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Throbbing Tooth Pain That Comes And Goes - What To Do

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Are you having tooth pain that throbs spontaneously but comes and goes away on its own? One moment it will bother you and you can't ignore it but then it just disappears. However, it returns with a vengeance a few hours later. Is that normal or does it need to be looked at by a dentist?

Surely you can't be thinking that this will go away on its own did you? We're here to tell you what can be causing it and what you should do about it.

Throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes

Table of Contents:

Why is your tooth randomly throbbing?

If you are having throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes, it means that the nerve of the tooth is either infected or severely inflamed. That throbbing sensation is your body's way of sending you a signal that something unhealthy is going on with your tooth.

The pain will come and go because it serves as a periodic reminder that you should have the tooth looked at. The pain will feel like a heartbeat that is pulsating. Do not ignore it just because it goes away sometimes. We can guarantee that it will come back and most times, it comes back fiercer than ever.

What are the causes of throbbing tooth pain?

The throbbing tooth pain is a result of pulpitis, which means inflammation of the tooth nerve. The nerve inflammation may or may not be accompanied by an infection or an abscess. It all depends on the specific cause of the nerve inflammation.

A cavity that has reached the nerve

The most common cause of the throbbing is a big cavity that has gotten into the nerve. The bacteria in the tooth decay is eating away at your pulp so your body is sending you pain signals for help.

Cavity into nerve - small red dot is the pulp
Cavity into nerve - small red dot is the pulp

A tooth fracture into the nerve

If you chipped a tooth or fractured it badly enough, it may involve the pulp. The fracture will cause severe pulp inflammation, which will give you a sporadic throbbing sensation. A small chip on a tooth will usually not cause any pain because it is not close to the nerve.

tooth fractured down to gum line
tooth fractured down to gum line

An abscess in the bone

If the tooth decay has gotten past the pulp and into the bone, it can turn into an abscess. If the abscess is growing inside of the bone, you can feel it swelling up. The pain that you feel from it may throb.

Abscess in bone
Abscess in bone - big dark circle

An infection in the gums

Sometimes the abscess in the bone can spread outwards and into the gum, causing the gums to swell up. The gum swelling is an infection and that will cause you pain.

gum infection
gum infection

A large cavity filling that is close to the nerve

You can get pulpitis even if the cavity filling didn't get into the nerve. The reason is because your nerve likes its own personal space. If the tooth filling is placed too close to the pulp, it can get very irritated and start throbbing to let you know that the filling is too close.

Does the throbbing pain mean that you have a tooth infection?

The throbbing tooth pain definitely means that the tooth nerve is inflamed but it may or may not have a full blown infection. You have no way of telling unless you get it checked out by your dentist.

  • If there is no swelling or abscess present, then it is simply pulpitis or pulp inflammation.

  • If there is an abscess then we would classify it as an infection.

Regardless of it being a tooth infection or not, the throbbing definitively means that the tooth needs help and it needs treatment by a dentist.

How to relieve throbbing tooth pain.

There is no home remedy that will relieve a throbbing tooth pain because even anesthesiologists who have access to the most potent painkillers still come in as emergency patient to the dentist. Our dentists in long island city have seen this on multiple occasions and only we can help you get some pain relief for your toothache.

There are only two ways to get relief for a throbbing toothache and that is to either remove the nerve or remove the entire tooth along with the nerve. Both ways will kill the tooth pain nerve.

Root canal

The source of the throbbing is coming from the inflamed nerve and your dentist can remove the entire nerve with a procedure called a root canal. If the pulp is gone, then it would no longer be possible for you to feel any pain. This is what a root canal looks like afterwards.

Completed root canal
Completed root canal

Tooth extraction

This is the more drastic treatment for treating the source of the toothache. Instead of removing just the nerve, your dentist can remove the entire tooth along with the nerve and that procedure is called a tooth extraction. This method ensures that no infected nerve remains in your mouth.

As you can see, it is simply impossible for you to remove the nerve or remove the tooth by yourself at home. In fact, even antibiotics alone won't get rid of this tooth infection. The only way to relieve this toothache is by making an appointment with your dentist. Our emergency dentists on staff can help take you out of pain.

The point that we want to emphasize is that you should probably skip the home remedies and go straight to the dentist. It makes no sense in trying to wait it out because you're only causing yourself more pain.


David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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