Tooth Decay, Tooth Aches and Cavities

What causes toothache & tooth nerve pain – plus useful temporary remedies, pain-relief & eliminating your pain!

Toothache is often a little bit like an iceberg; what you see at the top is only part of the picture, because it’s usually a sign that something harmful is going on nearby in your tooth or gums.

Toothache can be anything from a dull, aching or throbbing pain to sharp, severe nerve pain, commonly felt, for example, when you drink an ice-cold or boiling-hot beverage.

Sometimes, you may find that your toothache resolves on its own without seeing a dentist, but often, the problem will present again, giving you a not-so-gentle reminder that it’s time to see the dentist.

Smile assessment and resin bonding mockup

To ensure you’ll be happy with the result, first, we’ll get you in for a 40-minute smile assessment. Here, we’ll discuss any concerns you have with your teeth and how you’d like them improved.

Using resin bonding, we’ll mock up a temporary smile, which will last around 2 to 3 hours – just enough time for you to take a good look at the mirror, show your family and friends and be 100% certain that you’re happy with the look we’ve produced.

The procedure

The composite bonding procedure is completed in one session. We’ll use several colours to achieve a more natural-looking result. And, all composite veneers have a two-year guarantee.

What causes toothache?

There are several reasons for toothache. Here are some of the more common reasons…

Cracked/fractured tooth

Often, particularly with senior patients or those with silver/metallic fillings or large fillings after extensive repair work, a crack or fracture in the tooth can occur. This is even more common with ‘bruxers’ or tooth ‘clenchers’ as the constant tooth grinding can encourage a compromised tooth to crack. The tooth becomes more sensitive to chew on – and with temperature changes – resulting in a toothache. The best way to treat a fractured tooth is to see the dentist as soon as possible to stop the fracture enlarging.


If you’ve been involuntarily grinding or gnashing your teeth, this can wear down the enamel and make your teeth sensitive – and even fracture. Sometimes, bruxism can even cause crowns or fillings to become dislodged, which in turn, exposes the nerve, resulting in severe toothache.

Tooth impaction

Poorly aligned teeth may cause tooth impaction problems; however, wisdom teeth are the most common cause. Often, there is not enough room in the mouth the wisdom tooth to come through, which can irritate nearby nerves and cause pain.

Food or debris stuck in teeth

It may be surprising to know that food or debris stuck in teeth is a common cause of toothache, as food wedged between teeth can increase the pressure on the teeth, causing nerve pain. Therefore, if you see no apparent reason for having a toothache, make sure you brush and floss your teeth to make sure wedged debris is not the problem.

Sinus infection

Postnasal drip from a sinus infection can cause tooth pain, so if you have sinusitis, you may need to see a doctor for antibiotics.

Tooth decay

One of the more common causes of toothache, tooth decay develops when bacteria wears away the enamel in your teeth. Eventually, this decay will reach your sensitive nerve endings in your underlying tooth structure (dentine), and, without treatment, can reach the middle of your tooth (pulp).

Gum disease

Another common dental problem, gum disease is caused by the acid in your mouth, causing plaque, which sits on the tooth and gums. The plaque that sits under your gums, near your tooth, can damage your tooth structure and tooth roots, which causes your tooth to become wobbly and ache.


An abscess is a pocket of pus caused by a bacterial infection – often from either tooth decay or gum disease. The absence can be either on the side of the tooth in the gum pocket (periodontal abscess) or at the tip of the tooth root (periapical abscess)


If you’ve had a sporting accident or mishap at work and have chipped your tooth, this can expose the pulp – the middle of your tooth – to bacteria, which can cause a painful infection.

Losing a filling or crown

If a crown or filling has dislodged from your mouth, it could expose a nerve root, which may be extremely painful.

How to treat a toothache

If you are suffering from toothache, please call our dental clinic and discuss your condition with one of our dentists. They will then decide how soon you should visit our clinic. A severe toothache is often classified as a dental emergency and, therefore, should be treated as soon as possible.

