Understanding Tooth Nerve Pain: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

man touching his cheek because of heavy tooth nerve pain

Tooth nerve pain, also known as toothache, can be an excruciating and distressing experience. It occurs when the nerves inside the teeth become irritated or inflamed. This condition can significantly impact a person’s daily life, affecting their ability to eat, speak, and even sleep comfortably.

Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for tooth nerve pain is crucial for anyone experiencing dental discomfort.

In this article, we will delve into the various aspects of tooth nerve pain, ranging from its root causes to available treatment options, including common dentistry procedures and home remedies.

What Causes Tooth Nerve Pain?

Tooth nerve pain is usually caused by underlying issues that affect the health of the tooth’s nerve and surrounding structures. The primary causes include:

  • Dental Decay: The most common cause of tooth nerve pain is dental caries, commonly known as cavities. When bacteria in the mouth break down sugars and produce acids, they can erode the tooth enamel and create holes in the tooth. If left untreated, the decay can progress and reach the tooth’s nerve, causing significant pain.
  • Dental Infections: When dental decay extends deep into the tooth, it can infect the pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves. This infection can lead to an abscess, a painful pus-filled swelling at the tooth’s root, causing intense toothache.
  • Dental Trauma: Accidents or injuries to the mouth can cause cracks, fractures, or chips in the teeth, exposing the sensitive nerve endings. This exposure can lead to sharp and persistent pain.
  • Gum Disease: Periodontal disease, characterised by inflammation and infection of the gum tissues, can cause gum recession, and expose the tooth roots. This can lead to nerve sensitivity and pain. A specialised treatment mode known as periodontal treatment is available for this condition.
  • Dental Procedures: Sometimes, dental procedures such as fillings, crowns, or root canals can irritate the tooth nerve temporarily, causing transient toothache.
  • Bruxism: Habitual teeth grinding and clenching can put excessive pressure on the teeth, leading to nerve irritation and pain.
  • Tooth Erosion: Acidic foods and beverages, as well as conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can lead to tooth erosion, where the enamel gradually wears away. As the protective layer diminishes, the tooth’s nerve becomes more exposed and vulnerable to external stimuli, resulting in sensitivity and pain.
  • Tooth Sensitivity: Over time, factors such as aggressive brushing, tooth whitening treatments, or using abrasive toothpaste can cause the tooth’s protective layers to wear off, exposing the dentin and nerve endings. This can lead to tooth sensitivity and discomfort, especially when consuming hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks.
  • Cracked Tooth Syndrome: In some cases, a tooth may develop tiny cracks that are not easily visible. These cracks can cause severe pain when biting or chewing, as they irritate the tooth’s nerve endings. The pain may come and go, making it challenging to diagnose.
  • Sinus Infections: Tooth nerve pain can also be referred pain from sinus infections. The upper back teeth have roots close to the sinuses, and when sinusitis occurs, it can exert pressure on these roots, causing toothache even though the teeth themselves are healthy.
  • Impacted Wisdom Teeth: Wisdom teeth, also known as third molars, can sometimes become impacted, meaning they do not fully emerge from the gums. Impacted wisdom teeth can put pressure on neighbouring teeth, leading to pain and discomfort.
  • Nerve Degeneration: With age, the nerves inside the teeth can degenerate, making them less capable of sensing pain. As a result, an older person may experience tooth decay or other dental issues without significant pain, leading to delayed treatment and potential complications.
  • Systemic Conditions: Certain systemic conditions, such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders, can affect dental health and increase the risk of tooth nerve pain. Poor blood circulation and a weakened immune system can compromise the tooth’s ability to heal and fight off infections.

How To Identify Tooth Nerve Pain Damage?

