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A toothache or odontalgia refers to the pain experienced near the teeth and jaw area. It is not a disease in itself but rather the pain caused by a number of conditions. It is caused by the irritation of the nerve root of a tooth, although tooth decay and infection may also cause it. Toothaches may also occur after a tooth has been extracted. Some develop a persistent painful sensation while some only hurt when pressure is applied on the tooth. Chewing as well as temperature changes may affect the pain experienced.

Toothache may also be caused by pain extending from other areas such as the jaw joint or the ear.


Pain in the tooth and in the jaw area occurs and can be felt either as a sharp pain, a throbbing pain, or a consistent, continuous pain. The pain experienced due to a toothache varies from slight discomfort to excruciating pain which may extend beyond the tooth and jaw area. This pain maybe felt while chewing or when eating hot or cold food and can persist for 15 seconds even after stimulus is removed. Bleeding from the nearby gum area may also be experienced. Foul-tasting liquid may also flow from the affected tooth and may be a sign of infection.

Some may experience a fever or headache in conjunction with the toothache. Inflammation of the affected area around the tooth may occur and can spread to the cheek, the ear or to the jaw. The area around and the side of the jaw near the affected area may experience tenderness, so touching or pressing the area may aggravate the pain.


Toothache can be caused by an inflammation of the inner part of the teeth known as the pulp. The pulp is a mass of living tissue found inside the tooth which contains sensitive nerves and blood vessels. This inflammation can be caused by dental cavities. Cavities are holes on the tooth’s surface caused by acids formed by bacteria digesting the leftover food with in the mouth. These holes may not cause pain if they are shallow, buy if they are deep enough it may cause pain when food and other debris find their way inside the hole. The pulp inside can be irritated when exposed to heat or cold, as well as sweet or sour foods. Bacteria can also enter the cavity and infect the pulp, causing toothache. The pulp may also be irritated as a reaction to dental procedures, as reactions may occur from the products used.

Sometimes the toothache may come from the surrounding gum area as a result of gum disease. These gum disease cause inflammation and bleeding of the gums. The pain may be an advanced symptom which may indicate bone loss near the affected area. This is due to bacterial infection forming in the space between the bone and the gums, which may cause further bone loss. Once the root is exposed, it can become weakened due to furthered exposure to bacterial acid and may result in the lost of the affected tooth. Gum disease is caused by toxins produced by bacteria inhabiting plaque which forms at the gum line. Plaque is a paste-like substance which is a mixture of saliva, food and bacteria.
Image: Toothache

Toothache may also be caused by cracks and fractures on the tooth itself. The pain usually occurs when biting down on the cracked area or on the edge of the fractured tooth. However, sometimes the cracks may not be immediately visible and may lead to misdiagnosis. The tooth may get cracked by chewing on hard objects such as ice or hard candy, or by grinding your teeth together.

Pain may also be experience when a new tooth is erupting, or when one is impacted or is pushing against another tooth. This commonly occurs when the wisdom teeth are about to come out. The erupting tooth will rupture the gums and can cause inflammation and bleeding. Impacted teeth may require pain relievers, antibiotics to prevent infection, or extraction to prevent damage to the surrounding teeth.

Finally, toothache may also occur from other conditions such as stress or injury to the temporo-mandibular joint in the jaw. This may be caused by blunt trauma to the face or as a reaction to stress produced by clenching jaw muscles. This may result in head or neck pain aside from toothache.

Dental cavities are treated differently depending on the extent of the damage. Usually this involves filling the hole with dental fillings, but larger holes may require dental crowns. Once the pulp inside has been infected, a root canal may be done as an alternative to tooth extraction to prevent further infection. Root canal involves removing the infected pulp and filling the tooth with stable filler.


Gum disease can be treated by dental cleaning to improve hygiene and to remove plaque from the teeth. Advanced gum disease may require scraping off the hardened plaque or tartar from the root surface and the cutting and removal of infected gum surfaces. These procedures are done under local anesthetic and may require antibiotics. Extreme cases of bone loss and root exposure may require tooth extraction to ease the pain.

Cracked and fractured teeth may be treated by your dentist by placing porcelain or metal crowns or veneers to protect the tooth surface, but if pain persists a root canal procedure may be needed to treat the pain.

Temporo-mandibular joint pain can be treated by oral pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs. A warm moist compress applied to the affected area may also help relieve the pain.


Good oral hygiene is essential to prevent various conditions such as tooth decay and gum disease. Brushing regularly with fluoride toothpaste and flossing after every meal helps prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar and help strengthen the teeth. It is also advised to see your dentist twice a year for professional cleaning. Your dentist may also recommend using sealants and fluoride gels to strengthen your teeth. Also, avoiding overconsumption of sweet, sugary food can help inhibit the growth of bacteria responsible for tooth decay. Avoid chewing ice as it may damage teeth and always take care when chewing hard foods such as nuts.
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Medication commonly used for these disease:

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