogen peroxide solution is an effective antibacterial mouthwashTrusted Source, especially if a toothache is caused by an infection.

Hydrogen peroxide is dangerous if swallowed so great care must be taken when rinsing.

It should be mixed in equal parts of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and water and swished in the mouth for about 30 seconds. After spitting it out, the mouth should be rinsed several times with plain water.

A hydrogen peroxide rinse must never be swallowed, and this remedy is not recommended for children.

9. Cloves

Cloves have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

Cloves are a spice native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia. They contain eugenol, a chemical compound that acts as a natural anesthetic.

Cloves also have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial propertiesTrusted Source, which can help fight tooth and gum infections.

A person can soak a small cotton ball with clove oil and apply it to the area affected by the painful tooth.

Dried whole cloves can also be used. Gently chew a whole clove to release its oil and hold in place against the affected tooth for up to 30 minutes.

When to see a dentist

These home remedies are meant to provide temporary relief only. It is important to seek immediate treatment from a dentist once a toothache lasts for more than a day or two.

If dental pain is not treated straight away, it might lead to more serious problems, such as gum disease or a dental abscess. An abscess is caused when bacteria infect the innermost part of the tooth called a dental pulp.


The best way to prevent a toothache or dental abscesses is by keeping teeth and gums as healthy as possible. This can be done with the following steps:

  • brushing teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, for at least 2 minutes

  • cutting down on sugary food and drinks

  • flossing or using an interdental brush regularly to clean between the teeth and under the gum line

  • not smoking, as it can make dental problems worse

  • having regular dental checkups

If someone has a toothache that lasts longer than a couple of days, they should see their dentist for advice and treatment.

What to know about throbbing tooth pain

Throbbing pain in the tooth usually indicates that there is an injury or infection in the mouth. In most cases, this will be a cavity or an abscess. However, there are many possible causes of throbbing teeth.

A person cannot diagnose the cause of throbbing tooth pain based on their symptoms alone, and it is not always possible to see injuries or abscesses. Therefore, it is important to see a dentist for throbbing tooth pain as soon as possible.

This article discusses the most likely causes of throbbing tooth pain and their treatments.


Johnce/Getty Images.

There are many possible causes of throbbing tooth pain, and the cause will determine the treatment options.

Dental appliances

New or recently adjusted dental appliances, especially braces or orthodontic headgear, slowly move the teeth. This movement can cause pain and feelings of pressure. A person may feel throbbing throughout the mouth or in a specific area.

This pain is not dangerous, and it is not typically a sign that something is seriously wrong.

A person can usually manageTrusted Source the pain with over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen.

However, if the pain is unbearable or does not improve in a few days, a person should see their orthodontist.

Caries and cavities

Dental caries refers to decay in the teeth. Significant decay can causeTrusted Source cavities, which are holes or pits in the teeth.

While some very severe cavities may cause visible holes, it is not always possible to see tooth decay. A throbbing tooth may be a sign that decay has damaged the tooth enough to injure the nerve and cause pain.

A dentist can treatTrusted Source caries and cavities, with the extent of the damage determining the precise treatment. Sometimes, a filling will suffice, but for more severe damage, a person may need a root canal, tooth extraction, or other procedure.

Dental infections

An infectionTrusted Source in the tooth or gums can cause throbbing pain, as well as other symptoms, including swelling in the face or mouth.

These infections usually appearTrusted Source when a person does not seek treatment for a severe cavity, but they can also happen following oral surgery or injuries to the mouth. Dental infections may grow or spread, so they require prompt treatment.

In most cases, a person will need antibiotics, as well as treatment for the underlying cause. They might requireTrusted Source a root canal, tooth removal, oral surgery, or other treatment.

OTC pain relievers may help while a person awaits care. However, a person should see a dentist as quickly as they can — ideally, within a day or two.

Injuries to the teeth or face

An injury to the teeth or face can break or crack the teeth. This injury could occur as a result of a sports-related incident or accident.

These injuries may not always be visible, particularly if the tooth breaks below the gumline. The pain may be severe, and a person may notice swelling. Without treatment, injuries may lead to infections.

Sometimes, a broken filling causes pain. A sudden blow to the face or mouth can break a filling, but fillings may also break with time.

It is important to see a dentist or doctor right away following a blow to the mouth or face. A person may have a broken bone that requires treatment, broken teeth that need repairing, or other injuries.

