A bad toothache can be quite debilitating and often requires an emergency visit to the dentist.  In some cases, this can be avoided.  Many times we are aware that something is not quite right, but we choose to ignore it in the hope that it will go away on its own. It is essential to pay attention to the signs and symptoms we may be experiencing before the toothache becomes unbearable.


The degree and type of pain may vary greatly. The pain can be mild to severe. It can be localized or widespread.  It can be a dull ache, throbbing, or sharp pain.  It may be constant, or in some cases, it only felt when pressure is applied to the tooth.

Swelling can be localized to the area around the tooth or, in more severe cases, may spread and even affect the face. Swelling of the face should never be ignored.

Foul taste in the mouth
You may notice a foul taste coming from drainage around an infected tooth

Headache or Fever
Otherwise unexplained headache or fever can also be a sign that there is a dental problem

Causes of Toothaches

There are many possible causes of why you may be having a toothache.  These are some of the most common ones:

  • Dental decay/cavity
  • Tooth abscess/infection
  • A fractured or cracked tooth
  • Damaged or failing filling
  • Temperature sensitivity
  • Gum disease
  • Improper brushing technique
  • Orthodontic treatment (braces)
  • Erupting or impacted wisdom teeth
  • Grinding/clenching
  • Sinus Infection

Toothache Treatment

How a toothache should be treated depends on the cause of it. It is crucial to have the problem assessed as soon as possible.  Delaying this may impact not only the health of the tooth but also your overall health.  When you see the dentist, they will complete a physical exam and x-rays if needed. They will also need to review your medical history and ask you some details about the pain. Some of the questions may be where the pain is, when did it start, how bad is it, is it caused by anything, or is it spontaneous.  After they determine the cause of the pain, they will be able to recommend the appropriate treatment.

Some possible treatment recommendations may be:

  • Restoration/filling
  • Endodontic Treatment (root canal)
  • Crown
  • Sensitivity reducing agent (such as fluoride treatment or sensitivity reducing toothpaste)
  • Scaling
  • Extraction
  • Nightguard
  • Prescription medication

Prevention of Toothaches

There a few things that we can do to minimize the chance of having a toothache.  Good oral hygiene can reduce our chances of dental decay and gum disease.  Tooth brushing twice daily and flossing is a must. Proper nutrition is also important, especially reducing foods and beverages that are acidic or high in sugar.  Seeing a dentist on a regular basis is also very important. Routine dental exams can often reveal issues even before they become symptomatic.  Multiple treatment options may be available to you while the problem is still not an emergency.  This gives you more time to consider an evaluate the best treatment for you without making a rash decision solely based on the discomfort you may be experiencing.

Seeing your dentist at the first sign of trouble could save you a lot of grief.  Don’t wait until the pain becomes unbearable.  If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above or if it has been a while since you have had a dental examination, please consider seeing our great dental professionals at Lancaster Dental in Kitchener.  Your oral health is important to us.

DISCLAIMER: The advice offered is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. It is no way to offer a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendations for your particular situation.  Any advice provided is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified dentist.