Throbbing Tooth Pain That Comes and Goes

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Are you experiencing a throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes?

Tooth pain is never a pleasant feeling, but sometimes people experience throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes, and they are not sure what is causing it. While the symptoms can vary from patient to patient, tooth pain is usually described as throbbing pain, sharp pain, and pulsating sensation in the jaw.

If you are experiencing tooth pain, keep on reading as we find out the potential causes and the best treatment options with your family dentist.

Why Teeth Hurt?

While most patients think teeth are solid and bony structures in the jaw, in reality, they have nerves in the middle that contain blood vessels and can transmit pain. This inner part of the tooth is called the pulp, and it’s usually well protected by the outer layer and enamel.

In some cases, when the tooth gets damaged, bacteria and oxygen come in contact with the inner part of the tooth and cause a condition called pulpitis. The inflammation process in the tooth can cause severe toothaches and pain that comes and goes.

Depending on the cause, the affected tooth can be treated with over-the-counter medications, better oral hygiene practices, and mandatory visitation to the dental office.

What Causes Throbbing Tooth Pain That Comes and Goes?

Throbbing tooth pain can be caused by various factors, but most of the time, the damaged tooth is exposed to bad bacteria and air. This combination can cause tooth infections and sharp pain in one or multiple teeth. While the pain might go away in certain situations, it’s better to take this problem seriously and find out what causes of throbbing tooth.

Here are some of the most common reasons for tooth pain:

Tooth Decay

Cavity or tooth decay is one of the most common reasons for severe toothaches and throbbing tooth pain. The enamel is damaged, and overall oral health is compromised by bad bacteria in your mouth. Food stuck between your teeth and poor hygiene cause bacteria build-up. Once the tooth infection is severe and the bacteria reach the pulp you will feel tooth pain and other symptoms.

Most of the time, tooth decay can be prevented with proper dental treatment and regular dental visits. It’s also crucial to act immediately because tooth decay will become more significant over time and cause an additional dental problem in your mouth, such as bad taste, sharp pain, and dull ache.

Gum Disease

Other common causes of throbbing tooth pain are infected gums. Once the bacteria accumulate around the gum infection, they can transfer to the teeth and cause severe tooth pain. Gum disease or periodontal disease is a severe condition that is not only painful but also can cause tooth loss and damage to the jaw.

Most of the time, gum disease is caused by poor oral hygiene, smoking, some hormonal changes, certain drugs, diabetes, and genetics. While many factors influence gum disease, you can prevent the most serious infections with regular check-ups and teeth cleaning procedures.

If you don’t react on time and get the periodontal disease under control, you can damage the dental pulp and experience sensitivity pain that comes and goes.

Cracked Tooth

A damaged tooth or tooth fracture opens up the enamel protection and allows the bacteria to enter the broken teeth directly and reach the pulp. A fractured tooth is one of the leading causes of why patients visit their dentist, and it’s even easier than you think to damage the surface of each tooth.

While enamel might be the strongest substance in our body, it’s still fragile if you have an injury, don’t take proper care of your teeth, or accidentally get a cracked tooth while eating something hard.

Depending on the severity of the tooth damage, you can experience tooth pain immediately or after some time. Again, the tooth fracture demands dental care, so don’t leave your pulp exposed and get early treatment.

Tooth Abscess

Severe infection can cause an accumulation of mouth pus and the formation of an abscessed tooth. This is one of the most serious conditions that can cause tooth pain, and urgent medical attention is needed to avoid further complications.

The bacteria accumulated when the tooth abscess occurs can be fixed with root canal treatment, abscess cleaning, and even tooth extraction. So, if you want to prevent a dental abscess, you need to pay close attention to your oral hygiene and sensitive teeth and seek treatment immediately if you notice swelling and tooth pain.


While it’s rare, the throbbing tooth pain can be caused by teeth grinding during the night. This dull ache is a result of constant tension in the jawbone and can even lead to a broken tooth and all other symptoms mentioned above.

