Throbbing Tooth Pain That Comes And Goes: Causes & Treatment

If you have ever had tooth pain before, you will agree with me that it is one of the worst kinds of pain. Some even say it is worse than labor pain.

Pain is described as throbbing when it feels like a vibration with a steady rhythm. The pain is also described as pounding because it mimics a heartbeat. Often times it comes and goes intermittently.

If you’re experiencing or have had this kind of tooth pain before, here is all you need to know about the causes and the treatment. Don’t forget to visit your dentist immediately!

damaged tooth

What Are The Causes Of Intermittent Throbbing Tooth Pain?

1. Cavities

This is one of the commonest causes of throbbing tooth pain. This pain is usually felt more when eating something very hot or very cold.

2. Trauma

Throbbing pain from the tooth can also be caused by being hit on the tooth or the face by a ball, a fall, trauma as a result of an accident or being punched in the face during an altercation. This may result in damage to the nerves of the tooth leading to pain.


3. Tooth Fracture

A fracture is a crack or break in the tooth. This can happen by biting on hard foods like bone, a fall or getting hit in the jaw. This fracture can lead to throbbing pain if the nerve becomes exposed or damaged.

4. Damaged Filling

If a filling is too high, has worn off or cracked, it could cause throbbing pain.

dental filling

5. Grinding Or Clenching

Grinding or clenching down on your teeth can cause tooth, jaw and gum pain. These actions can happen due to stress, habit or can be genetic. This increases the chances of fractured teeth, pain, and cavities.

6. Gum Disease

This is also one of the causes of throbbing pain. A disease to the gums may lead to tooth decay, pus formation, or sensitivity which in turn can cause throbbing pain.

gum disease

7.  Sinus infections

There are air-filled spaces in the head region called sinuses. If there is an issue with any of them, the symptoms could mimic tooth pain. This happens because the sinuses and the roots of the teeth are quite close to each other.

If after a thorough examination of the tooth your dentist is not able to identify a cause for your pain, you may need to visit your general physician to rule out sinus infection as a cause.

8. Pulpitis

This is a condition in which the inner layer of the tooth (pulp) gets inflamed. Basically, there are two forms which are reversible and irreversible pulpitis.

Reversible pulpitis responds to treatment and gets better while irreversible pulpitis does not get better with treatment. Pulpitis may be caused due to an ill-fitting crown, tooth cavity, a blow to the tooth, grinding of the teeth which leads to exposure of the pulp and so on.

9. After A Tooth Extraction

Throbbing tooth pain can also be due to tooth extraction. After the procedure, some degree of throbbing may be experienced for the first few days. The pain depends on the degree of damage done to the surrounding gums and bone during the extraction.

tooth extraction

10. After A Root Canal Treatment

A root canal is usually done to fix a badly damaged or decayed tooth. In this procedure, the tooth pulp is removed and the area is then cleaned and filled.


A cracked tooth, deep cavity, or trauma to the tooth are some of the common causes which may require root canal treatment. Pain may persist for some time before it starts subsiding.

11. Tooth Abscess

An abscess is a collection of pus. For a tooth to be abscessed, that means all or part of the pulp tissue is “dead”. The pulp is the living part of the tooth which contains the nerve and blood vessels.

Once there is damage to the pulp as a result of trauma or a cavity, it could lead to an abscess if not treated quickly. The abscess formed could cause a throbbing pain that comes and goes.

12. Eruption Of A Tooth

New growing teeth can cause pain in the gums, jaw, and surrounding teeth, for example, teething babies, children growing new teeth and adults growing wisdom teeth.

erupting teeth

In addition to this throbbing pain, other symptoms you may have include
• Sharp pain on biting
• Shocking sensation on the teeth. Also called sensitivity.
• Gum or jaw swelling
• Pus collection in the gums
• Bad breath
• Fever
• Constant pain which may be dull.

