When Is Tooth Pain An Emergency?

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We've all experienced tooth pain at some point, but knowing when it's serious enough to warrant immediate attention can be confusing. "When is Tooth Pain an Emergency?" is a question many of us grapple with when faced with dental discomfort. Whether it's a dull ache or a sharp, stabbing pain, understanding the difference between regular toothaches and urgent situations is crucial. 

In this blog, we'll explore the signs and symptoms that indicate a dental emergency and what you can do to alleviate the pain and prevent further complications. 

What is a Toothache

A toothache is a pain or discomfort that originates from a tooth or the surrounding gum and jaw area. It can range in intensity from mild to severe and may be continuous or intermittent.

What causes Toothache?

Toothaches usually occur when a tooth experiences significant pressure or trauma, often from biting into sharp or hot objects.

This pressure or trauma results in pain and irritation in the tooth and jaw area, leading to swelling or exposure to bacteria.

Causes of Toothache include:

  • Worn-out teeth:

Chewing on hard substances wears down teeth, exposing the root. This exposure can lead to infection or irritation by bacteria, causing swelling and pain around the jaw and teeth.

  • Tooth decay:

Inadequate daily brushing allows bacteria to thrive in poorly cleaned areas, exposing teeth and gums to disease-causing bacteria that cause decay and pain.

  • Impacted teeth:

Impacted teeth can cause intense pain and damage. They can lead to severe damage affecting quality of life and may cause decay and alignment issues. Addressing further damage caused by impacted teeth can help alleviate pain and restore normalcy.

  • Chipped or broken teeth:

Pain from chipped and broken teeth is common among both children and adults. Beyond affecting oral hygiene and eating habits, many individuals also experience pain and discomfort. Various factors can cause chipped teeth, including impact from a hard surface or a fall.

When is Tooth Pain a Dental Emergency?when is tooth pain an emergency

Dealing with a toothache promptly is crucial to prevent serious damage. But how do you know "when is tooth pain an emergency?"

The CDC advises that you seek help within 24 hours of a dental emergency. Important factors to consider are- the intensity of the pain, how much damage there is, and your overall health.

If you're experiencing severe, throbbing pain for more than 12 hours if your teeth are bleeding, or if you're running a fever or feeling chills, don't wait—see your dentist right away. And if you're unsure what to do in an emergency, reach out to your dentist's office for guidance as soon as possible!

Tips for Relieving Tooth Pain

How you handle a dental emergency can greatly affect your treatment's success. Here are some tips:

  • Seek immediate treatment for tooth pain or swelling.
  • Maintain good dental hygiene.
  • Take medication as prescribed by your dentist.
  • Avoid activities that may worsen the Toothache, such as popping or clicking noises.
  • Apply ice packs wrapped in a towel to the cheek of the painful tooth for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Contact your dentist promptly if there's no improvement after one hour of using ice packs or if you experience any symptoms indicating an emergency.
  • Reschedule appointments if you can't see your dentist within 24 hours.
  • Follow up with your dentist if there's no improvement after 72 hours of managing the pain.

What You Should Avoid Doing During a Toothache Emergency?

In a toothache emergency, some may feel inclined to try self-dental treatment. However, this isn't recommended as it can lead to more problems, such as spreading infection and worsening pain. Instead, opt for applying cold water or ice packs on your cheekbones to help reduce swelling in the affected area.


Understanding “When is tooth pain an emergency?” is vital for maintaining oral health. Whether it's persistent throbbing or sudden sharp pain, knowing when to seek professional help can prevent further complications. Don't hesitate to reach out to your dentist if you're experiencing severe tooth pain. Your oral health is too important to ignore.

If you're experiencing tooth pain and suspect it may be an emergency, don't delay seeking professional help. Book an appointment online with Springhill Dental Health Center, Mobile, AL. New patients can call (251) 265-7808, and all others can call (251) 343-1521.


How do I know if my tooth pain is an emergency?

If you're experiencing severe, persistent pain, bleeding, fever, or swelling, it's likely a dental emergency.

Can I wait to see my dentist for tooth pain?

It's best not to wait if you're experiencing severe pain or other signs of a dental emergency. Contact your dentist as soon as possible.

What should I do if I can't reach my dentist right away?

If you can't reach your dentist immediately, consider visiting an emergency dental clinic or seeking medical attention if the pain is severe.

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My visit was incredible. I had my “All on Four” appliances cleaned, and it was a painless and thorough experience. Dr. Scott and all his staff are very friendly. During the cleaning, Mary was gentle and let me know everything she was doing and how it would feel. She gave me tips on how to clean my implants/appliances better and gave me a small brush to do the underside more effectively. Dr. Scott and Mary suggest cleanings take place every 3 months so I will be back in December.

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Meet Dr. Byron C. Scott

Dr. Byron Scott is a highly-trained and accomplished dentist. He attended The University of Alabama School of Dentistry and subsequently completed numerous Advanced Studies and Trainings. Dr. Scott is Board-Certified by The Academy of General Dentistry and has earned Mastership status (MAGD), an honor shared by only 1% of dentists. He has numerous memberships and associations, including Diplomate status with The American Board of Oral Implantology (D-ABOI) and The International Congress of Oral Implantologists (D-ICOI). Overall, Dr. Scott has dedicated his life and career to helping patients improve their oral health through expert dentistry. His goal is to help each patient keep their smile healthy, attractive, and comfortable for the duration of their lifetime.

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