Throbbing Tooth Pain That Comes And Goes: Causes & Treatment

Tooth pain can be very uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s throbbing and intermittent- you feel a pulsating pain for a few hours, then it goes away. It is usually a sign that there is a problem in the tooth, gum or around the mouth.

Causes Of Intermittent Throbbing Tooth Pain

1. Cavities

This is one of the commonest causes of throbbing tooth pain. A cavity is a hole in your tooth. It is often referred to as tooth decay. This pain is usually felt more when eating hot or cold meals.

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 or other types of trauma. This may result in damage to the nerves of the tooth, leading to pain.


3. Tooth Fracture

A fracture is a crack in the tooth. This can happen after a fall or after biting on hard materials like a bone. This fracture can lead to throbbing pain if the nerve becomes exposed or damaged.

4. Damaged Filling

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

5. Teeth Grinding

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

6. Gum Disease

A disease to the gums may lead to tooth decay, pus formation, or sensitivity which in turn can cause throbbing pain.

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.


8. Pulpitis

This is a condition in which the inner layer of the tooth (pulp) gets inflamed. Pulpitis may be caused by 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 pain 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.

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 intermittent throbbing pain.

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.

Additional Symptoms

Other symptoms that may accompany a throbbing toothache include:

  • Sharp pain on biting
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Gum or jaw swelling
  • Pus collection in the gums
  • Bad breath
  • Fever

When To See a Dentist

Once you start to experience intermittent 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 ways to ease the pain before you get to the dentist.

  • 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.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater
  • Take over the counter pain medication like paracetamol or diclofenac to help to relieve the pain.


The treatment is dependent on the cause:

  • If the pain is 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, a deep cleaning (also scaling) and root planning to keep your teeth and gums healthy. In severe cases, gum surgery may be required.
  • 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.
  • If caused by a tooth abscess, antibiotics will be prescribed to treat the infection and the pus will be drained
  • If the abscess is caused by gum disease, the gums will be cleaned.
  • If as a result of tooth clenching or grinding, the exact cause needs to be determined so it can be treated. If clenching is 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.
  • Throbbing tooth pain after extraction is relieved by prescription of pain medication by your dentist. This medication should be taken until your symptoms subside.
  • Tooth pain as after a root canal treatment is relieved by taking pain medication, good oral hygiene practices like brushing twice daily, avoid eating.


Brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoride-containing toothpaste and floss the spaces in between your teeth daily.

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.

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