Gum disease

Gum disease causes inflammation and pain in and around the gums. While infections can cause gum disease, plaque buildup is the most commonTrusted Source cause. People with gum disease may have gum pain, throbbing teeth, or bleeding gums.

The treatment of gum disease involvesTrusted Source removing plaque and tartar before adopting better oral hygiene practices, including frequent tooth brushing and flossing. A medicated mouthwash may help ease inflammation.

Weak enamel

When enamel — which forms the outer layer of the teeth — wears down, it can cause the teeth to be sensitive, especially to cold or heat. A person may also notice stinging or throbbing pain.

Avoiding triggers can help, and some people find relief from toothpaste that manufacturers have created specifically for sensitive teeth. However, it is important to see a dentist to treat the underlying enamel damage.

Treatment might involve having a filling or crown or sealing the tooth.


Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses, which are the airways behind the nose. There are many potential causes, including infection, allergies, and autoimmune reactions.

The symptoms are similar to those of the common cold and include nasal discharge, a blocked nose, headaches, and toothache. Sinusitis may causeTrusted Source a range of dental issues, including throbbing tooth pain.

The cause will determine the treatment options, which include antibiotics, surgery, and lifestyle changes.

Erupted or impacted wisdom teeth

The wisdom teeth are in the back of the mouth and may emerge during adulthood. This emergence can cause throbbing tooth pain.

Impacted wisdom teeth may grow at the wrong angle, affecting nearby teeth and causing discomfort.

Pain relief medication can ease the symptoms, but surgical removal of the wisdom tooth may be necessary in some cases.

Bruxism (teeth grinding)

Bruxism, or grinding of the teeth, is a common condition that may cause throbbing tooth pain.

A person with bruxism may clench their jaw and grind their teeth together, either when awake or during sleep. There are many possible causes.

A primary treatment for bruxism is wearing a mouthguard.

Referred pain

Referred pain happens when a person feels pain in another part of the body due to an injury elsewhere. For example, a person with tense jaw or neck muscles may feelTrusted Source throbbing in the mouth.

In some cases, a person mayTrusted Source be able to find the source of the pain by pressing on nearby muscles to see whether that causes pain in the mouth. If it does, a muscle injury may be responsible for the oral pain.

The treatment options will depend on the cause of the pain.


Herpes zosterTrusted Source is a virus that causes an infection called shingles, which is a painful rash that can last days to weeks. People can get shingles after having chickenpox. Older people and those with a weak immune system are more vulnerable.

It is possibleTrusted Source, but very rare, to get a shingles infection in the mouth. This infection can cause throbbing pain, which usually appears before a rash. The rash typically affects just one side of the mouth.

Pain relief medication can help manage shingles. Antiviral medications may also help, but shingles is not curable.

A person who thinks that they may be experiencing shingles should see a doctor.

When to contact a dentist 

People who believe that their throbbing tooth pain is due to a minor injury can delay seeing a dentist and see whether the symptoms get better.

However, if a person cannot determine the reason for the pain, or it does not go away, it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible.

Very rarely, dental infections can spread to other areas of the body, causing a serious and potentially life threatening infection.

Going to the emergency room or seeking urgent careTrusted Source is necessary if a person:


Throbbing tooth pain is a sign that something is wrong in or near the mouth. Even if the pain does not get worse, it is important to see a dentist to diagnose and treat the cause.

Early treatment can prevent serious infections and severe health issues, such as an infection that spreads to other areas of the body.

What to know about temporary crowns

Temporary dental crowns protect teeth or dental implants while a permanent crown is in production.

Dentists recommend crowns in several circumstances. For example, individuals may require a crown if they need a large cavity filling but do not have enough of a tooth remaining to keep a filling in place. Someone may also require a crown over a tooth to prevent further damage after a root canal.

In some cases, dental crowns are necessary for cosmetic purposes.

In this article, we examine temporary dental crowns and their uses. We also look at how dental offices make them, how long they last, and how to care for them.

What are temporary crowns, and what are they made of?

Ezequiel Giménez/Stocksy

A temporary crown is a tooth-shaped cap that a dentist fixes to a damaged tooth or crown before putting a permanent crown in place. The crown acts as a barrier against bacteria and secures the tooth that the permanent crown will cap.

