Tooth Nerve Damage: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Toothache is unpleasant and needs prompt attention to avoid further problems. However, when you have tooth nerve damage, the pain can be challenging to manage and requires a dentist to examine and treat the problem. So how do you know you may have wisdom tooth nerve damage, for example? Here’s how to recognise the symptoms and what to do.

What Is Tooth Nerve Damage?

Inside the hard outer layer of a tooth is the softer dental pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. If it becomes infected, it affects the nerves, causing severe pain. Tooth nerve damage can also occur as a result of dental trauma exposing the nerves. Therefore, it is essential to get prompt dental treatment to prevent further infections and to control the pain. According to the Institute of Health and Welfare,67,000 hospitalisations with dental problems could have been prevented by getting earlier treatment.

Causes of Tooth Nerve Damage

There are several ways that tooth nerve damage can occur: 

Dental Caries or Cavities

Tooth decay or dental caries occurs due to poor hygiene or medication that affects the health of teeth. Once the outer enamel has a cavity, there is a risk the pulp is damaged. As dental pulp contains nerves, when these are exposed, pain results.

Cracked Tooth

A cracked tooth exposes the inner layer of the teeth, including pulp and nerves. It commonly occurs from trauma such as being hit by something but can also result from biting a really hard substance.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding is another common cause of tooth nerve damage. The constant grinding damages the surface of the tooth, exposing the pulp and leading to infection and nerve damage.

Gum Disease

Gum disease causes many problems, including gingivitis. However, as the gums recede as a consequence of gum disease, they expose them to damage, including the pulp and nerves. The infection enters the tooth quickly, resulting in pain.

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is caused by sugar-rich diets and not cleaning teeth properly. As the enamel gets damaged and decays through poor care, cavities form, exposing the nerves. When these get exposed, they become infected and also cause pain.

Tooth Nerve Damage Symptoms

Nerve damage in a tooth is painful. If you think you have tooth nerve damage, there are a few symptoms you should look out for. They include:

A Dull Ache Near the Gum Line

A common feature of wisdom tooth nerve damage or infected nerves is a dull ache near the gum line. This usually builds into more severe pain if not treated early.

Discomfort When Eating

When you eat, pressure is placed on teeth, and if a tooth is weakened through decay, for example, it presses on the exposed nerves, causing pain. Getting help from a dentist before the pain becomes more severe or nerves get infected is essential.

Pain Following Exposure to Hot or Cold Temperatures

A common sign that nerve damage has occurred is a pain when exposed to hot or cold temperatures. Nerve damage after wisdom tooth extraction can also result in sensitivities. If you start feeling pain when you eat cold food, you should seek help from a dentist. 

Pain That Radiates Through the Mouth

Pain radiating through the mouth is a sign that more nerves are damaged. It is usually a result of damaged enamel exposing the pulp area and nerves, and it can become more constant in nature.

Treatments for Tooth Nerve Damage

If you have tooth nerve damage, it is essential to visit a dentist as soon as possible to prevent further decay and the nerves from becoming infected. There are two main treatments available.

Dental Filling

A dental filling is a common treatment. The dentist will examine the tooth and numb the area with a local anaesthetic. They will then remove the decayed parts of the tooth, before cleaning the cavity. Finally, the dentist will fill the cavity to prevent the tooth from being exposed to further damage and stimuli that can irritate the nerves.

Root Canal

If the tooth nerve damage is significant, it may be necessary to perform a root canal treatment. The treatment is more intensive than a simple filling because the damaged nerve and pulp are removed. The dentist then cleans and seals the cavity. You will be able to then use the tooth without experiencing pain.


Feeling pain when you eat something or being sensitive to hot and cold food can be a sign you have tooth nerve damage. It is vital to get treatment from your dentist before the problem gets worse and you end up with a painful and serious infection. Regular visits to your dentist for check-ups also help keep your teeth in healthy condition. Make an appointment with us at Bellevue Hill Dental today to discuss your dental needs.

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