While you wait to see the dentist, you can try the following remedies at home…

Keep your head elevated

If it’s nighttime, pop your head up with pillows or cushions or elevate the head of the bed to help avoid the blood rushing to your head, which can exacerbate the pain and keep you awake.

Apply a cold compress

Applying an ice pack or cold compress against your cheek – not directly to the tooth (which can exacerbate pain) can help numb the pain.

Gargle saltwater

Create a saltwater solution of half a teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water, then gargle around the painful area for at least five seconds.

Take over-the-counter painkillers

Providing your pain is mild, simple pain relief medication such as aspirin can help to eliminate tooth pain quickly. Only swallow the aspirin and don’t apply to the gums as acid can burn the gum tissue.

Avoid hot, cold or hard-to-chew foods

Toothache can make you extremely temperature-sensitive, so avoid extremely hot or cold drinks – or foods – and stay away from hard-to-chew foods as all of these will may exacerbate a toothache.

Toothache FAQs

Will toothache go away on its own?

Occasionally, toothache will go away on its own, particularly if it is caused by food or debris stuck in the teeth or by short-term bruxism. However, most toothache is a sign that something unhealthy is happening with your tooth, and therefore you should always contact your dentist.

What does a toothache feel like?

Toothache can feel like a dull, aching sensation or an extremely sharp, electric-like pain. Pain from a toothache can range from minor pain that only requires over-the-counter pain relief to severe toothache with throbbing tooth pain or swelling around your tooth or gum – that requires immediate and strong treatment and pain relief.

What can I do to make my toothache go away?

To make your toothache go away, see your dentist to find out the cause of the toothache, such as a cavity, abscess or infection. While waiting for your dental appointment though, you can help alleviate the pain by rinsing your mouth with saltwater, taking aspirin, applying a cold compress and keeping your head elevated.

Does whiskey help a toothache?

Using whiskey to help alleviate toothache is, unfortunately, an old wives’ tale. According to Dr. Matthew J. Messina, a dentist from Cleveland and spokesman for the American Dental Association, the idea of swilling whiskey for toothache has been around since wartime, when whiskey was considered ‘a panacea for all ails’. Consuming alcohol will temporarily relax you, which may diminish your pain response; however, it will not heal an infection or numb excruciating pain. Although alcohol has a small ability to fight bacteria, it won’t cure an infection – and there are better options to choose. Alcohol will also not work as an anaesthetic. So if you have a severe toothache, get to the dentist as soon as possible, as the longer you delay, the worse the problem may become. In the interim, take over-the-counter pain medication.

What causes a sudden toothache?

A sudden toothache can be caused by any number of things, from trauma (such as a chipped or broken tooth) to tooth decay, gum (periodontal) disease, an abscess, a broken off filling or crown that exposes or irritates a tooth root, among many other reasons.

Does brushing teeth help with a toothache?

Brushing teeth only helps with toothache when your sore tooth is caused by food/debris stuck in between the teeth, which can cause pressure on the teeth and nerves. However, regular tooth brushing and flossing helps maintain good oral hygiene, which keeps cavities and gum disease at bay and hence, helps avoid the likelihood of (which can exacerbate pain) can help numb the pain.

When should I go to the dentist for a toothache?

We recommend you always contact your dentist here in Wagga Wagga if you have a toothache. Typically, if you have a toothache that has lasted longer than a day or two, have severe pain or have an earache, fever, or pain when opening your mouth wide, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.

Will peroxide kill a tooth nerve?

Hydrogen peroxide will not kill to nerve; however, hydrogen peroxide can slightly reduce inflammation and kill bacteria. Therefore, it may be useful to swirl a dilute hydrogen peroxide solution around your affected area if you can see that you have inflammation or swelling.

If you’re in Albury and Wodonga & think you may have tooth decay or cavities, come in and see us ASAP.

