Is Severe Toothache a Dental Emergency?

Is Severe Toothache a Dental Emergency?

Toothaches can be annoying, distracting, or downright debilitating. Whether your tooth pain is mild or severe, it’s trying to tell you something. While you may be tempted to ignore the message, it’s important to contact your dentist about your tooth pain as soon as you can.  Depending on the type and severity of the toothache, your dentist may want to see you immediately for an emergency dental appointment, or you may be told it can wait a week or two until you can get in for a regular appointment. Take a look at these 6 types of toothaches, their potential causes, and which ones are generally considered a dental emergency


  • Sharp pain – Untreated cavities, tooth fracture, and broken crowns can result in a sharp pain when pressure is applied, such as while biting or chewing.  Although this tooth pain may not warrant an immediate visit to the emergency dentist, it’s important to contact your dentist, explain your symptoms and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.


  • Sensitivity to hot and cold – Tooth decay, tooth fracture, exposed tooth roots, worn or loose fillings, and recessed gums can make teeth sensitive to hot or cold food and drinks. Typically, the pain subsides within a few seconds, but if it lasts longer than 30 seconds or so after the hot or cold substance has been removed, it may point to a more serious problem. If your teeth are sensitive to hot or cold, it’s probably not an emergency, but contact your dentist to discuss your symptoms and make an appointment for an oral examination. 


  • Dull ache – A dull toothache could be a sign that your wisdom teeth are impacted or possibly a symptom of nighttime bruxism (tooth grinding). It could also mean you have tooth decay. Although you may be able to tolerate this dull tooth pain, it’s important to contact your dentist to set up an appointment in order to address the situation and treat the problem before the situation worsens and the pain increases.  


  • Pain from dental trauma – If you’ve suffered an accident or collision that results in dental trauma, such as a broken tooth or a knocked out tooth, it warrants a trip to the emergency dentist, particularly if there is significant pain or blood involved. Even if the tooth is knocked loose but doesn’t actually fall out, you should be seen by the dentist right away. 


  • Dull face pain – Sometimes pain that originates in the tooth radiates outward and affects other parts of the jaw or face. For example, a condition called dry socket can develop after a recent tooth extraction, resulting in orofacial pain. If there is no dental issue involved, face pain could be the sign of a medical issue that requires a doctor’s attention. If you experience orofacial pain, contact your dentist and explain your symptoms.  


  • Severe, throbbing pain – Usually a sign of infection, sharp throbbing tooth pain warrants a call to the emergency dentist. If the pain is unbearable or spreading along your jaw or neck,  the emergency dentist may ask you to come in immediately or may even send you to the emergency room. If the pain is bearable, they may ask to see you right away or schedule your appointment for the following day.  


These are general descriptions only. They are not intended for self-diagnosis. The best way to ensure that you get the right treatment for your toothache is to call Smile Designers at the first sign of a toothache, no matter how mild or intense. We’ll take the time to listen to your symptoms and evaluate the situation so you get the care you need as soon as possible.  


Toothache? Call Smile Designers today

Current and new patients are welcome. We offer a comprehensive range of dental services, including same-day emergency dental service in San Diego. Give us a call at (619) 222-6000 today.