Are Toothaches Dental Emergencies?

Have you ever had a toothache? If so, you are certainly not alone. According to the CDC, within the past year, more than 40 percent of adults have experienced pain in their mouth. Some people describe a toothache as a throbbing sensation in or around their tooth. Sharp pain when touching the tooth, or when eating, is also a common complaint for those with a toothache.

Common Reasons for Toothaches

There are many reasons for toothaches. Medical conditions, such as sinusitis or trigeminal neuralgia, can cause tooth pain. Cavities, gum disease, and an impacted tooth can also cause a toothache. Sometimes, eating food that's too hot or too cold causes pain in the mouth.

Other common reasons for toothaches include: 

  • Food getting stuck between the gum and the tooth. 
  • Biting into hard food or objects. 
  • Grinding the teeth. 
  • Clenching the jaw.
  • Getting third molars. 
  • Getting braces tightened. 

If the toothache is caused by a medical condition, the toothache won't go away until that condition has been treated. If, however, the toothache is the result of something like an abscessed tooth, it should be treated by an emergency dentist. So, whether the toothache is a dental emergency or not, depends upon the cause.

When to See an Emergency Dentist

It can be hard to know sometimes if your toothache is bad enough to see an emergency dentist. When a toothache is mild, taking over-the-counter pain medication may be all that's necessary. If the pain persists, however, you should see a dentist.

Toothaches are emergencies when the pain doesn't respond to pain medication or persists for several days. In some emergency situations, the pain may be combined with swelling in the jaw or the face. If the pain is excruciating, it might be an abscessed tooth.

Other symptoms of a dental abscess include: 

  • Pus coming from the tooth or surrounding area. 
  • Swelling or bleeding around the tooth. 
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing. 
  • Fever or chills. 

If you suspect an abscessed tooth, you should see an emergency dentist as this dental problem is caused by a bacterial infection. When left untreated, the infection could spread to other parts of the mouth, and in rare cases could even spread to the brain. An emergency dentist usually treats an abscessed tooth with antibiotics or a root canal. 

It's also a dental emergency if the toothache has been caused by an injury to the mouth, the tooth is cracked, or the tooth has partially been dislodged. In any of these cases, you should see an emergency dentist.