Treating Toothache

About Toothache

Many things can cause pain for your teeth. These can range from mild, such as sensitivity to cold food and drink, to severe, such as tooth or gum infections.

Dental infections can potentially become life-threatening. If you have any toothache, please consult your dentist soon as early treatment tends to be more effective.

It is important to have regular check ups as most dental decay do not cause pain until they are very severe.

Dental health affects general health.

Gum disease, which is a chronic infection, is closely linked to diabetes and heart disease, due to chronic inflammatory processes.

Poorly controlled diabetes is often found with poorly controlled periodontal(gum) disease, and vice versa. Severe periodontal disease is linked to worse diabetes.

Other conditions linked with gum disease include osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and cancer.

Treatment of dental conditions have been associated with improvements in general health and quality of life.

Source: American Association of Periodontology 

Possible Causes of Dental Pain and Treatment Options

Please note that this page is a brief summary for informational purposes only and not meant to be used as a diagnosis. Tooth pain may also be caused by other factors that are not covered in this page.

Please visit your dentist if you have any symptoms, pain or issues as this may not apply to you.

Tooth Sensitivity

Symptoms: Short (less than few seconds) and sharp pain on cold food/drinks. In some cases, you may experience sharp pain when brushing teeth, or when cold air touches the teeth.

Causes: Acidic exposure due to frequent consumption of acidic(sour) food and drinks, or from gastric reflux, vomitting.

Brushing too hard can cause gum recession and exposure of the sensitive areas of the tooth roots.

Improper use of home whitening products may result in severe sensitivity and pain. It is safer and usually more effective to do whitening under the supervision of your dentist. Find out more about our whitening services.


Desensitising gels such as fluoride and tooth mousse can be applied to protect the tooth.

Gentle brushing, avoid brushing for at least 30 minutes after acid exposure (through food/drink or vomitting)

In more severe cases, fillings may be done to cover the sensitive areas and to protect the tooth against further abrasion and wear.

Tooth Decay or Cavities

Symptoms: Short (less than few seconds) and sharp pain on cold food/drinks.


Bacteria present on our teeth feed on sugar and produce acids that attack our teeth, causing breakdown of the tooth surface and resulting in a hole. With a high sugar intake in our diet, the bacteria produce more acids and tooth starts to decay.

Improper brushing or flossing habits will result in accumulation of more bacteria and more rapid decay process.

Often, tooth decay occurs in between two teeth. It may not visible to our eyes, hence we use x-rays to make sure we detect dental decay. At Dental Designs, we use digital x-rays for the lowest radiation exposure to you. Read more here.


Avoid sugary food or drinks. There are many ‘hidden sugars’ present in many foods, such as commercial fruit juices which often have a high sugar content.

Mild tooth decay without a hole can be reversed with good brushing, remineralising products and regular dental checkups.

When cavities are present, tooth coloured fillings can be done where we remove the infected area and place a tooth coloured filling over it. Fillings can stain over time and need to be replaced due to wear. For a long term permanent solution, you can choose to do ceramic inlays/onlays.

Cracked Teeth

Symptoms: Pain when you eat, can be sharp pain or dull ache.

Possible Causes: Decay or trauma that has caused the tooth to crack. Hairline cracks are impossible to detect with the naked eye and yet can still cause pain.


Cracked teeth in the early stages can be saved by reinforcing the tooth with a full coverage crown. The crown encircles the whole tooth, bracing it against biting forces.

If not treated early, small cracks will eventually become larger and may cause infection and pain. Treatment will be more complex, such as:

Severe longstanding cracks may require either root canal treatment or extraction.

Tooth Infection

Symptoms: Constant dull ache, pain on cold or hot that lasts longer than a few seconds that does not go away.

You may notice a small pimple/boil on the gum near the tooth that is hurting.

Possible Causes: Decay or trauma that has injured the tooth and caused inflammation in the tooth pulp

You may have an infected tooth with or without abscess. Please see your dentist immediately as these infections can spread and are potentially life threatening.


Depending on the severity, treatment options may include:

Gum Infection/Disease

Symptoms: Bleeding gums especially when brushing or flossing, bad breath, may have dull ache around an area

Possible Causes: Gum disease or periodontal disease that can be localised or generalised.


A through dental scaling and cleaning will need to be done to remove all the buildup of calcified bacteria (tartar). Dental aids such as chlorhexidine mouth rinse may also be prescribed. Oral hygiene must be maintained by the patient with regular brushing and flossing.

As periodontal disease is a chronic condition that can cause loss of the gums and bone which support the teeth, it is important that it is kept under control with regular dental cleanings will be scheduled to maintain the condition and prevent disease recurrence.

Wisdom Tooth Pain

Symptoms: Dull ache/severe pain/pain when eating. The pain may recover spontaneously, and recur again and again.

Possible Causes: Wisdom teeth, or third molar teeth, are commonly impacted which means they did not erupt into the mouth completely. They are prone to trapping food and bacteria, which causes infection and pain.


An x-ray is usually required to check the position and severity of impaction of your wisdom tooth. The dentist will then recommend options for extraction of the wisdom tooth. Surgical extractions are fully covered under medisave at our clinic.

If left untreated, the neighbouring tooth may become affected by tooth decay and gum infection and may ,in severe cases, become badly infected.

Bruxism (Grinding) or Clenching

Symptoms: Dull ache or pain in the jaw, either side or both sides, that can spread from the temple to the lower jaw. May be present throughout the day or worse at certain times.

Possible Causes: Grinding or Bruxism often occurs at night during sleep, while clenching often happens subconsciously in the daytime. It may be caused by stress, jaw position, teeth malocclusion


Therapy is the first line of treatment. A splint or nightguard may be custom made for you to protect your jaw and teeth from further damage.

If left untreated, the teeth tend to have more wear and are more prone to cracking, which can lead to severe consequences as explained above. As the teeth wear down, you may observe a facial change whereby the face appears rounder/squarer due to a loss in height of the lower face. You may also experience worsening pain the the jaw and surrounding face muscles.

Sometimes, grinding habits can be due to teeth being crowded or the jaw position, such as deep bite. We can take a jaw x-ray to confirm, and braces can often help treat this.

If you are experiencing any pain or issues with your teeth, please contact us