Are you experiencing a dull ache or sharp pain in your tooth? It sounds like you may have a toothache! Toothaches have several underlying causes that may be creating the discomfort.

Your teeth have several layers and connections to nerves that can cause you to feel pain. Teeth are highly sensitive to temperature and infection if they are left exposed from decay or damage. Inflammation will occur to protect your mouth, but if it persists too long, it can result in damage and even worse pain.

When is there an urgent need to see a dentist about a toothache?

You should see a dentist if:

  • Pain persists
  • Inflammation increases
  • Swelling occurs around face or jaw
  • Redness occurs around the gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Fever, earache or pain in mouth
  • Recent trauma to the mouth or face
  • Dry eyes or mouth
  • Feeling unwell due to tooth pain.

Most people avoid the dentist as much as possible, but if your toothache persists, you should consult a dentist about your symptoms immediately. Dentists are trained to help alleviate your pain and discover the root causes that may have started the pain.

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What if you can’t see your dentist straight away?

Make an appointment as soon as you can, and in the meantime you can try:

  • Using a cold compress and pressing it against the area of pain
  • Calling your dentist and asking them about pain relief methods you can try while you wait for an appointment
  • Paracetamol or ibuprofen pain relief medicines (aspirin is not recommended as it can increase bleeding in the area)
  • If the pain is unbearable, consider seeing another dentist in your area for an emergency evaluation.

What is causing your toothache?

Toothaches can be caused by several different factors.Some of the most common causes are:

Breakdown of tooth enamel

Breakdown of your tooth enamel exposes the nerve endings in your teeth which can lead to sensitivity and pain. Unlike skin, a tooth is unable to create new cells to heal the exposed area. It will take the care of a dentist to evaluate a toothache for long-term relief.

Tooth decay

Toothaches as a result of tooth decay can occur from the amount of acid-producing bacteria in saliva. Saliva balances acids from foods you eat and clear bacteria from your mouth. Without proper saliva levels, tooth decay can occur at a faster rate. Scheduled visits to your dentist are recommended to prevent further tooth decay.

How can I prevent cavities?

By thoroughly brushing your teeth, you can greatly reduce the bacteria in your mouth that cause enamel to erode. Don't brush too hard as that itself may affect the tooth, but by spending 2-3 minutes gently brushing your teeth in a circular motion, you can do a very good job of cleaning them. Flossing is also a good habit to adopt as it can really clean between the teeth. As a preventive mesaure, limiting the intake of sweet foods which can make sugar stick to your teeth, is important. You don't have to avoid these foods altogether, but be mindful of the daily intake and clean your teeth soon afterwards.

How does fluoride help maintain dental health?

Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and in water. It is key to oral hygiene because it helps protect the teeth from acid caused by bacteria in the mouth.


Gingivitis is the result of too much plaque building up on your teeth. It can cause bleeding of the gums, and eventually lead to more serious gum disease such as periodontitis and tooth loss.

Sensitive teeth

Some people are more prone to sensitive teeth, which can make cold beverages or food cause discomfort.

Other causes of toothaches include:

  • Loose fillings
  • Dental abscess
  • Cracked tooth
  • Pulp friction
  • Sinus infection.

How can you prevent a toothache?

You can help prevent toothaches by:

  • Brushing with fluoride toothpaste and water twice a day
  • Flossing daily
  • Using a soft toothbrush that doesn’t irritate your gums
  • Limiting your intake of food and drinks containing sugar
  • Rinsing your mouth after eating
  • Having regular check-ups with your dentist
  • If you’re a smoker, quitting or cutting down.

Next Steps

HealthEngine can help you find and book an appointment with your regular dentist or another experienced professional at a practice near you.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine always recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.


A: Use HealthEngine to find and book your next Dentist appointment. Click on the following locations to find a Dentist clinic in your state or territory.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.