Is a Toothache Considered a Dental Emergency?

  Is a Toothache Considered a Dental Emergency?

If you count yourself among the more than 40% of adults who experience mouth pain each year, you’re all too aware that toothaches aren’t something you can easily dismiss. But are they actual dental emergencies?

They can be, says Dr. Meriem Boukadoum at 54th Street Dental. Take a moment as Dr. Boukadoum explains what constitutes a dental emergency and how you can tell whether your toothache means you should drop everything and rush to the dentist.

Dental emergency versus inconvenient dental mishap

When it comes to lingering discomfort with your teeth or mouth, or if a sudden, unexpected issue arises, it may be difficult to know when you can wait for a regularly scheduled appointment or need immediate care, regardless of the time of day.

Understanding the difference between a true dental emergency and an uncomfortable and inconvenient dental mishap can save you time, money, and perhaps a few gray hairs. 

While a damaged or lost veneer or Invisalign® tray, or a failing restoration like a crown or bridge, may seem like a dental emergency when you’re about to go on vacation, it’s mostly poorly timed and very inconvenient.

A true dental emergency typically involves trauma from a sports injury, vehicular accident or a trip and fall that knocks out one or more teeth or causes bleeding or other damage that threatens the viability of your teeth.

Common causes of toothaches

If you’ve ever had any kind of tooth pain, you know that regardless of its cause or severity, it’s never a pleasant experience. However, not all toothaches constitute a dental emergency.

 Tooth decay or a cavity

Sometimes a toothache means your tooth’s dental enamel has been breached and tooth decay is setting in, or your tooth has already developed a full-blown cavity and needs a filling.

Tooth sensitivity

At other times, the discomfort is actually temperature sensitivity to beverages or foods. Similar to decay, tooth sensitivity happens because of a breach or thinning of enamel, which exposes the dentin, the inside layer of the tooth which. Along with dental enamel, dentin helps protect the tooth’s pulp, which contains the nerves. 

Abscessed tooth

While tooth decay, cavities and sensitivity are most commonly addressed at a regularly scheduled appointment, a toothache may be a symptom of a more serious and painful condition called an abscessed tooth.

 An abscessed tooth is actually a bacterial infection in your gums, which manifests as a pocket of pus. Telltale signs of an abscess are a red, inflamed bump or pimple, often accompanied by a fever and excruciating pain that sometimes radiates to your jawbone, neck or ear.

An abscessed tooth is a dental emergency as it threatens the viability of your tooth. Dr. Boukadoum typically treats an abscessed tooth by doing a root canal. If the root canal fails to save the tooth, she may recommend an extraction to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of your body.

Severe or lingering pain and signs of infection

When mouth or tooth pain is paired with other symptoms like intense or lingering pain, don’t wait. Contact Dr. Boukadoum for a dental emergency appointment so she can figure out what’s going on and treat it right away.

Intense pain

Pain in general is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. If you experience intense, unbearable pain, that is preventing you from eating, speaking or carrying on your normal activities, contact us right away. 

Waiting it out is not an option because you could be allowing a dental infection to develop and lead to the removal of the tooth, or even spread elsewhere through your body.  

Pain lasting more than two days

Similarly, tooth pain is a cause for concern, especially if you haven’t had any recent dental work done like filling a cavity, or crown or dental surgery, and the pain increases in severity or lasts longer than two days.   

A fever, an earache or swelling

Another important symptom to look for when trying to determine if your toothache is a dental emergency is a sign of infection. 

Common infection symptoms include running a fever, experiencing an earache, or swelling. If your face or jaws are swollen and painful when opening or closing your mouth, this may signal that an infection is spreading. Contact your dental provider immediately.

If you’ve had an accident, are suffering from tooth or mouth pain, or are showing signs of an infection, don’t wait. 

Contact 54th Street Dental right away, so we can figure out what’s going on. We offer same-day emergency dental appointments to get you feeling more like yourself again as quickly as possible. 

Call our office in the Midtown West neighborhood of New York City at 212-333-3200, or request an appointment here on our website.

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