Without a temporary crown, the tooth may shift, meaning that the permanent crown will not fit properly.

Temporary crowns are similar to natural teeth in shape and size. They cover any visible remaining portion of the affected teeth.

Although they are strong enough to withstand a regular bite, temporary crowns are made from less substantial materials than permanent dental crowns, so they may crack more easily. Dentists do not cement them into place as securely as permanent crowns.

Most dentists can make temporary crowns, which they form from acrylics or stainless steel in their offices. However, dental laboratories produce permanent crowns using materials such as:

  • metals

  • porcelain

  • porcelain fused to metal

  • resin

  • ceramic

When are they needed?

Dental crown caps cover the remains of teeth that have sustained damage from excessive decay, root canal treatment, or other repairs. They may protect single or multiple teeth.

Dentists may take impressions or models of the person’s original tooth for the crown. They may also use computer imaging technology to determine the crown’s appropriate size and shape. They will then send the impressions or imaging to a dental laboratory.

Laboratories usually take a few weeks to make permanent dental crowns for teeth.

Research indicates that the development and placement of a temporary crown plays an important role in long-term outcomes for permanent dental crowns.

The functions of a temporary crown include:

  • safeguarding the remnants of the natural tooth or implant site and the gums

  • preventing potential tooth and gum sensitivity

  • keeping the appropriate spacing between the teeth

  • supporting chewing and esthetics

The functions of a permanent crown include:

  • covering an implant or the remnants of severely decayed, discolored, or misshapen teeth

  • protecting the weakened tooth

  • supporting dental bridges if replacing missing teeth

How long will a person have it for?

Usually, a person has a temporary dental crown for 2–3 weeks. However, some people may need a temporary crown for more than 3 weeks if they have undergone extensive dental work or received an implant.

It can take several months for the bone surrounding an implant to heal after the procedure. Dentists will not place a permanent crown over an implant until the bone has healed.

Permanent dental crowns should last at least 5–15 years, with their lifespan depending on a person’s oral hygiene and regular wear and tear. A dentist will determine when a crown needs replacing.

How will it look in comparison with the other teeth?

Similar to permanent crowns, temporary crowns simulate the shape, color, and size of a person’s natural teeth.

Temporary crowns do not usually match a person’s natural teeth as accurately as permanent crowns. More specifically, the materials that dentists use to make temporary crowns do not always closely match the color of natural teeth.

Can a person eat as usual?

Temporary crowns are not as sturdy as natural teeth or permanent dental crowns. Dentists glue them to the jaw with temporary cement.

A person with a temporary crown should be able to chew normally. However, they will need to avoid certain foods to prevent damage to the crown.

People with a temporary crown can protect it by:

  • avoiding hard, tough, sticky foods, such as steak, candy, nuts, and uncooked vegetables

  • eating soft foods, such as pasta, eggs, rice, and soft fruits

  • minimizing sugary foods that could cause decay

  • steering clear of very hot and cold beverages that may aggravate exposed nerve endings and weaken the temporary cement that holds the crown in position

Specific foods to avoid may include:

  • hard bagels

  • steak

  • corn on the cob

  • popcorn

  • raw carrots

  • apples

  • nuts

  • caramel

Caring for the crown

An individual with a temporary crown should maintain a regular oral hygiene routine and make extra efforts to clean the surrounding area. This will help prevent bacteria from slipping between the crown and the gum line, causing the covered tooth to decay.

A good oral hygiene routine involves brushing the teeth at least twice each day and flossing the teeth at least once each day.

To avoid dislodging a temporary crown, a person should brush their teeth more gently around the temporary crown and use extra care when flossing around it.

Anyone who experiences discomfort around the temporary crown should call a dentist and schedule an appointment.

What happens if it comes loose?

A person should contact a dentist for advice if a temporary dental crown detaches.

The dentist will reglue or replace the temporary crown as soon as possible to protect the tooth underneath and the surrounding gums.


