Toothache and Gum Disease

Toothache and Gum disease

It is important to take care of your teeth and gums. Regular brushing is essential to maintain gum health. If you notice that your gums are red and bleed when brushing you may have gum disease.  This requires immediate attention. See below for more information.


Toothache is pain in the area of your jaw and face. It usually happens when the inside of a tooth becomes irritated and inflamed.

Causes of toothache:

  • Cavities - when bacteria in your mouth forms plaque, it breaks down the enamel of your tooth leading to decay. The nerves underneath are then exposed causing pain.
  • A fracture(crack) in the tooth:  often so small that it cannot be seen with the naked eye.


For toothache see your dentist as soon as possible.

While you are waiting to see your dentist, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen.  Do not exceed the stated dose - no matter how bad your pain is.  

Treatment depends on what is causing the problem.

If toothache is left untreated, the pulp inside your tooth will die and become infected, causing severe and continuous throbbing pain.

Gum disease

Gum disease (periodontal disease) is a general term given to an infection or inflammation of the tissues that surround the teeth.

When there is a build-up of plaque on teeth, the bacteria irritate the gums and cause inflammation.

Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease that affects the tooth socket.  This can make the tooth feel loose and, in some cases, fall out.

Symptoms of gum disease

Gum disease is not usually painful, but you may notice:

  • swelling and redness in the gums
  • bleeding gums after you brush or floss your teeth or touch your gums

Other possible symptoms include:

  • bad breath (halitosis)
  • a foul taste in your mouth
  • receding gums, so that more of your tooth is visible
  • sensitive teeth, for example pain when hot or cold liquid touches your teeth


If you suspect you have Gum Disease make an appointment with your dentist.

Careful tooth brushing and flossing will usually resolve the problem.

Within a few minutes of tooth brushing, plaque (a sticky substance that is made up of bacteria) will start to develop on the tooth surfaces. Brushing twice a day, removes the plaque deposits before they have had a chance to damage the teeth and gums.

Preventing toothache and gum disease

  • Keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible
  • Limit the amount of sugary foods and drinks you have. Have them as an occasional treat, and only at mealtimes.
  • Brush your teeth for 2-3 minutes twice a day (in the morning and last thing at night).  Use a toothpaste containing fluoride if your water supply is low in fluoride (fluoride is a natural mineral that helps to protect against tooth decay).
  • Use an electric toothbrush if possible (unless your dentist has advised you not to)
  • Gently brush your gums and tongue as well.
  • Flossing your teeth at least three times a week.
  • Do not smoke, as it can make some dental problems worse.
  • Visit your dentist at least once a year. Consider having your teeth cleaned occasionally by a hygienist.  If you pay PRSI you may be entitled to free check up’s and low cost visits to the dental hygienist under the Treatment Benefit scheme.

More information

Gum Disease prevention

Causes and treatment of toothache