Home Remedies To Relieve Pain At Night

Once you start to experience throbbing tooth pain, this means that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. Ensure you visit your dentist as soon as possible.

The pain usually gets worse at night so here are some home remedies you can try before you go to the dentist in the morning.

During the day, there are many distractions from the pain as you go about the activities of everyday living. Some home remedies that may help are –
• Sleep with your head elevated with two or three pillows. This will help reduce the amount of blood flow to the affected area.
• Brush and floss your teeth especially before bedtime, to get rid of any food particles that may be causing pain.

brush and floss your teeth
• Rinse your mouth with warm salt water
• Take over the counter pain medication like paracetamol or diclofenac to help to relieve the pain.

Relieving the pain is good but what is better is seeing your dentist so as to get permanent relief.

How Is Throbbing Tooth Pain Treated?

The treatment of throbbing tooth pain is dependent on the cause –
1) If the pain is as a result of a cavity, your dentist will fill the hole depending on the extent of the damage. If the decay is extensive, you may require a more complex procedure like a root canal treatment.
2) If as a result of a fractured tooth, your dentist may fill the tooth, put a cap or crown on the tooth or do a root canal treatment. If the fracture is extensive and the tooth can’t be saved, the tooth may be removed.
3) If as a result of a high, damaged or worn out filling, the filling will be replaced or repaired. You may also need a crown on the tooth if it has become too damaged to be filled.
4) If the pain is as a result of gum disease or infection, your dentist will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Treatment includes regular cleaning, deep cleaning (also scaling) and root planning to keep your teeth and gums healthy. In severe cases, gum surgery may be required.


5) If it is a new, growing tooth that is causing the pain, pain medication, warm water, and salt rinse or a gel to numb the pain may be used. The tooth may also be removed if it is trapped in the bone or damaging other teeth or the surrounding gums.
6) If caused by a tooth abscess, treatment includes:
• Antibiotics to treat the infection
• Draining the pus
• If the abscess is caused by gum disease, the gums will be cleaned.
• If caused by a cracked tooth or decay, then a root canal treatment will be done and if the tooth is beyond repair, it will be extracted.
7) If as a result of clenching or grinding, the exact cause needs to be determined so it can be treated. If the clenching is as a result of stress or anxiety, patients may require counseling and stress relief.

Wearing a mouth guard at night can help stop the grinding habit and also protect the teeth.

mouth guard
8) Throbbing tooth pain after extraction is relieved by prescription of pain medication by your dentist. This medication should be taken until your symptoms subside.
9) Tooth pain as after a root canal treatment is relieved by taking pain medication, good oral hygiene practices like brushing twice daily, avoid eating.

How Can I Prevent Throbbing Tooth Pain?

As with all other illnesses, prevention, they say, is better than cure. Tooth pain is a common symptom but it can be prevented. Since the commonest cause of this pain is tooth decay, good oral hygiene practices can prevent it.

These practices consist of brushing your teeth regularly with a fluoride-containing toothpaste and rinsing once or twice a day with an antiseptic mouthwash.

Also, reduce your intake of foods high in carbohydrates, sodas, sugary snacks, and beverages.

Visit your dentist twice a year for professional cleaning and also routine checks so as to treat any decay or defect before it gets worse.

After an extraction or root canal treatment, ensure you take your medications as prescribed and make sure you complete it.

In Summary

Throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes can be very serious and if the underlying cause is not dealt with early on, it could become worse and lead to severe complications.

How helpful was this post?

Since you found this post helpful...

Kindly share it on social media with the buttons below

We are sorry that this post was not helpful to you!

Let us improve this post!

Onyeka Mgbemere, BDS

Dr. Onyeka Mgbemere is a graduate of Dentistry and a licensed dentist who is passionate about the promotion of oral health education and prevention of oral diseases. She is currently undergoing her residency program in Oral medicine after spending years working at a Naval hospital. Her hobbies are watching movies and reading.