Nerve pain in a tooth can be distressing and often debilitating, striking when you least expect it and affecting your ability to enjoy simple pleasures. Whether it’s a sudden sharp pain when you bite into something sweet or a throbbing ache that keeps you awake at night, understanding the underlying causes and exploring effective treatments is crucial. This extensive guide delves into the complexities of nerve pain in tooth, offering insights and solutions to help you regain your oral health and comfort.

What Causes Nerve Pain in the Tooth?

causes of nerve pain in tooth southportNerve pain in the tooth, also known as tooth nerve pain, is often a signal from your body that something is amiss with your dental health. Several factors can contribute to this discomfort, including:

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is the primary cause of nerve pain. When decay penetrates the tooth enamel and affects the soft tissue or dental pulp, where the tooth’s nerves and blood vessels reside, it can cause significant discomfort.

Gum Disease

Gum disease, characterised by inflammation and gum infection, can expose the tooth root to bacteria, leading to pain.

Tooth Nerve Damage

Trauma, dental procedures, and decay can damage tooth nerves, resulting in intense pain. This damage interrupts the nerves’ normal function, causing them to send pain signals as a response to stimuli that normally wouldn’t cause discomfort.

Other Causes

Other factors contributing to nerve pain include cracked or fractured teeth, bacterial infection, and conditions that expose the tooth root, such as receding gums.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Understanding nerve pain symptoms in your tooth is pivotal in seeking timely and effective treatment. This discomfort can manifest in various forms, significantly impacting your daily life and overall well-being. Let’s delve deeper into the common signs indicative of this condition:

why nerve pain occurs southportTooth Sensitivity

One of the hallmark symptoms of nerve pain is tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures. This sensitivity is not just a mild inconvenience; it can be a sharp, piercing pain immediately upon exposure to extreme temperatures, indicating that your tooth’s nerves and blood vessels are affected. This reaction can stem from thinning tooth enamel or receding gums, exposing the tooth’s more sensitive parts.

Tooth Pain

Tooth pain is a broad term encompassing a range of mild to severe discomforts. When associated with nerve pain, this can manifest as a sharp pain when biting or chewing, suggesting damage or inflammation in the tooth’s inner layers. Constant, throbbing pain, especially one that doesn’t subside with over-the-counter pain relief, is another telltale sign. This type of pain often indicates that the condition has reached the nerves, possibly due to dental caries (cavities) reaching the deeper parts of the tooth.

Swelling Around the Affected Tooth

Swelling is a physical sign of an issue with the affected tooth. This swelling can be due to an abscess, a pocket of pus created by bacterial infection. The presence of an abscess is a serious symptom, indicating that the infection has reached the tooth’s innermost parts, affecting the nerves and potentially spreading to surrounding areas.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Poor oral hygiene doesn’t directly cause nerve pain but is a significant contributing factor. Inadequate brushing and flossing allow plaque and tartar to increase, causing tooth decay and gum disease, which can result in nerve pain. Dental caries, a direct consequence of poor oral hygiene, can erode the tooth’s structure, exposing the nerves and leading to intense pain.

Diagnosis by a Dental Professional

Identifying the cause of nerve pain is crucial for effective treatment. A dental professional will conduct a thorough observation to diagnose the issue accurately. This process typically involves:

  • Visual Examination: The dentist will look for decay, damage, and infection signs. They’ll also check for signs of dental caries and fractures and assess gum health to determine if poor oral hygiene could contribute to your symptoms.
  • Dental X-rays: X-rays are a key diagnostic tool that allows dentists to see beneath the surface of your gums and enamel. They can identify hidden decay, the extent of tooth damage, and any infection in the tooth root or jawbone.
  • Other Diagnostic Tools: Depending on the complexity of your symptoms, other tools, like pulp vitality tests, which assess the health of the tooth’s nerve, may be used. These tests help determine whether the nerve is alive and healthy or has been damaged by infection or trauma.

Combining these diagnostic methods enables dental professionals to tailor the most appropriate treatment plan, addressing the major cause of nerve pain in the tooth and effectively restoring oral health.

Addressing nerve pain in your tooth promptly can prevent further complications and ensure the durability of your dental health. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, it’s important to consult with a dental professional who can guide you towards the most ideal treatment options.


Treatment Options for Nerve Pain

Addressing nerve pain in the tooth requires a multifaceted approach that targets the underlying cause while managing symptoms. Here’s an overview of the treatment options available to those experiencing this discomfort.