Fitting a temporary crown may involve the dentist:

  • filing down the decayed or damaged tooth on the top and sides to make space for the temporary crown

  • removing any decay from underneath an old filling in the tooth

  • placing a composite core on the tooth if it has undergone a root canal and there is not enough tooth remaining

  • adding filling material to build a structure for the crown to cover or patch any holes in the remaining tooth

  • applying paste or putty to make an impression or mold of the tooth

  • making impressions of the teeth to help maintain the person’s bite

  • using the impressions of the upper and lower teeth to make a stone model of a person’s teeth

  • using a shade guide to identify the exact color needed for the permanent crown to match the surrounding teeth

  • making a temporary crown from acrylic or composite resin plastic using the impressions

  • using adhesive to attach the temporary crown to the filed tooth

  • sending the impressions to a dental laboratory that makes permanent crowns

  • scheduling a second appointment in 2–3 weeks to remove the temporary crown and cement the permanent crown in place


Fitting a temporary crown does not typically require an extensive recovery period. However, it may take several hours for the effects of any numbing medication to wear off.

If a person feels pain or discomfort once the temporary crown is in place, they should speak with a dentist as soon as possible.

Price and low cost options

The price of dental crowns and the procedures to implant them vary according to a person’s geographic location and the type of permanent crown they select. For example, full porcelain crowns cost more than porcelain crowns fused with metal.

Dental crowns often cost between $800 and $1,500, but they can be more expensive. Insurance does not usually cover the total cost of a crown.

Lower cost options include onlays and three-quarter crowns. These types of crowns do not fully cover the underlying tooth. They may be suitable for a person with a solid tooth structure that needs capping.


Temporary dental crowns protect teeth, dental implants, and gums from bacteria while people wait for their permanent crowns from a dental laboratory. The temporary crowns also prevent the tooth from moving before the permanent crowns arrive.

As dental offices make temporary dental crowns from less substantial materials than permanent dental crowns, they are more likely to crack or break. They are also more prone to falling out because dentists do not cement them into place as securely as permanent crowns.

A person usually requires a temporary dental crown for 2–3 weeks before the permanent crown arrives.

Why do my teeth hurt?

Tooth pain can come on slowly or suddenly. The pain may be aching, throbbing, or dull, and it can range from mild to severe.

Tooth pain can significantly impact a person’s day-to-day life, and some causes of the pain can be dangerous if the person does not receive treatment.

This article looks at some of the main reasons why a tooth might hurt, as well as the treatment options and home remedies for quick relief.

The following are some common causes of tooth pain.

Tooth decay

Tooth decay is a possible cause of tooth pain.

Tooth pain can result from tooth decay.

A person’s teeth are usually covered by a layer of plaque, a substance that contains bacteria. When a person eats or drinks sugary substances, the bacteria produce acid.

This acid can damage the tooth’s enamel — the hard, white, outer layer of the tooth. Worsening damage can cause a cavity to form.

Tooth decay can also cause white or brown spots to appear on the teeth.

Depending on the extent of the damage to the enamel, the person may experience pain and sensitivity to hot or cold drinks or meals.

Dental erosion  

Sometimes, bacteria are not responsible for acid wearing away at tooth enamel. In this case, a dentist may describe the damage as “dental erosion.” There are many causes.

Consuming acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits and carbonated sodas, can damage the enamel. Drinking excessive amounts of alcoholTrusted Source can do the same.

Exposure to stomach acid can also cause dental erosion.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common condition that causes stomach acid to move up through the esophagus and into the mouth. Doctors and researchersTrusted Source often find dental erosion in people with GERD and frequent acid reflux.

Also, other researchersTrusted Source note that some people with eating disorders expose their teeth to stomach acid by inducing vomiting.

An abscess

A dental abscess is a buildup of pus that forms inside a tooth, inside the gums, or within the bones that hold the teeth in place.An abscess is caused by a bacterial infection.

Symptoms of a dental abscess include:

  • throbbing pain in the affected area

  • pain when chewing

  • pain in the ear, jaw, and neck

  • discoloration, tenderness, or looseness of the affected tooth

  • swollen, red gums

  • swelling and redness in the face

  • bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth

If the infection spreads, it can cause serious symptoms that require prompt medical attention, including:

  • a high fever

  • neck or eye swelling

  • difficulty swallowing

  • difficulty breathing


At the center of the tooth is an area known as the pulp. It houses the tooth’s nerve and blood supply.

Pulpitis occurs when the pulp becomes inflamed. Sometimes, this inflammation is reversible, but sometimes it is not.

The authors of a 2019 review explain that irreversible pulpitis is one of the most common reasons that people seek emergency dental care.

