A toothache can be symptomatic of many different dental problems. But, more importantly, a toothache can and should not be ignored. In other words, call the dentist and make an appointment if you have a toothache!

As mentioned, toothache pain varies in the following ways:

  • Sharp pain
  • Sensitivity
  • Throbbing pain
  • Pain when biting
  • Pain in the back of the mouth

Sharp pain

Sharp pain occurs as you bite down. The source of the sharp pain is usually a cavity.

When bacteria enter the inside of a tooth through a crack or chip, decay begins to form. If left uncorrected, decay will spread down to the tooth’s root. Further delay in treatment can lead to an abscess resulting in tooth loss.

Even though sharp pain is unpleasant, it becomes an early warning system that an abscess is in the early stages. Having the dentist repair your cavity will prevent the loss of the tooth.


Temperature sensitivity is another warning system that something is wrong with your teeth. This sensitivity can be due to hot or cold. A bite of ice cream or a drink of hot chocolate should not cause pain. Even though the pain is temporary, it should not be ignored.

The source of pain due to sensitivity can vary. As a result, the sensitivity could be from grinding your teeth, exposed roots, or a cavity. Once you explain the symptoms to the dentist, they will help you identify the source of your sensitivity.

Throbbing pain

A throbbing pain is a constant pain. Since it is constant, throbbing pain can not be ignored. In turn, throbbing pain interferes with your life until it is treated by your dentist.

Most likely, the source of throbbing pain is the result of tooth decay having made its way to the root of your tooth. If left untreated, the infection can spread to surrounding teeth.

If the decay gets into the root of the tooth, a root canal may be necessary. When performing a root canal the dentist removes the inflamed pulp, cleans and disinfects the inside of the tooth, and places filling in the space created. Read more about root canals.

Pain when biting

Pain or discomfort when biting could be the result of an abscess or a cracked tooth. Pressure on the tooth should not create any discomfort.

In the event of a cracked tooth, a crown may be necessary. A crown is a cap placed over the tooth. The crown created is the same shape and color as the tooth and surrounding teeth. Furthermore, a crown protects the tooth from further damage.

Pain in the back of the mouth

Pain in the back of the mouth may be symptomatic of a problem not related to your teeth. A condition known as TMJ disorder, canker sores, mouth trauma, or cancer could be the cause. An exam by the dentist will determine the source of pain.

Any of the above conditions should be taken seriously. A visit to your dentist could prevent further complications from pain in the back of the mouth.

How to prevent a toothache

Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care.” These words of wisdom are valid when applied to dental hygiene.

The following tips will help in preventing all the discomfort that accompanies a toothache.

  • Brushing your teeth. The American Dental Association has long recommended brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. Make sure you brush both the front and back of every tooth. By the time you are finished, you should have brushed every surface possible on your teeth. Brushing should be performed in a circular motion with a soft toothbrush on the vertical (up and down) surfaces of the tooth and back and forth on the chewing surfaces of your teeth. Remember that bacteria accumulate on the gums and tongue. Use the same circular motions on the gums and back and forth on the tongue.
  • Flossing your teeth. Even after perfectly brushing every surface of the tooth you can not get between your teeth. Daily flossing reaches all the places your toothbrush misses. Once daily is enough for flossing since it takes four twelve hours for plaque-creating bacteria to develop. However, if you feel a small piece of food in between your teeth, it is alright to use floss to remove it.  
  • Use non-alcohol mouthwash. Studies by the Journal of Conservative Dentistry and the International Journal of Dentistry recommend using a non-alcohol-based mouthwash. Alcohol-free mouthwash aids in the creation of saliva in the mouth. Saliva, in turn, is used to break down bacteria that create cavity-causing bacteria. Furthermore, mouthwash containing alcohol can burn sensitive gums. Read here about American Dental Association recommended mouthwashes
  • Stay hydrated with water and eat a balanced diet. We are what we eat! Too much sugar is long known to be unhealthy for your teeth. Sugar provides bacteria, which in rich amounts, convert to acid in the mouth. The created acid reduces protective tooth enamel. Furthermore, a balanced diet provides the necessary nutrients and minerals essential to promote healthy dental hygiene. Finally, water keeps your mouth hydrated and clean. In addition, water helps prevent the build-up of plaque.
  • Get a dental check-up twice a year. A semi-annual visit to the dentist prevents tooth decay and can even identify mouth cancer in the earliest stages. In addition to a dental exam, the dentist is able to scale and clean your teeth. Scaling your teeth allows the dentist to remove plaque above and below the gum line. Even when practicing proper dental hygiene, such as brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash, plaque can still build up. A twice-a-year cleaning from your dentist ensures that plaque buildup that leads to tooth decay is removed.

Cavities and other tooth decay-related diseases can be easily prevented with proper dental hygiene. Feel free to give Dr. Ric Sherman or Dr. Jared Hepworth a call at Whiteridge Aesthetic Dentistry to make an appointment.

Serving the Salt Lake Valley, Cottonwood Heights, Mill Creek, Park City, and Summit County.


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