When Is Toothache an Emergency?

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Most people experience toothache during their lifetime, but pain is subjective, so it can be difficult to decide when your toothache warrants an emergency dental appointment. If your child were experiencing tooth pain, you’d already be on your way to the dental clinic, but when it’s yourself, you might hesitate and wonder if a toothache is a dental emergency.

It can be tempting to take your usual over-the-counter pain medication and power through, but doing this can worsen the problem and make it more costly to treat. Toothache is a symptom of an underlying problem and can’t be ignored.

Our dentists are available 24/7 and are experienced in treating all dental emergencies.

When Is It Considered an Emergency?

Trauma that causes noticeable damage to your teeth is an obvious dental emergency, but the signs of a dental emergency aren’t always so clear.

A mild toothache or pain that’s only felt when your teeth come into contact with hot or cold substances might not need same-day emergency care, but you should make an appointment to see a dentist to prevent it from worsening.

Dental pain can change from mildly irritating to excruciating surprisingly quickly. If you’re suffering from an intense, unrelenting toothache, you need to seek emergency dental care immediately.

What Causes Severe Toothache?

Toothaches can be due to anything, from a chipped or cracked tooth to gum disease, but the cause of severe dental pain is often a tooth abscess. A tooth abscess is an infection in a tooth or at its root. When bacteria gets into a tooth or to the root of a tooth, it can multiply and create a buildup of pus that results in a severely painful abscess. Untreated tooth decay and breaks in tooth enamel are common ways for bacteria to enter a tooth and cause this type of infection.

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth that damages the surface of your teeth. It’s usually the result of poor oral hygiene or consuming excessive sugary foods and drinks that allow the bacteria to thrive. The resulting decay destroys your tooth’s hard white outer layer, creating a cavity (a hole).

Dentists routinely treat cavities by filling them, but if left untreated, the decay can continue through the tooth’s inner layer to the tooth’s sensitive inner tissue (the pulp) and cause intense pain. Regular check-ups and dental cleanings can prevent tooth decay from becoming a major issue.

Recommended: How To Spot the Signs of Tooth Decay

Broken Tooth

A broken tooth from a fall or sporting injury is usually easy to spot and is often accompanied by bleeding and intense pain. A badly broken tooth can create a fracture that causes soft tissue trauma by splintering into your gums, tongue, cheek, and even your tooth’s pulp. When this happens, the pain is unbearable. An injury like this needs immediate medical attention so you can minimise pain and, when possible, save your tooth.

Fractures in teeth can also be the result of weakened enamel. This break might not be visible and can go unnoticed until the fracture deepens. If you can’t see any breaks in your teeth, but you feel an intense sharp pain that’s focused in one area when you bite into your food, you might have a crack in your tooth. This type of fracture might not require immediate attention, but you should see a dentist as soon as possible.

Recommended: What To Do With a Broken Tooth?

Infected Tooth

Tooth infections are characterised by throbbing pain and facial swelling, making it difficult to eat and even talk. Swelling from tooth infections can rapidly develop because the abscesses they create cannot drain. Feeling a sudden drop in pain followed by a foul-tasting fluid in your mouth signifies that an abscess has burst. However, this doesn’t mean you can forgo treatment or that your infection has cleared. Most infections are treatable through antibiotics, but further treatment is necessary for some circumstances. Without treatment, a tooth infection can spread to other areas of your body and cause life-threatening complications.

If you are experiencing severe toothache with any of the symptoms below, you may have a serious infection and need urgent medical treatment. If there is no emergency dentist in your area, go straight to the emergency room.

Symptoms of a severe tooth infection include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of your cheeks, jaw, and/or neck
  • A foul taste in your mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea
  • High fever
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Double vision or loss of vision

Recommended: What a Tooth Abscess Is and Why It Needs Urgent Dental Care

What To Do When You’re Experiencing Toothache

You should never disregard toothache. You should get any tooth pain checked out by a dental professional even when the pain is bearable, and there’s no visible damage.

If you’re experiencing an excruciating toothache, don’t try to wait out the pain; see a dentist immediately.


Several dental issues can cause toothache. Failure to identify and treat the cause of your toothache will lead to the problem deteriorating. The longer you wait to seek medical treatment for your toothache, the greater you risk serious complications like tooth loss, serious infection, or worse. When it comes to your teeth, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

If you’re experiencing a severe toothache, call Boon Dental now to get the emergency dental care you need.