Toothache & Facial Pain

The whirring sound of a drill, the chair that goes back too far, the white napkin draped around the neck are all symbols of a dentist visit. You may want to avoid these, but toothache and facial pain are two reasons why avoidance might not be an option. Toothaches and facial pain may be related, or they may have separate causes.


Simply put, a toothache is pain in or around a tooth. This is due to inflammation of the pulp and can be felt as sharp, short pains. Sometimes the pain presents as a dull throbbing. The pain of a toothache could be the result of hot, cold or sweet stimuli in the mouth says Lisa Taylor, a dentist writing for When the decay of the tooth reaches the middle layer and spreads to the pulp, that’s the toothache feeling.

Facial Pain

The American Dental Association refers to facial pain as “pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth or headaches and neck pain.” Facial pain interacts with toothache because the joints and muscles for the jaw have an effect on how teeth fit together. Also, toothache pain can be a result of a problem elsewhere on the face.


Abscessed teeth, ear aches, jaw or mouth injuries, sinusitis, tooth decay or heart attack, cause toothaches. When tooth pain is the result of a problem in another part of the body, like an earache, it is called referred or radiating pain. Tooth decay is more commonly called cavities. They result from poor dental hygiene and have some hereditary link, according to MedlinePlus. An abscessed tooth is the result of an infection. Trauma to a tooth can cause toothaches, as well. Facial pain can be the result of problems with the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, which is the joint on either side of the head that is used during chewing and speaking. Other causes of facial pain include sinusitis, ear infections and headaches. Some TMJ problems relate to injury, dislocation or arthritis.


Treatment for toothaches and facial pain is dependent upon the cause. If a cavity is the cause and it hasn’t reached the pulp a dentist may be able to drill out the decay and fill the tooth. If an abscess is causing the toothache, the dentist may drain the pus and do a root canal or take the tooth out. At home pain remedies for both toothache and facial pain include taking a pain reliever such as aspirin or ibuprofen. For toothaches, rinsing the mouth with warm salt water on an hourly basis may relieve pain. An antiseptic with benzocaine, which can be purchased at most drugstores, can be put on teeth for temporary relief. If the TMJ joint is the cause of pain, a mouth protector can be used, as well as stress- reducing exercises and medication.


Contact a dentist at the first sign of toothache or facial pain, as the longer the conditions go without diagnosis, the more problems that can arise. Infections can lead to tooth loss, extreme pain and can spread to the jaw, head and neck. If a toothache also has a fever or trouble breathing or swallowing with severe pain, ask for an emergency appointment. The face and teeth share the same nerve supply, so when pain occurs in either area a full exam of both must be done.