the Australian Dental Association
Written by the Australian Dental Association, Feb 24, 2023
Fact Checked

A toothache or tooth pain can come from a tooth in the mouth or the area around a tooth. There are different causes for toothaches and tooth pain. Treatment will depend on what is causing the toothache.

Here are three possible causes for a toothache.

1. Tooth decay

If tooth decay is not treated, it can continue to spread deeper into the tooth. As it gets deeper, it is more likely to cause pain. Early signs of tooth decay may include discomfort to sweet or cold foods and drinks. Pain to hot foods and drinks may be a sign of severe tooth decay. If tooth decay travels into the nerve at the centre of the tooth, it can cause an infection and a toothache.


2. Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth may cause pain when they are pushing into the mouth. When the tooth is sitting only partly in the mouth, it can be difficult to keep clean. This can cause bacteria to build up and may lead to inflammation, infection and/or pain.


3. Broken tooth

Teeth can break for lots of reasons. Tooth decay can cause teeth to break. The tooth decay takes away the strong tooth structure and causes the tooth to become weak and break.
Teeth can also break from biting on hard items. Common causes can include hard lollies, chocolate that has been kept in the fridge, nuts, popcorn kernels, pork crackling, and olive seeds. Opening items using your teeth can also cause them to break. If tooth enamel breaks away, the dentine layer inside the enamel can be open to the mouth. This may cause pain or make the tooth sensitive. 


What do I do if I have a toothache?

If you have a toothache, it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible. The best thing you can do is have that cause of the pain treated. Pain relief medication may help until you see the dentist. If you do not have a regular dentist, you can find one using the Australian Dental Association’s Find A Dentist search tool.

Read here about why you may not need antibiotics for your toothache.