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Which is more painful: Tooth Abscess or Childbirth?

SHD Blog-Tootache


Physical pain is a common human condition; it is a physical response to an injury or trauma, a way of your body letting you know that something isn’t right. Only in the rarest of cases there are people who never feel physical pain.

Jo Cameron, a woman from Scotland, UK, recently spoke out about her experience of feeling no pain - even when she was giving birth! 



The reality for most of us is very different. The way we feel pain can vary from person to person and in fact, recent research revealed that men and women often feel pain differently. This is due to different pain pathways and hormone changes in women. Interestingly, this has only been discovered recently as traditionally pain researchers always used male subjects due to their hormone cycles being more consistent.


Whatever the differences, the truth is the majority of us feel pain, to a lesser or greater extent. One of the most common forms of pain that many of us experience in our lifetime is toothache. So, when it comes to toothache, do we all feel it in the same way and what is your body trying to tell you with this pain?


If you are ignoring even the slightest of unusual sensation in your teeth, don’t wait for it to get worse! To find out more, read here about 11 ways to avoid a dental emergency


Toothache should not be ignored

When you experience toothache in Puyallup, you can be sure your body is trying to tell you that something isn’t right. When you have tooth pain, it can be hard to define exactly where it is coming from. You might feel it only on one side of the mouth, or it could be an occasional dull ache, or perhaps a sharp stab under certain circumstances. Check out our Mouth Pain Matrix that lists types and causes of pain in the mouth. Many people will tell you that toothache has been their most painful experience of their life, topping childbirth. So what is it about this type of pain that makes it so intense?


30-40% of all your motor and sensory nerves are in your face and mouth

There are nerves inside the root of each of your teeth. When you have a cavity in your tooth this may cause no pain at first. This is because the cavity hasn’t yet exposed the root of your tooth. Initially, you may start to experience some sensitivity to hot and cold. As this pain worsens this is a sign that the cavity has now exposed the pulp inside the tooth, which can become infected. This exposes the nerves in your tooth, which can lead to lots of pain. As a large percentage of your nerves are in your face and mouth (30-40%), there is often a more immediate and acute response than in other areas of the body.


Your tooth is a closed structure

Think of a time you stubbed your toe or banged your elbow or knee severely. You may have noticed that immediately after, as well as a pain reaction, the injured area also became reddened and swollen, showing up as bruised tissue. This is a natural reaction from your body to protect and heal an injury. Blood will flow to the affected area and swelling may occur as the body heals and protects the damaged area.

The difference with a toothache, is that your tooth is a closed structure with a limited blood supply. The tiny opening at the tip of the root and the rigid walls of the tooth restricts the amount of blood that can flow to the infected site. Where swelling does occur, in the surrounding gum areas, this causes pressure in the area of the tooth which can intensify the pain. It is more difficult for your body to effectively deal with an infection like this, which can lead to a tooth abscess.


What is a tooth abscess?

When the pulp inside your tooth becomes infected, if left untreated, this can worsen and cause a dental abscess. That is a pocket of pus that collects at the base of the tooth root, with no way to be expelled by the body. Dental abscesses not only cause toothache but also a pain in the jaw, neck and face, depending on where the infected tooth sits in the mouth. Patients can also experience fever like symptoms, increased sensitivity, swollen lymph nodes and in some cases severe swelling of the face and throat.


Different types of dental pain

Dental abscesses are often a result of ignoring dental concerns, niggling toothache and visible signs of tooth decay. If you sometimes feel a sharp pain when you bite while eating, but it goes away soon after, this could be an early sign of tooth decay. Equally, sensitivity to hot and cold that goes away on its own can be a sign of a crack or cavity that has not yet reached the root of the tooth. Constant, severe pain, often accompanied by swelling or pus and a bad taste in the mouth, can be a sign of a dental infection or abscess. The sooner you see a dentist about any dental pain, the more chance you have of saving your tooth and restoring your mouth’s health.


Will a dental abscess go away on its own?

In short, no - a dental abscess won’t go away on its own and actually it could lead to more serious complications if you ignore the pain. Dental abscesses can even spread to the surrounding tissues such as the sinuses. The underlying infection in the tooth will cause further issues and ignoring them can lead to toothloss.



When presented with an abscess, a dentist will firstly work to reduce the infection in the tooth and gum area, which will help to bring down the pain. Depending on the severity of the infection, oral antibiotics may also be needed to help the body to heal.

It’s important to remember that a dental abscess or severe toothache is often the result of a cavity or lesser pain that has been ignored and gradually worsened. Visiting your dentist in Puyallup as soon as you feel a niggling toothache can help to avoid severe toothache and abscesses, and even the loss of teeth. Why not check out Mouth Pain Matrix to see what your toothache may mean. 

Check out Mouth Pain Matrix



More painful than childbirth?

So is a tooth abscess really more painful that childbirth? This is perhaps an impossible question to answer, as pain is very much dependent on the individual and how they experience pain in general. There are people who have experienced both who say this has been true for them. Regardless of where tooth pain sits on a scale of body pain, it is important to know that it can be prevented and treated by seeing a dentist regularly.


If you are ignoring even the slightest of unusual sensation in your teeth, don’t wait for it to get worse! To find out more, read here about 11 ways to avoid a dental emergency


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Posted on: May 20, 2019 7:04:44 AM

Posted in: Preventative Dentistry

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