Toothache - Treatment

Authored by Dr Ben Williams, 19 May 2017

Reviewed by:
Dr Hayley Willacy, 19 May 2017

Treatment for reversible pulpitis involves protecting the pulp from whatever was causing it to become inflamed. This usually involves the removal of tooth decay (dental caries) or any damaged fillings, followed by the placement of a new filling.

If a dentist has doubts about the pulp's chances of recovery then a temporary filling might be appropriate. The status of the pulp can be reassessed after some time to ensure that it has healed before a permanent filling is placed. If the pulp has not healed or the symptoms have increased then your tooth may need to undergo treatment for irreversible pulpitis (see below)

If the pulpitis was caused by a crack in a tooth it may be necessary to modify the site of the crack before replacing a filling or a crown, to prevent the tooth cracking in half.

After placement of a filling, it may take several days for the symptoms of reversible pulpitis to subside. Your dentist will advise you how to prevent further pulp irritation while it is healing. He/she may also prescribe medication for the pain and to help reduce inflammation within the pulp.

If the pulpitis was caused by a previous deep filling or tooth sensitivity due to gum recession, your dentist will advise you how to protect the tooth and avoid irritating the pulp to give it a chance to heal by itself. Special varnishes and protective coatings might help to reduce the symptoms, along with painkillers if your dentist recommends them.

Treatment for irreversible pulpitis consists of two main options. The same options apply for a tooth with a pulp that has died due to tooth decay (dental caries) or trauma.

  • Root canal treatment: this involves removal of the dying pulp, disinfecting and shaping the space inside the tooth and placing a specialised root filling material to prevent further infection of the pulp space. This procedure is often carried out over two appointments approximately two weeks apart.
  • Extraction of the painful tooth: this option might be necessary if there is not enough of the tooth remaining, after decay removal, to support a filling.

The best way to avoid toothache is by attending routine dental inspections, maintaining a careful oral hygiene routine and reducing your intake of sugary foods and drinks that cause tooth decay (dental caries). For detailed oral hygiene and diet advice, speak to a member of the dental team.

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