Root Canal Therapy: A Closer Look

Root canal therapy is a critical treatment option for nerve pain that stems from severe infection or damage within the dental pulp—the innermost part of the tooth where the nerves and blood vessels are placed. The procedure involves several steps:

  1. Accessing the Dental Pulp: The dentist drills a small access hole in the top to reach the damaged or infected pulp.
  2. Removing Infected Tissue: Using instruments, the dental professional carefully removes the infected or dead pulp tissue from the inside of the tooth, including the canals that run down the length of the tooth roots.
  3. Cleaning and Shaping: The canals are then cleaned and shaped to prepare them for filling. This step is crucial to remove all traces of infection and prevent recurrence.
  4. Filling the Canals: The cleaned canals are filled with a biocompatible material, usually gutta-percha, which prevents further infection.
  5. Sealing and Restoration: The access hole is sealed with a temporary or permanent filling. A crown is often recommended to restore the tooth’s shape, appearance, and function.

Root canal treatment has a high success rate and can often save a tooth that would otherwise need to be extracted. By removing the source of the pain, this treatment can provide significant relief and preserve the natural tooth structure.

Comprehensive Dental Procedures

In addition to root canal therapy, several other dental procedures can effectively address nerve pain:

  • Fillings: For tooth decay that hasn’t reached the dental pulp, fillings can restore the tooth’s integrity and alleviate pain. The decayed section of the tooth is removed, and a filling material is used to fill the cavity, preventing further decay and discomfort.
  • Crowns: When a tooth is cracked, heavily decayed, or otherwise damaged, a crown can be placed over the tooth to restore its structure, strength, and appearance. Crowns also safeguard the tooth from future damage and can reduce sensitivity.
  • Tooth Extraction: In situations where the tooth is too severely damaged to be saved, extraction may be necessary. Removing the affected tooth can relieve pain and prevent the spread of infection. A dental implant, bridge, or denture can replace the extracted tooth, depending on the situation.

Managing Pain Relief

While awaiting dental treatment or in cases of mild nerve pain, several strategies can help manage discomfort:

  • Over-the-Counter Pain Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Always follow the dosage instructions and consult with a dental professional if unsure.
  • Cold Compresses: Applying a cold compress to the outside of the cheek can help reduce swelling and numb the area, offering temporary relief from pain.
  • Dietary Adjustments: Avoiding foods and beverages that trigger sensitivity, such as very hot, cold, sweet, or acidic, can help minimise discomfort.
  • Salt Water Rinse: Washing the mouth with warm salt water can help decrease inflammation and kill bacteria, offering pain relief and promoting healing.

It’s important to note that while these methods can provide temporary ease, they do not handle the underlying cause of nerve pain. Consulting with a dental professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment is essential to resolving the issue and preventing further complications.

Preventing Nerve Pain in the Tooth

reason why there's nerve pain in tooth southportPreventing nerve pain in the tooth starts with maintaining good oral hygiene practices. Regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups can assist in protecting from tooth decay and gum disease, reducing the risk of nerve pain. Additionally, wearing mouthguards during sports, avoiding hard foods that can crack or fracture teeth, and not using your teeth as tools can prevent tooth nerve damage.

When to See a Dental Professional

If you experience persistent or severe tooth nerve pain, seeing a dental professional as soon as possible is crucial. Early intervention can prevent further damage and alleviate pain more effectively. A dental professional will assess your symptoms, find the underlying cause, and suggest the ideal treatment to address your needs.


Nerve pain in the tooth can majorly influence your quality of life, but understanding its causes, signs, and treatment options can empower you to take control of your oral health. With the recommended care and preventive measures, you can minimise your risk of experiencing tooth nerve pain and maintain a healthy smile.

For anyone suffering from nerve pain in the tooth or any other dental concerns, Southport Park Family Dental is here to help. Our experienced dental professionals are committed to giving you the highest quality care in a comfortable and welcoming environment. Don’t let tooth nerve pain disrupt your life. Contact us today at (07) 5655 7688 to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards a healthier, happier smile.

Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.


What to Do With A Chipped Tooth? Is It A Dental Emergency?
what to do with a chipped tooth southport

Our teeth are unbelievably strong. In fact, the exterior tooth enamel is almost, if not harder, than steel. Unfortunately, teeth Read more

What Causes Teeth To Decay And How To Prevent It?
what causes teeth to decay southport

What causes teeth to decay? It's a question we're often asked when we inform patients that they need a tooth Read more

Can Broken Teeth Cause Health Problems? What You Need To Know
can broken teeth cause health problems southport

As family dentists, one of the questions we’re often asked is, can broken teeth cause health problems? The simple answer Read more

Tooth Fracture Symptoms — Everything You Need to Know
tooth fracture symptoms southport

A fractured tooth can occur for various reasons, including teeth grinding, trauma, and age. While tooth fracture symptoms can be Read more