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  • Writer's pictureDr. Radovan Rudik

Tooth Pain: How to Tell When a Toothache is Serious

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Toothaches can be very painful and should never be ignored. They can prevent you from enjoying your day-to-day life, so you must visit a dentist immediately. A toothache often indicates an underlying problem, and it's highly likely that something is wrong with your teeth or gums. Persistent tooth pain must be addressed, and you must contact your dentist immediately to schedule an appointment. Even mild pain must be addressed because the situation can quickly become serious.

What Does a Toothache Mean for My Oral Health?

This refers to general pain that is in or around a tooth. Minor toothaches can sometimes be treated with at-home remedies, while severe toothaches will require professional treatment. Regardless of the cause and level of pain, it is highly recommended that you contact your dentist right away to address the issue and maintain a healthy smile.

Symptoms can be minor, and you may experience slight pain when pressure is applied directly to the tooth. Toothaches can also be severe and cause stabbing, sharp or throbbing pain. Generally speaking, if the area around your tooth is swollen or the pain is affecting your ability to eat or drink, it is a serious issue, and the same is true if you are experiencing a fever or headache due to your toothache.

A toothache is your body's way of telling you something is wrong; you cannot ignore this pain. If you do not act right away, tooth extraction may be the only solution, and this is a situation you may be able to avoid if you deal with your toothache fast.

What Causes a Toothache?

In most cases, you'll know right away that you have a toothache because the pain will distract you from your daily routine, and it will be hard to eat or drink. Your dentist will examine your mouth to determine the cause, including tooth decay, damaged filling, abscessed tooth, fractured tooth, gum infection or an accumulation of food or debris stuck between your teeth. These causes can result in sharp, throbbing, constant tooth pain, and possibly even some swelling. In some cases, pain may only occur when pressure is applied to the tooth.

A toothache is considered serious if:

  • It lasts longer than one or two days

  • It is accompanied by fever, earache or pain whenever you open your mouth

  • It is severe, and the pain is excruciating

These symptoms will not just disappear on their own and may indicate an infection which is why you cannot wait and hope your pain will disappear. Your dentist will discuss treatment options after an oral examination and review your medical and dental history to ensure you receive the right treatment. Depending on the cause, your dentist may need to fill a cavity, perform a root canal or extract a tooth, although this will depend on the patient and the severity of their toothache. A reputable dentist will eliminate pain and do everything possible to save any affected teeth.

Minor toothaches may not require serious treatment, and the patient can try rinsing their mouth with warm salt water or using floss to dislodge trapped food particles. Applying a cold compress to the outside of your cheek can also help, as can taking over-the-counter pain relievers. For some, a toothache may be a slight nuisance, whereas others will experience debilitating pain. Regardless of your pain level, visiting your dentist is highly recommended because even minor pain may indicate something more severe. Whether it's a lingering ache in your jaw, a swollen gum line or a recurring but minor pain from a specific tooth, contacting a family dentist is always the best way to proceed.

A same-day appointment is recommended if you have a fever, ear pain, or excruciating pain in your tooth. If your pain lasts longer than a couple of days, it is a sign that you require dental care, and you should get to the dentist as soon as possible. Identifying the cause as quickly as possible is very important, and the dentist will determine the cause of your toothache and proceed with treatment immediately. They will eliminate your pain and restore your smile, and you will no longer suffer.

The type of treatment you receive to fix your toothache will depend on the cause, and if you have tooth decay, for example, your family dentist will likely fill or refill the cavity. However, if your toothache results from an infection, you may need a tooth extraction or root canal.

If you're unsure whether your toothache is severe, it's best to contact your dentist to schedule an appointment. Early detection can result in painless treatment; your dentist will tell you what they find. They will determine the cause of your toothache and will provide you with treatment accordingly. You don't have to wait until a toothache becomes excruciatingly painful to make an appointment, and you can contact your dentist anytime.

Toothache Prevention

The best way to prevent dental issues is to practice proper dental hygiene. You must brush and floss twice a day and visit your dentist regularly. This will help keep your teeth and gums healthy, helping to prevent the root causes of a toothache. Professional dental cleanings every six months will make a significant difference, as will eating less sugar and drinking more water.


Want to eliminate pain in your mouth? Moose Lake Dental will provide you with professional dental tips and advice. Our family dentistry will ensure you have a smile you're proud to show off, and we always welcome new patients.

We are proud to serve our community here in Guelph, and you can contact us at any time to schedule an appointment! Call (519) 341-1001 today!

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