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When a Toothache Is a Dental Emergency

When a Toothache Is a Dental Emergency

Thanks to extra-sensitive nerves and the location inside your head, toothaches have a way of becoming the center of your existence, and it's not a very pleasant existence. If you or a loved one develops a toothache, you want to know what steps to take to minimize the discomfort and any potential damage to your dental health.

There are many different roads to toothaches, and the team here at Hillsdale Dental Care, led by Dr. Magdalena Azzarelli and Dr. Roge Jacob, is familiar with all of them.

Here’s a look at what we’ve learned about toothaches over the years and why we feel that a toothache is a warning sign that shouldn’t be ignored.

Behind the pain

There are several common culprits behind toothaches, and tooth decay certainly leads the charge. Well more than half (57%) of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 have at least one cavity in their permanent teeth, and 90% of adults aged 20 and older have dental caries.

When bacteria eat away at your teeth and form a cavity, this decay can expose sensitive nerves in your teeth, which can lead to considerable pain.

Outside of tooth decay and cavities, other conditions that can cause tooth pain include:

Some people also experience tooth pain thanks to sinus infections that press down on the nerves in the top row of your teeth. 

When to take action for tooth pain

As we mentioned, our experience is that seeking help for a toothache is always a good idea. If you take a look at the list above, many of these conditions are ones that won’t simply go away on their own and often get worse.

But the title of this blog post is whether a toothache is a dental emergency, and we want to discuss this point. If your toothache is severe — throbbing, all-consuming pain — or if there's any bleeding, then, yes, this is a dental emergency and you should call us right away. If it’s during our off hours, get to your nearest urgent care clinic. If the pain stems from a severely cracked tooth or a tooth that’s been knocked out, we recommend the same actions.

If, however, the pain is dull or only occurs when you bite down or with certain temperatures, it’s likely not an emergency. But it’s still a problem that you should have us check out, sooner rather than later.

In more cases than we can count, prompt attention for a toothache has saved our clients from much larger problems down the road, up to and including losing teeth.


For expert dental care that provides relief from a toothache, please contact our office in San Jose, California, to set up an appointment.

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