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Is a Severe Toothache Considered a Dental Emergency?

Feb 01, 2023
Is a Severe Toothache Considered a Dental Emergency?
A severe toothache is often a sign of a serious dental problem that requires prompt expert evaluation and care. Here’s why severe tooth pain shouldn’t wait for a regularly scheduled appointment.

A toothache — or persistent pain in or around a specific tooth — can have many potential causes, ranging from trapped food particles and gum tissue irritation to fractured enamel and a root-inflaming dental infection.

While most minor toothaches are the product of a temporary issue, you can readily resolve on your own, a severe toothache is usually a symptom of a serious dental problem that requires prompt expert evaluation and care.

As experienced family dentists who offer same-day emergency dentistry visits at Hazel Dell Dentistry in Carmel, Indiana, Dr. Suzette Nikas and Dr. Chelsea Laucher want you to know that a severe toothache shouldn’t wait for a regularly scheduled appointment.

Here, we explore common causes of severe dental pain and explain why prompt, professional assessment and treatment are so crucial. 

Common signs of a severe toothache

Beneath your tooth’s durable enamel exterior is a slightly softer dentin layer that surrounds and protects its tender pulpy center. The supple pulp inside each tooth contains blood vessels and dental nerves, which are among the most sensitive nerves in your body. 

When dental nerves are irritated or infected by bacteria, they can trigger severe tooth pain. It may be: 

  • Sharp, throbbing, or continuous 
  • Come and go intermittently 
  • Occur only with pressure (chewing) 

A severe toothache is commonly accompanied by one or more of the following:

  • A low-grade fever or mild headache
  • Gum redness and swelling around the affected tooth
  • A foul mouth odor that isn’t normal bad breath
  • Vile-tasting drainage from the affected tooth

Anytime you have trouble breathing or swallowing along with a severe toothache, call our office right away. These symptoms may signify a tooth infection (abscess) that has begun spreading to deeper tissues.

Possible causes of a severe toothache

A severe and relentless toothache has many possible causes, requiring timely professional care. At Hazel Dell Dentistry, the most common reasons we see for unrelenting dental pain are:

  • Untreated tooth decay that has spread to the pulp
  • Fractured or cracked tooth enamel (broken tooth)
  • A damaged filling that exposed the pulpy interior
  • Tooth abscess (bacterial infection in the pulpy core)
  • Infected and inflamed gums (periodontal disease)
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding that erodes the chewing surface)

Sometimes, severe dental pain is caused by the partial eruption of an impacted wisdom tooth.

Severe oral pain requires urgent care 

Whether it’s a sign of deep decay, a loose filling, cracked enamel, or food particles stuck below the gum line, a severe toothache always warrants a trip to our office, and here’s why:

  • Infection is present in a significant number of severe toothache cases
  • A tooth abscess won’t go away on its own — it requires antibiotic treatment
  • Untreated dental infections can easily spread to deeper oral tissues 
  • A lingering infection can spread to your body and cause life-threatening sepsis

Even if a bacterial infection isn’t present at the start, virtually everything that can cause a severe toothache — from deep decay and damaged enamel to an impaired restoration (filling or crown) and gum disease — increases your likelihood of developing an infection for as long as the problem remains untreated.

Coming to our office ASAP helps ensure you receive the prompt diagnosis and expert care you need to resolve the problem, end your dental pain, and protect your long-term oral health.

Steps to take before reaching our office

If you’ve got a severe toothache, there are a few things you can do to ease your pain before you reach our office. After securing your same-day urgent care appointment with our team, you can try the following:

  • Gently swishing with warm water to soothe the affected area 
  • Holding a cold compress over the area for extra relief
  • Taking an anti-inflammatory pain reliever (but avoid aspirin)

A severe toothache is nothing short of a dental emergency. If you’re experiencing on, call or click online to book a same-day appointment at Hazel Hill Dentistry in Carmel, Indiana, today. We’re here to help!