My Tooth Hurts. When Should I Be Concerned?

Tooth pain is a fairly common condition. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 40% of adults experience some sort of mouth pain annually. Many sufferers can chalk it up to a recent dental procedure, with the discomfort subsiding after a day or so. 

But how do you know if your tooth pain is a symptom of a more serious condition? Some key symptoms can accompany tooth pain, says our own Dr. Meriem Boukadoum here at 54th Street Dental. Take a moment as Dr. Boukadoum offers her advice on when you should contact us about a toothache.

Common causes of tooth pain

A great starting point is to run down some of the most common causes of tooth pain.

Tooth sensitivity

Sometimes tooth pain is actually sensitivity to cold or hot beverages or foods. Tooth sensitivity may stem from the thinning out of enamel, which exposes the inside layer of a tooth, known as dentin. An injury as well as overbrushing can lead to tooth sensitivity.  

Cavity or failing crown

At other times, tooth pain may be a symptom of tooth decay or a failing restoration like a dental crown. 

In these cases, similar to tooth sensitivity, the outer enamel layer is breached, exposing the dentin layer as well as the next layer, the pulp. The pulp is even more sensitive; it’s where blood vessels and nerves are located. 

Abscessed tooth

A more serious and much more painful condition is an abscessed tooth, which is a bacterial infection. If you’ve experienced an abscessed tooth, you know the pain alone is enough motivation to get to the dentist right away. 

The common treatment for an abscessed tooth is a root canal. If this procedure fails to save the tooth, you may need an extraction.

A severe toothache

Knowing the difference between tooth pain or discomfort and a toothache that requires immediate attention is all about severity, longevity, and accompanying symptoms. As is the case elsewhere in your body, pain is a sign of a problem, perhaps due to an infection, injury or severe strain.

If you experience severe, unbearable pain, contact your dentist right away, whether it’s during regular hours or after hours, for an emergency dental visit. Waiting can mean saving your tooth — or perhaps your life if a dental infection is allowed to spread throughout your body.  

A good rule of thumb in judging tooth pain is if it grows in severity and lasts longer than a couple days. This is especially true if you haven’t had any recent restorative work like filling a cavity, getting a crown, or having dental surgery.

You experience a fever, an earache or swelling

A telltale sign of an infection is running a fever, which signals that your body is working hard to combat some foreign presence. Similarly, face or jaw swelling or pain when you open your mouth may mean that the infection is spreading. Contact your dentist right away.

If you’re experiencing tooth pain, contact 54th Street Dental by using the online booking tool to request an appointment, or call our office in the Midtown West neighborhood of New York City at 212-333-3200.  

Our caring, experienced team diagnoses the issue, helps relieve your pain, and gets you back to feeling more like yourself again.

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