The main symptom of irreversible pulpitis is acute, severe pain. The pain may become more intense when the person exposes their teeth to hot or cold food or drink and may not diminish.The pain may be so severe that it wakes a person up at night.

Cracked or impacted teeth

A cracked tooth can result from a sudden injury, teeth grinding, or a filling that is too large. Cracked teethTrusted Source can be very painful.

Impacted teeth are erupting teeth that have not yet broken through the gums.In adults, wisdom teeth are a common type of impacted teeth. It can be painful when they erupt through the gums.

Gum disease and receding gums

Gum disease is inflammation of the gums, often due to poor oral hygiene and plaque on the teeth. Dentists call it periodontal disease, or periodontitis.

Gingivitis is a less severe, nondestructive type of periodontal disease, but without intervention, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis and damage the bones in the mouth.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • swollen or red gums

  • gums that bleed easily during brushing or flossing

  • tender gums

  • loose teeth

  • pain when chewing

  • bad breath

Gum disease can also cause receding gums, or gingival recession. Gingival recession is a term for the loss of gum tissue around the teeth.

People can also cause their gums to recede by brushing their teeth too aggressively, especially with hard toothbrushesTrusted Source.In some cases, receding gums are sore. Also, if the recession exposes any of the root of the tooth, this can cause pain. A tooth’s root is more sensitive and fragile than its enamel.

Sinus infection

Sinusitis refers to a person’s nasal cavities becoming swollen or inflamed, often due to an infection.

This issue can cause tooth pain as well as:

  • a blocked nose, reduced sense of smell, or both

  • green or yellow mucus running from the nose

  • bad breath

  • a sinus headache

  • pain or swelling around the eyes, forehead, and cheeks

  • a high fever

TMJ disorders

Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, or TMJ disorders, affect muscles and bones of the jaw.Traumatic injuries can cause TMJ disorders. In other cases, the cause may be unclear.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial ResearchTrusted Source, the following are typical symptoms of TMJ disorders:

  • stiffness of the jaw muscles

  • trouble moving or opening the jaw

  • popping, grating or clicking of the jaw joint when moving the jaw

  • pain in the face, jaw, or neck

TMJ disorders may result from bruxism, which is grinding or clenching the teeth while not chewing. People may grind their teeth while sleeping, for example, and be unaware of it.Some indications of bruxism include worn-down teeth, sore jaw muscles, and pain in the jaw joint.


ResearchersTrusted Source have shown that diabetes is associated with several oral health problemsTrusted Source, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

Some symptoms of diabetes include:

  • feeling very thirsty

  • feeling very tired

  • blurred vision

  • frequent urination

People with diabetes should mention the condition to a dentist or doctor if they are having tooth pain.

When to see a dentist

If a person experiences mild tooth pain, they may find it helpful to take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief medication, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.

However, severe or persistent pain can indicate an issue that requires medical attention.Seek advice from a healthcare provider if tooth pain accompanies any of the following:

  • red, shiny, or bleeding gums

  • a fever

  • swelling in the gums, jaw, or face

  • pus or discharge in the mouth

  • severe or persistent pain in the teeth, gums, or jaw

  • pain when biting

  • difficulty swallowing or breathing

Home remedies for quick relief

To relieve tooth pain, a person might benefit from trying:

  • OTC pain relief medication

  • a saltwater rinse

  • a hydrogen peroxide rinse

  • garlic

  • cloves

  • peppermint tea


Treatment for tooth pain will depend on the underlying issue. For example:

  • Tooth decay and dental erosion: Reducing levels of acid and sugar in the diet can help.

  • Cavities: A dentist treats these with fillings or root canals.

  • Gum disease and recession: A person can help curb or prevent these issues by practicing good oral hygiene and seeing a dentist for cleanings regularly.

When tooth pain stems from an underlying health condition such as sinusitis, diabetes, or a TMJ disorder, treating the underlying issue should resolve the pain.

It is important to see a dentist for a diagnosis because many causes of tooth pain lead to the same symptoms.


When a tooth that hurts, it can be highly disruptive. There are many common causes of tooth pain, including dental erosion and gingivitis.

Some causes of tooth pain are more serious than others, and many different issues lead to the same symptoms. For this reason, a professional diagnosis is key.It is always worth seeing a dentist about severe or persistent pain in a tooth.

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