Identifying tooth nerve pain and understanding its severity is crucial for seeking appropriate treatment. The following symptoms can indicate tooth nerve pain:

  • Persistent Toothache: A sharp, throbbing, or constant toothache that doesn’t subside indicates possible nerve involvement.
  • Sensitivity To Temperature: Extreme sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages can suggest nerve sensitivity.
  • Pain While Chewing: Discomfort or pain while chewing or biting down on food may indicate nerve irritation.
  • Swelling And Pus: Swelling around the affected tooth, accompanied by the presence of pus or a bad taste in the mouth, can indicate a dental infection involving the nerve.
  • Radiating Pain: Tooth nerve pain can sometimes radiate to the jaw, ear, or head, causing referred pain.
  • Pain Duration: Tooth nerve pain is often persistent and doesn’t go away quickly. If the pain lingers for an extended period, it could be a sign of nerve involvement.
  • Triggered Pain: Nerve pain may be triggered by certain activities like eating, drinking, or even just breathing cold air. Pay attention to any specific actions that consistently cause pain.
  • Pain Intensity: The intensity of the pain can vary from mild to excruciating. Severe, throbbing pain may indicate a more severe nerve issue.
  • Pain Location: Take note of where the pain is localised. Tooth nerve pain usually originates from a specific tooth, but it can also be felt in nearby teeth or radiate to other areas of the face and head.
  • Tenderness To Touch: Gently tapping or pressing on the affected tooth may elicit increased sensitivity or pain, indicating nerve involvement.
  • Gum Recession: If the gums have receded, exposing the tooth root, the nerve may become more vulnerable to external stimuli, leading to increased sensitivity and pain.
  • Previous Dental Work: Tooth nerve pain can be triggered by dental procedures such as fillings, crowns, or root canals. If the pain starts after dental work, it could be related to nerve irritation.
  • Nighttime Pain: Tooth nerve pain may worsen at night, disrupting sleep and causing discomfort.
  • Changes In Tooth Colour: A discoloured tooth, especially if it turns dark or greyish, may indicate nerve damage.
  • Pain Medication: If over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen do not alleviate the toothache, it suggests a possible nerve-related issue.
  • Emotional Response: Tooth nerve pain can be intense and emotionally draining. If the pain is significantly affecting your daily life or causing anxiety or distress, it’s important to seek prompt evaluation and treatment.

What Are The Common Dentistry Procedures For Treatment?

When facing tooth nerve pain, seeking professional dental care is essential. Dentists have various treatment options to alleviate the unbearable tooth pain and address the underlying issues:

  • Dental Fillings: If tooth decay is the cause of the nerve pain and it hasn’t progressed to the nerve, the dentist may remove the decayed portion and fill the cavity with dental material.
  • Root Canal Therapy: When dental decay or infection reaches the tooth’s nerve, a root canal may be necessary. During this procedure, the infected nerve tissue is removed, and the root canal is cleaned, disinfected, and sealed to prevent further infection.
  • Dental Crowns: In cases of severe tooth decay or after a root canal, a dental crown may be placed over the treated tooth to provide protection and restore its functionality.
  • Tooth Extraction: In situations where the tooth nerve is extensively damaged and cannot be saved, tooth extraction may be the only option. The dentist will discuss replacement options, such as dental implants or bridges, to restore the missing tooth.
  • Gum Disease Treatment: If gum disease is the cause of nerve pain, the dentist will recommend appropriate treatment to address the gum inflammation and infection.
  • Dental Cleanings: Dental cleanings play a crucial role in preserving oral well-being and are vital for overall dental hygiene. Professional cleanings help remove plaque, tartar, and surface stains from the teeth, preventing tooth decay, soothing nerve pain and gum disease.
  • Dental Bonding: Dental bonding is a cosmetic procedure used to repair chipped, cracked, or discoloured teeth. A tooth-coloured composite resin is applied to the tooth’s surface, shaped, and polished to blend seamlessly with the natural teeth. A dental bonding can shield nerve endings from irritants and thus alleviate sensitivity and pain.
  • Dental Implants: Dental implants offer a long-lasting and permanent remedy to replace lost teeth effectively.They involve the placement of a titanium post into the jawbone, which acts as an artificial tooth root. A dental crown is then placed on top of the post to restore the missing tooth. A dental implant can aid in the treatment of tooth nerve pain by providing a stable and functional replacement for a damaged tooth, alleviating the source of the pain.
  • Dental Bridges: A dental bridge is used to replace one or more missing teeth. The procedure involves the use of one or more synthetic teeth, securely anchored by dental crowns affixed to neighbouring natural teeth. A dental bridge assists in addressing tooth nerve pain by replacing a missing tooth, eliminating potential sources of discomfort and promoting proper dental function.
  • Dental Veneers: Dental veneers are precisely crafted, thin shells designed to enhance the aesthetic appeal of teeth by adhering to their frontal surface. They can address issues like discolouration, misalignment, and gaps between teeth. A dental veneer can contribute to the alleviation of tooth nerve pain by covering and protecting the tooth’s surface, reducing sensitivity and enhancing overall comfort.
  • Dental Inlays and Onlays: Inlays and onlays are used to repair moderately damaged or decayed teeth. They are custom-made restorations that fit into or onto the tooth to restore its shape, strength, and function.
  • Dental Sealants: Dental sealants are thin coatings that act as protective layers, specifically administered to the chewing surfaces of molars. The primary purpose of these coatings is to safeguard against cavities forming in the deep grooves and pits of the teeth.