Bruxism can be caused by stress, so pay close attention to your overall health and make an appointment with your wellness professionals if you need additional guidance.

Keep in mind that there are some cases of referred pain that look like tooth pain but come from a completely different part of the body. This is why throbbing tooth pain should never be taken for granted.

How To Treat Throbbing Tooth Pain That Comes and Goes?

Throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes is one of the worst sensations in a patient’s mouth, but considering it can be caused by a variety of factors, it’s essential to seek immediate dental care.

Here is what you can do:

  • Ease the Pain at HomeBefore making the dental visit, you can do a few things to alleviate the pain. Depending on the causes of the throbbing tooth, you can try over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or avoid sensitivity pain by reducing cold foods and other irritants.Some people use warm salt water to ease the tooth pain, but if the tooth infection is severe and you notice other symptoms such as tooth abscess, you need to visit the emergency room or your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Visit Dentist ImmediatelyWhile tooth pain can be caused by hot foods, different health conditions, and damaged filling, most of the time, it’s typically caused by severe problems mentioned above. If the throbbing tooth pain is persistent, you need to make an appointment with your dentist immediately.Depending on the cause of the issue, you can expect procedures such as root canal treatment, abscess cleaning, repairing of broken fillings, removal of wisdom teeth, or simple cavity repairing.In case you have a gum infection, your dentist might suggest scaling and root planing. This procedure deals with the infected gums on a much deeper level and can save your teeth in the long run.Considering there are many causes of toothache, always consult with your dentist about treatment options.
  • If you are experiencing severe throbbing tooth pain but can’t get seen by a dentist right away, read our articles on toothache relief and the best home remedies for toothache.


When Does a Throbbing Toothache Require Treatment?

Throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes can be pretty confusing for most patients. Because the pain is gone for a couple of minutes or hours, some patients believe the situation is not severe enough for a dental appointment.

While it’s true that throbbing pain can be caused by different things such as tooth fracture, gum disease, cavity, and other factors, it’s crucial to determine what’s causing the tooth pain and act accordingly.

This evaluation should be performed by your dentist, so don’t take any chances and schedule the appointment now.

What If My Wisdom Teeth Hurt?

Throbbing pain can occur when your wisdom tooth is emerging from the jaw.

This is common pain most people feel in their adulthood, as these teeth usually don’t have enough room to grow. So, if the toothache is located in the back of your jaw and you can see swelling, it’s most likely a new tooth emerging.

If you want to be sure, contact your dentist and find the appropriate treatment for your problem. Some patients can have all the third molars without a problem, while others need extraction to have a functional jaw.

How to Know if the Pain Is Tooth Decay?

Toothache can be caused by cavity or tooth decay, but it’s sometimes not visible to the naked eye, like tooth fracture and infected gums. So, if you have sensitive teeth that react to cold and hot foods, brushing, and eating, you most likely have a cavity that needs to be filled.

It’s better to react immediately and get the small cavity fixed if you want to avoid painful procedures such as root canal and dental implant.

It’s completely normal and common to avoid making an appointment with your dentist when you consider your problem to be minor, but keep in mind that slight toothache can develop into serious issues fast. So, it’s always better to prevent such problems with regular check-ups and excellent oral hygiene habits.

Final Thoughts on Tooth Pain That Comes and Goes

Tooth pain is not pleasant, but most people experience the sensation in their lifetime. While our teeth are built to be durable and strong, they are not indestructible. Even the tiniest organisms like bacteria can cause severe toothache and require proper treatment.

Now that you are familiar with all the potential causes of throbbing tooth pain, you can get the professional help you need and even alleviate the pain at home.

If you want to prevent tooth pain altogether, you should visit your dentist regularly and maintain the best oral hygiene with brushing and flossing. But, in case you feel any kind of discomfort and toothache, you should find out the cause right away.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.