How do I know if my toothache is an emergency?

June 21, 2022

Emergency Dentist in Huntington Beach - Toothache Pain

toothache pain relief in Huntington BeachHow much tooth pain is too much pain? Is tooth nerve pain an emergency? Should you go to the emergency room for a toothache? Can the ER do anything for severe tooth pain? What does a tooth abscess look and feel like? Is a gum abscess an emergency? Can a dentist pull an infected tooth? How do I find the best emergency dentist near me? What makes dental care urgent?

The most important thing to know, because it can be life-threatening, is that if you have significant swelling under your eye, below your jawline, are having trouble breathing, or if the toothache is accompanied by a high fever (over 101 degrees Fahrenheit) go to the emergency room. These can be signs of a life-threatening infection and may need immediate attention.

If the swelling is not life-threatening, the question of dental pain and whether or not it is a dental emergency needing emergency dentistry becomes more complicated. Dental emergencies come in all shapes and sizes, they can present with extreme tooth pain, no pain at all, or they can be cosmetic dental emergencies. Ultimately, you will need a dentist near you who works with dental emergencies because they will need to take x-rays and do several tests; however, a brief walkthrough of how the tooth functions can help you understand your situation a little more.

The first thing to know is that pain is the only thing that a tooth can feel. The only nerve fibers in the tooth itself are pain fibers so anything a tooth feels will feel like tooth pain and a toothache. When you feel cold, hot, or other sensations it is the ligament and socket around the tooth and not the tooth itself. So let me walk you through the process of tooth damage. When a tooth has a cavity, a small cracked tooth, you bite too hard on your tooth, or some other insult occurs to your tooth the pulp and nerve of the tooth will become inflamed and will be sore. This will make it cold sensitive, heat sensitive, biting and pressure sensitive, and just sensitive in general. The level of sensitivity and pain will vary depending on the person and depending on how bad the insult was but as long as the pain goes away once you stop biting or once the cold water goes away then the pulp and nerve is usually healthy enough to heal on its own. If you drink a glass of water and the cold shoots pain down your tooth and even after the water is gone the tooth pain is still there and lingers around; then the pulp is usually too far gone to save and a root canal is usually recommended where the nerve is removed from the tooth.

If someone was scared of the dentist or just didn't go to the dentist for whatever reason and just dealt with the pain the nerve in the tooth will eventually die on and will no longer be cold sensitive. Patients sometimes think that this means that they are off the hook and that the tooth fixed itself, but the dental cavity or cracked tooth is still there, the dental problem didn't get better, it actually got worse even though tooth pain went away. Now that the nerve is dead the patient will eventually get an infection in the bone underneath the tooth which will either cause swelling, a dull toothache, gum pain, a pimple on your gums or no pain at all. At this point a root canal is needed, or if the tooth is too broken down, sometimes a dental implant is needed.

The other main dental emergency is when your tooth cracks. If you hear a or feel a crack and you all of the sudden have extreme tooth pain, it hurts to bite, and you have a throbbing tooth pain, then the tooth most likely split in half and will need to be extracted and replaced with a dental bridge or a dental implant.

These are the most common dental emergencies that I see at my practice and the question of whether or not it is an emergency is really up to the patient. Whether you have a small cavity or a large dental abscess, the problem should be fixed as soon as possible since it is only going to get worse. The faster, a cavity, crack, or infection can be removed, the better. If you want to keep your teeth as long as possible, going to your yearly checkups is ideal, but if you ever start feeling pain it usually means there is a problem so call a dentist near you to get the problem fixed as early as possible. 

If you are experiencing any type of tooth related pain, and need to see a dentist as quickly as possible, contact our Huntington Beach dental office at (714) 848-4247

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