Throbbing toothaches are usually a result of tooth decay, cavities, or infections. Although dental problems are majorly the cause, there can also be other reasons for your pulsating tooth pain like injury, braces, sinusitis, etc. Hence determining the root cause of your throbbing tooth pain based on the symptoms alone can sometimes be tough.
If you're suffering from tooth pain or tooth infection, symptoms may include one or a combination of these:
A throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes
Pain when you bite
Tenderness in the mouth
Swollen gums or mouth
Pus or white fluid
Bad breath or taste in the mouth
Causes of throbbing tooth pain
Although throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes is common in both children and adults, it is always good to consult a dentist immediately if you notice any of the above signs or symptoms. Your dentist might ask you for a dental X-ray after a thorough dental exam to find the cause of your throbbing toothache.
Here are some of the reasons why you might be experiencing pulsating tooth pain:
Since braces are responsible for realigning and moving your teeth, they might be painful if new or re-adjusted recently. But it is very much normal to feel this throbbing tooth pain, meaning it does not indicate any symptoms to worry about. If the pain is sharp, you can ask your dentist for some over the counter (OTC) pain relievers.
Cavities and tooth decay
One of the most common causes of toothache includes tooth decay, which can cause cavities. When the bad bacteria create plaque, they give off acid that makes holes in the tooth. Although severe cavities are visible holes, not all decays are visible.
Tooth decay can appear as small white, brown, or black spots on teeth. If you notice a hole in your tooth, it's time for you to consult your dentist. Your dentist will treat the damage by cleaning the plaque, filling up the cavity, and prescribing antibiotics.
Tooth abscess and infections
Throbbing toothache can also be a result of a tooth abscess or infection. If a cavity or tooth infection is left untreated, it can let bacteria settle inside the tooth. This kills the pulp within the tooth, leading the dead tissue to make a pocket of bacteria and pus, called an abscess. The tooth abscess symptoms include severe toothache that can cause pain in your jawbone, neck and ear, fever, swelling of your face or cheek, sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, and foul smell or taste in your mouth.
Your dentist will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection and may recommend cleaning the abscess. If the abscess is caused by a cracked tooth or severe decay, then these are symptoms of needing a root canal.
Injuries and fractures
A tooth injury or fracture can be a result of falling, biting on something hard, hitting your jaw or face. As a tooth fracture develops slowly over time, it creates a crack or split in the tooth. This may let bacteria, food particles, water, etc. into the cracks, causing irritation and infecting the pulp and nerves.
If you experience throbbing tooth pain and feel food particles sticking into your tooth, consult your dentist right away. He may repair the fracture using a dental glue, filling, or a veneer. Your dentist may also recommend a root canal or putting a cap on your tooth.
Damaged wisdom teeth
Wisdom teeth emerge at the back of the mouth, usually during adulthood. While they emerge, you can experience throbbing tooth pain. If the wisdom tooth is damaged or grows at a wrong angle, it can affect the nearby teeth. This may cause discomfort, which can be treated by pain relief medication or surgically removing the wisdom tooth as suggested by your dentist.
Sometimes a tooth filling can be damaged when you bite or chew on something hard or clench your teeth. You may notice that your filling is chipped or cracked. In some cases, the filling wears off or pops out too. This, in turn, can lead to throbbing tooth pain. Your dentist will repair the filling or replace it if needed.
Infection of gums is called gingivitis, which can lead to gum disease called periodontitis if left untreated. There are many causes of gum infection, including poor dental hygiene, smoking, hormonal changes, poor diet, diabetes, cancer and its treatment, some medications, or genetics. In a gum infection, bacteria build up around the root of the tooth, causing an infection in the gum tissue which leads to pulsating pain.
On consultation, your dentist may prescribe some antibiotics and recommend regular cleaning of gums to remove plaque.
Losing the enamel that forms the outer layer of your teeth can make your teeth sensitive. On eating or drinking anything cold or hot, you may experience a tingly feeling or even stinging or throbbing toothache.
In most cases, your dentist may recommend toothpaste to treat sensitivity, and in severe cases, you may require a filling or cap to seal your tooth.
Certain allergies, infections, or autoimmune conditions can cause sinusitis, which is inflammation of the nasal airways or sinuses. If you experience toothache with symptoms like headache, nasal discharge, blocked nose, it can be because of sinusitis. Your dentist may suggest antibiotics, lifestyle changes, or surgery as treatment options.
Bruxism is a condition in which a person clenches their jaw and grinds their teeth either when awake or sleeping. This can lead to throbbing tooth pain, which can be avoided by wearing a mouthguard.
What helps with throbbing toothache?
Toothaches can strike at any hour, whether day or night. There can be several reasons for the pulsating tooth pain to worsen at night, be it teeth grinding or due to rush of blood to your brain when you lie down.
Although it is advisable to visit your dentist on experiencing a constant toothache, you can follow some tips to soothe the pain at home when you can't see your dentist immediately. Here is what you can do for throbbing tooth pain relief:
Try rinsing your mouth with warm salt water
Floss gently to remove stuck food particles or plaque between the teeth
Virtually consult your dentist for an over-the-counter pain relief medication
Try applying clove oil to the affected area and gum
Place a cold compress on your jaw or cheek of the affected side.
Tips to maintain oral hygiene
Although you can never completely prevent a toothache, you can still try your best to maintain oral hygiene and minimise the instances of dental problems. Here are some tips for a healthy dental care routine:
Brush twice daily with fluoride-containing toothpaste and a comprehensive cleaning brush like the Oral-B's Vitality Series electric toothbrush. Its rounded head and bristles oscillate and rotate to remove more plaque than a traditional manual toothbrush. It comes with 2D technology and an embedded timer that help you clean your teeth efficiently in 2 minutes. It also vibrates every 30 seconds to alert you to change the area you are brushing.
Rinse your mouth regularly after every meal and use a dental floss if possible.
Try and avoid eating too many sugary foods.
Floss your teeth regularly to remove food particles stuck in your teeth.
When to see a dentist
If you experience a throbbing tooth pain that doesn't seem to go away, or you are not able to determine its cause, it is better to see a dentist right away.Although dental infections can rarely spread to other parts of your body, prevention is better than cure. So, if you notice the following symptoms, call or see your dentist to avoid any severity:
Pain that occurs on biting or chewing
Swollen face or gums
Redness of the gums
Foul taste or smell within the mouth
Difficulty in swallowing or breathing
Confusion or unconsciousness
Throbbing tooth pain can be a sign of a dental or an oral problem. Even if the pain isn't severe or doesn't turn worse, it is best to see a dentist. Avoid self-diagnosing the problem, as your dentist is the right person to examine and reach a conclusion. He or she might recommend some tests, medications, or treatment options to cure the reason for your toothache. In the meantime, continue using superior dental products such as Oral B’s toothbrushes to maintain a healthy oral hygiene habit.
Does a throbbing toothache mean infection?
No. A throbbing toothache can be caused due to a few reasons, and tooth infection is one of them. Other causes include tooth decay, tooth injury, sinusitis, bruxism, etc.
Is throbbing tooth pain an emergency?
Generally, if the toothache lasts for less than a day, then it may not be an emergency. However, if it's a recurring pain or lasts more than a day or two, it can be a dental emergency, and you may have to see a dentist.
Why does pulsating tooth pain get worse at night?
Pulsating tooth pain can get worse at night due to your sleeping position. When you lie down, more blood is rushed to your head that puts pressure on sensitive areas, like your mouth.