A toothache is pain in or around a tooth.
A toothache is often the result of dental cavities (tooth decay) or an infection. Tooth decay is often caused by poor dental hygiene. It may also be partly inherited.
Sometimes, pain that is felt in the tooth is actually due to pain in other parts of the body. This is called referred pain. For example, an earache may sometimes cause tooth pain.
A toothache may occur because of:
You can use over-the-counter pain medicine if you can't see your dentist or primary health care provider right away.
Your dentist may recommend antibiotics and other treatments, like a root canal for toothaches caused by a tooth abscess.
Use good oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay. A low-sugar diet is recommended along with regular flossing, brushing with fluoride toothpaste, and regular professional cleaning. Sealants and fluoride applications by the dentist are important for preventing tooth decay.
Seek medical care if:
Note: The dentist is an appropriate person to see for most causes of toothaches. However, if the problem is referred pain from another location, you may need to see your primary provider.
Your dentist will examine your mouth, teeth, gums, tongue, throat, ears, nose, and neck. You may need dental x-rays. Your dentist may recommend other tests, depending on the suspected cause.
Your dentist will ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, including:
Treatment may involve fillings, tooth removal, or a root canal, if the problem is severe. You may need to take an antibiotic for an infection.
Reviewed By: Michael Kapner, DDS, general and aesthetic dentistry, Norwalk Medical Center, Norwalk, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.