When a Toothache Is a Dental Emergency

A brunette woman wearing a blue shirt touches her cheek due to a toothache and cringes in pain

Have you ever been afflicted by a terrible pain in your tooth or jaw? If you have, you know that a toothache can be absolutely debilitating. It is critical to not ignore a toothache because it is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Although toothaches vary in severity, many can develop into a serious infection if left untreated. Severe tooth infections can spread to other areas of the body, such as the lungs, brain, and heart, causing systemic complications that are much more difficult to treat. Here, we explain the common causes of toothaches and when you should seek emergency dental care.

6 Toothache Causes

  1. Teething
  2. Your child’s toothache may simply be their baby or adult teeth filling in. Children between six months and three years old whose baby teeth are emerging through their gums often become cranky. It will be difficult to see your child in pain, but there’s no need to be alarmed. Give them plenty of rubber teething toys to ease their discomfort. Additionally, a six-year-old complaining of tooth pain may also be experiencing gum tenderness, but due to their permanent molars popping through. If their pain persists despite exceptional oral hygiene, it could indicate something more serious, so be sure to bring them to see us every six months.

  3. Stuck Food
  4. Your aching tooth may be caused by a piece of food, a stubborn popcorn kernel, or even a candy wrapper caught between your teeth. Fortunately, this can easily be treated at home! Rinse your mouth with mouthwash or warm salt water and gently floss the area to dislodge the offending particle.

  5. Impacted Tooth
  6. An impacted tooth is trapped under the gums and cannot properly erupt. This painful condition commonly occurs with wisdom teeth, which emerge between 17 to 25 years old. These “third molars” often crowd and damage adjacent teeth and their roots, develop cysts, and cause crooked teeth and gum tenderness. At Del Ray Dental Center, we can take digital dental X-rays to determine if your wisdom teeth need to be removed.

  7. Tooth Decay
  8. Tooth sensitivity and pain can be caused by a cavity that extends through your tooth’s outer layer, the enamel, to the underlying dentin. Typically, cavities can only be detected by a dental professional, but advanced tooth decay may result in discolorations and pits on the surface of your teeth. Contact us to confirm your mouth is free of cavities, or to get your cavity removed and filled to protect your oral health!

  9. Dental Trauma
  10. If your tooth is broken, chipped, or cracked, bacteria can enter the sterile inner section of your tooth, called the pulp. Your tooth pulp is the soft area in the center of your tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. An invaded pulp can become painful, inflamed, sensitive, and even infected. If pus accumulates in the tip of your tooth’s root, it becomes an abscess. A damaged, decayed, or abscessed pulp will require root canal therapy to clean out the pulp. If an infected pulp is not treated as soon as possible, the infection can cause bone loss and spread to neighboring teeth.

  11. Gum Disease
  12. If plaque is not daily brushed and flossed away, this sticky film of bacteria can accumulate around and under your gumline, causing pain, irritation and inflammation. Your gums will begin to pull away from your teeth, creating pockets where more bacteria can hide and multiply. Gum disease will lead to tooth decay, infection, loose teeth, bone loss, and eventual tooth loss if left untreated!

Tooth Infection Signs & Symptoms

Some indicators of a tooth infection caused by tooth decay, dental trauma, and gum disease include:

  • A severe, throbbing & persistent ache in your tooth
  • Pain that radiates to your jaw, neck or ear
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold weather, foods & beverages
  • Tooth sensitivity to pressure, like biting & chewing
  • Tooth sensitivity to very sweet foods
  • Swelling in your cheek or face area
  • Tender & swollen lymph nodes around your neck
  • Fever
  • Tender, red & inflamed gums
  • Bad breath
  • Bad taste in your mouth

Reach Out to Our Expert Dental Team!

If you have a persistent toothache, especially if you think you have a tooth infection, come see Dr. Razmjou or Dr. Tran. We offer same-day emergency dental care in Alexandria, VA. We are open Tuesday and Thursday from 7:45am-5pm, Wednesday from 11am-6pm, and Saturday from 9am-3pm. Call Del Ray Dental Center at (703)-844-0995!

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