Throbbing Tooth – What Does It Mean, and What Can Be Done - Dental Guide Australia

Throbbing Tooth – What Does It Mean, and What Can Be Done

lady holding a throbbing tooth

"There was never yet philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently" (- William Shakespeare)

So, now we know how Shakespeare was able to write his most depressing and dark plays. He had a throbbing tooth(ache)! However, what do we mortals do?

This article will outline some information that will help you to not only understand your toothache, but also discover what can be done for it... besides writing another "Hamlet".

IMPORTANT: Before Continuing Be Advised That Throbbing Teeth Pain with Moderate To Severe Pain Symptoms Are Dental Emergencies

The first action to take whenever confronted with a severe toothache is to contact your dentist and arrange for an emergency dental appointment. If you are unable to get an immediate appointment, here are some temporary measures you may take at home.


Why Do We Get Throbbing Tooth (AKA a Toothache)

Why people get toothaches comes from three basic problems:

  • Trauma
  • Gum or bone infection around the tooth
  • Tooth decay

The pain level of the toothache depends on the severity of each one of the problems listed above.

  1. A small blow to a tooth may cause just a temporary small toothache, while a large force may actually fracture the tooth causing a throbbing, long-term toothache.
  2. Mild gum disease called “gingivitis” usually causes minor discomfort, but severe gum disease called “periodontitis” can cause severe throbbing pain.
  3. Small areas of tooth decay usually result in very few painful symptoms, while a tooth that is severely decayed often causes the type of toothache that may keep you up all night.
  4. Read more here, about causes of toothache.

Throbbing Toothaches

Each tooth we have is hollow inside. This hollow space is the location of the "nerve". Dentists call it the "pulp". Each tooth also has roots that are surrounded by bone and gum tissue.

Throbbing Teeth Occur Because...

*if the nerve of the tooth becomes infected because of large areas of untreated tooth decay, very large old fillings or crowns, or teeth that have been actually fractured. Pressure then builds up inside the hollow space of the tooth much like a pressure cooker. This pressure goes into the jaw and causes the pulsating, throbbing pain

*if the bone and gum tissue become infected, the infection travels down along the side of the root and pressure builds up near the end of the root(s) causing the same pressure pain symptoms as a nerve infection.

Swelling/Symptom of Infection

Cellulitis (swelling) is a common complication that can accompany severe throbbing toothache. It may come on slowly, or relatively quickly.

Untreated cellulitis may pose serious health problems, so it becomes even more important to seek immediate treatment with severe toothache symptoms.

If your dentist suspects that an accompanying infection has complicated your toothache, he will most likely prescribe an antibiotic

What Are My Options For Treatment Of A Throbbing Painful Tooth?

You are at the dentist. You have this terrible toothache. All you want is to make it stop hurting. Your dentist will quickly give you a local anesthetic for pain relief. Now you can rest and consider what can be done.

Sometimes a tooth cannot be saved by any means, so extraction is the only treatment. Some patients do elect to have their tooth extracted even though it can be restored to healthy function. This is generally not recommended.

Root canal treatment is an option for treatment if there is enough of the tooth left to fix. The tooth is then restored with a crown.

In the case where areas of bone have been destroyed by infection along the side of the root, periodontal (gum) surgery restores the area to healthy function. In some cases, a tooth may require both root canal treatment and periodontal surgery.

Extraction Versus Fixing Your Tooth

Girl pointing to a throbbing tooth

Getting rid of a tooth that has caused you so much pain may seem like the most logical idea. However, before you consider having it pulled, here are a few things to consider.

Other teeth may drift into the space where the extracted tooth used to be, causing dental problems with other surrounding teeth, including gaps between the teeth, increased decay and periodontal disease.

Replacing the tooth with a bridge, partial denture or dental implant later on, is likely to be more expensive and time consuming then fixing it in the first place.

The best treatment as always is prevention, so remember:

"Be true to your teeth and they won't be false to you". ~Soupy Sales


So now you know all there is to know about a throbbing tooth, and what can be done. Remember, if you are experiencing severe pain contact an emergency dentist as soon as possible.

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