Tooth decay is the softening of the tooth enamel, causing a cavity. Tooth decay is caused by plaque, a sticky layer of bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria feed off the sugar in your mouth, turning into acid, which gradually decays your teeth

How to avoid tooth decay

For the majority of individuals, avoiding tooth decay comes down to practising good oral hygiene, which involves:

  • avoiding sweet or sugary foods, or only having them occasionally – and always brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth with water afterwards
  • brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, and flossing at least once a day
  • having regular dental checkups, along with scale and cleans every 6 to 12 months (subject to your dentist’s advice)

The importance of a professional scale and clean

Although we can minimise the chances of tooth decay and cavities by avoiding sugary foods, brushing and flossing often, we still need professional scale and cleans to remove plaque and calculus.

Regular brushing and flossing help to eliminate plaque, but you cannot remove all of it without a professional clean. When plaque is left on the teeth, it hardens and becomes calculus, which cannot be removed by brushing or flossing and must be professionally removed.

Book An Appointment

We hope the information are helpful, to book in with our dentist for a thorough examination, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

Our Preferred Providers

Dr Stephen Jiang

Dr Stephen Jiang

Dr. Stephen Jiang is a highly skilled and experienced dentist with over 20 years of private practice experience. He obtained his dental degree from the University of Adelaide, where he excelled in his studies and received comprehensive training in various dental procedures. He also holds a PhD in medical and dental research.

Prior to establishing SJ Dental, Dr. Jiang worked in the public sector where he provided dental care to the general population. He has a passion for oral health and prevention, and he is committed to educating his patients on how to maintain optimal oral health.

Dr. Jiang has a broad range of expertise in all general dentistry, and he has a keen interest in oral surgery and complex dentistry. He is also experienced in both orthodontics and implant dentistry, and he is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in dental technology and techniques.

Outside of work, Dr. Jiang enjoys playing golf and spending time with his family and grandkids. He believes in maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and he brings that philosophy to his practice by creating a warm and welcoming environment for his patients.

Patients describe Dr. Jiang as a compassionate and skilled dentist who puts their comfort and well-being first. With so many years of clinical experience behind him, he is sure to provide the best care for the entire family. Whether you need routine dental care or more complex treatments, you can trust Dr. Jiang to provide the highest quality dental care while keeping your overall well-being in mind.

Dr John Xu

Dr John Xu

Dr. John Xu is a highly skilled and experienced dentist who has been working in the Riverina region and regional towns for the past ten years. He obtained his dental degree from the University of Sydney, where he received comprehensive training in various dental procedures.

Patients have always appreciated Dr. Xu's gentle and polite personality, and many have found him to provide excellent service for all aspects of dentistry. Dr. Xu has a keen interest in preventative care, root canal treatment, and Invisalign treatment, and he is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest advancements in dental technology and techniques.

Outside of work, Dr. Xu enjoys cooking, and he has worked as a Japanese chef in the past during his university years. He continues to pursue his passion for cooking in his free time. He also enjoys spending time with his young children and family.

Patients describe Dr. Xu as a caring and skilled dentist who puts their comfort and well-being first. With his gentle approach and dedication to excellence, he is sure to provide the best possible care for all of his patients. Whether you need routine dental care or more complex treatments, you can trust Dr. Xu to provide the highest quality dental care while keeping your overall well-being in mind.

Dr Louise Chew

Dr Louise Chew

Dr. Louise Chew is a highly skilled and experienced dentist who obtained her dental degree from the University of Sydney. For the past ten years, she has been practicing dentistry in both Newcastle and the Riverina area.

Dr. Chew has a keen interest in preventative dental care, cosmetic procedures, and Invisalign treatment. Patients appreciate her gentle touch and compassionate approach to dentistry, and she is dedicated to providing the highest quality dental care to all of her patients.

Outside of work, Dr. Chew enjoys spending time with her family, and she loves to travel with them. Her passion for exploring new places and cultures has taken her to many different parts of the world, and she brings that same sense of adventure and curiosity to her work as a dentist.

Whether you need routine dental care or more complex treatments, Dr. Chew is committed to providing the best possible care for all of her patients. With her gentle touch, compassionate approach, and dedication to excellence, you can trust Dr. Chew to help you achieve the healthy, beautiful smile you deserve.