Toothache: why does sugar cause tooth decay?

Written by: Dr Stefan Ciapryna
Edited by: Laura Burgess

Sugars, which can present in different foods and drinks, or in its pure form, feed harmful bacteria in your mouth. The reaction of these bacteria and sugars produce acids which attack the surfaces of your teeth. This disease process is called caries. This is a continuous daily process which we try to keep in balance. Endodontist and restorative dentist Dr Stefan Ciapryna explains the commonest causes of toothache and how dental pain is diagnosed. 

Other than tooth decay, what commonly causes toothache?

Toothache can be caused by various things apart from decay. Examples of these include a cracked or damaged tooth, a broken or loose filling, sensitivity, problems with your gums or gum disease, or even braces. These can cause moderate toothache. Sometimes a tooth can also become infected and this can cause swelling, which is known as an “abscess” where pain can be severe.

How is the cause of dental pain diagnosed?

Pain is initially diagnosed by the dentist asking you a series of questions, relating to what you ate when the pain is present, and what causes it. They will continue by checking your teeth to check for cavities or an abscess or gum related issues, and may even test the teeth with some cold, or ask you to bite together to check for cracks. Photographs of the tooth (or teeth) and X-rays are finally taken to pinpoint the cause of the dental pain.

Will root canal treatment always be necessary to treat toothache?

The simple answer is no. Nowadays, your dentist has various medications and tools to help entirely remove or prevent toothache. Depending on what caused the toothache, they may prescribe a special toothpaste to help with sensitivity, make a nightguard to prevent your teeth cracking, or they may even replace a filling. A root canal treatment is only ever needed if the nerve of your tooth is infected and this treatment removes bacteria from inside your tooth. 

By Dr Stefan Ciapryna

Dr Stefan Ciapryna is a specialist endodontist and restorative dentist who holds a special interest in restorative, aesthetic and endodontic dentistry. He is the clinical lead and endodontist for London EndoImplants.

Mr Ciapryna originally qualified as a dental surgeon in King’s College London. Following his undergraduate training, his pursuit of obtaining the expertise of advanced treatment planning lead him to work across several different dental sectors in recent years. He has provided not only domiciliary and community dentistry but also conscious sedation and complex dental general anaesthetic cases in both Bedford and the Luton and Dunstable Hospitals and Community Dental Services. In these companies, he introduced advanced aesthetic dentistry and taught many dentists how to provide high-end treatment.

Mr Ciapryna further obtained his Membership of the Joint Dental Faculties of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 2013, now being an active member of the Royal College. He went on to complete a postgraduate certificate in Contemporary Aesthetic and Restorative Dentistry in July 2015 and finally, undertook the four-year full-time specialist training programme at King’s College London Dental Institute, obtaining a dual distinction in both the Masters of Clinical Dentistry in Endodontology and Masters of Restorative Dentistry in 2019.

​He now lectures undergraduate and postgraduate students for King’s College London within Guy’s Dental Hospital and tackles complex multi-disciplinary specialist cases, including full mouth rehabilitations in conjunction with other specialists as part of his work within the hospitals. He travels to various practices across the south of England providing specialist treatment. He is highly skilled in the most modern endodontic microscopic surgeries, which he also teaches on postgraduate courses. Mr Ciapryna has always prided himself on his meticulous work and strives for the perfect result, and his patients are always thankful for his gentle bedside manner.

View Profile

Overall assessment of their patients

This website uses its own and third-party cookies to collect information in order to improve our services, to show you advertising related to your preferences, as well as to analyse your browsing habits..