Some Home Remedies

While professional dental care is essential, there are some home remedies that can provide temporary relief for mild tooth nerve pain:

  • Saltwater Rinse: Gargling with warm saltwater can help reduce inflammation and soothe the affected area.
  • Cold Compress: Applying a cold compress on the cheek near the painful tooth can help numb the area and reduce swelling.
  • Clove Oil: Clove oil contains natural anaesthetic properties and can be applied topically to the painful tooth for temporary relief.
  • Avoid Trigger Foods: Avoiding extremely hot or cold foods and beverages can prevent further irritation of the sensitive tooth nerve.
  • Garlic: Garlic has natural antibacterial properties that can help fight off infections and reduce pain. Crush a garlic clove and mix it with some salt before applying it to the affected tooth.
  • Peppermint Tea: Peppermint tea has mild numbing properties and can help soothe tooth nerve pain. Brew a cup of peppermint tea and allow it to cool down before swishing it around the mouth for a few seconds.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse: Dilute hydrogen peroxide with water (equal parts) and use it as a mouth rinse. This can help reduce bacterial growth and inflammation in the mouth.
  • Ginger Root: Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease tooth pain. Cut a small piece of fresh ginger root and chew it on the side of the painful tooth.

Does Tooth Nerve Pain Cause Other Health Issues?

While tooth nerve pain itself may not directly cause other health issues, it can have significant implications on a person’s overall well-being. Persistent unbearable tooth pain can lead to:

  • Sleep Disturbances: Tooth nerve pain can interfere with sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation and fatigue.
  • Reduced Quality of Life: Chronic toothache can affect a person’s ability to eat, speak, and concentrate, impacting their quality of life.
  • Mental And Emotional Distress: Constant pain can cause anxiety, stress, and depression in affected individuals.
  • Compromised Oral Health: Avoiding seeking dental care due to fear of pain can lead to the worsening of dental conditions and potential long-term damage.

Parkmore Family Dental: Your Emergency Dentist In Melbourne

  • Experienced dentists specialising in nerve pain.
  • Advanced facilities for prompt pain relief.
  • Emergency appointments are available for urgent cases.
  • Same-day relief for unbearable pain.
  • Personalised treatment plans for individual needs.
  • Expertise in root canal therapy treatments.
  • Sedation options to ease anxiety.
  • Compassionate team ensuring patient comfort.
  • Post-treatment care for optimal healing.
  • Dental advice for preventing future pain.
  • Emergency helpline for urgent concerns.
  • Family-friendly care for all ages.
  • Cutting-edge technology for precise diagnostics.
  • Minimally invasive treatments for quicker recovery.
  • Dedicated to preserving natural teeth health.
  • Affordable options for emergency dental care.
  • Transparent communication about treatment options.
  • Strict adherence to hygiene and sterilisation protocols.
  • Convenient location with ample parking facilities.
  • Commitment to providing long-term oral health. Top of Form


Tooth nerve pain is a distressing condition that can arise from various underlying dental issues. Understanding its causes, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for seeking timely and appropriate care.

If you experience persistent toothache or any symptoms of tooth nerve pain, it is essential to consult a dentist promptly. Professional dental care, along with proper oral hygiene practices, can help alleviate tooth nerve pain and ensure optimal oral health, leading to a more comfortable and pain-free life.



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