Should I See an Emergency Dentist for Tooth Pain?

Emergency dentist working on a patient's teeth


There are many reasons to visit an emergency dentist. For instance, if you knock out your tooth, visiting a dentist straight away can increase the chances that they can reattach it. Another common reason people see an emergency dentist is for tooth pain, as the cause of the pain may need urgent care. However, toothaches can also be caused by less urgent causes that might simply need home treatment and a visit to your dentist’s office during normal hours. How do you know the difference? If you’re ever in any doubt, you can call the dentist to talk about your symptoms and decide whether it needs immediate care or whether it can wait. However, in this article we’ll go over some general information and common reasons you might need to see an emergency dentist for tooth pain. 

What is an Emergency Dentist?

An emergency dentist is a dentist who helps with urgent dental issues. Many dentists only provide non-urgent care such as cleanings and planned restorations for cavities and other issues. However, an emergency dentist can usually see you more quickly and outside of normal hours. Usually they address issues that cause more serious consequences, like those that might lead to loss of your teeth, serious pain, or even infections that may spread and affect other parts of your body. 

I Have a Toothache. Should I See an Emergency Dentist?

Woman with tooth pain in her emergency dentist office
If you have major tooth pain, you may need to see an emergency dentist as soon as possible.

Tooth pain is often the first sign of an issue with your dental and oral health. Toothaches can feel different for each person and for different root causes. It might be a sharp pain only when you bite down, a constant throbbing, or a dull ache. Tooth pain is certainly a cause for concern, but it might not necessarily mean a trip to your emergency dentist. It really depends on what’s causing the pain and if you have other symptoms. 

For instance, it’s common to experience mild tooth pain if you have gum inflammation around the tooth, such as from eating something crunchy that cuts or irritates your gums. In these cases, the pain is usually temporary and you can treat it at home with things like over the counter pain relievers and cold compresses. However, other causes of a toothache may need to be addressed by an experienced emergency dentist. 

Common Causes of Tooth Pain & When to See an Emergency Dentist

There are several potential causes of tooth pain. The causes range from mild to serious and even life-threatening in rare cases. Depending on your symptoms and the likely cause of the pain, you may need to see an emergency dentist or just schedule a regular appointment with your family dentistry team.

Here are some of the most common causes of tooth pain:

Tooth Sensitivity

Temporary sensitivity to heat and cold is a common reason for tooth pain. If the pain goes away quickly after you remove the source of sensitivity, then usually you don’t need to see an emergency dentist. However, you should schedule an appointment to talk about the sensitivity, because it may be from a cavity, loose fillings, or even mild gum recession. The dentist may recommend trying a sensitivity toothpaste to reduce pain from sensitive teeth. 

If the sensitivity lasts longer than 30 seconds from heat or cold, this is usually a bigger cause for concern. You might need to call your dentist to discuss your symptoms. Often, this is a sign of inflammation to the pulp inside your tooth, usually from deep decay, which might need a root canal to fix. 


Tooth decay, commonly known as cavities, is another common cause of toothaches. Decay happens when bacteria in plaque eat away at the enamel on your teeth. If you have tooth pain, it may be a cavity. Usually, minor decay will cause mild tooth pain that you can treat with over the counter pain relievers until you can get an appointment with your dentist. However, if you have severe decay, the affected teeth might be incredibly painful. If you have severe pain, talk to your emergency dentist to see if you need more urgent care.

Damaged Teeth

If you have serious tooth pain, then it might be that your tooth is damaged, either through a chip or a crack in the tooth. This can happen for many reasons, but one of the most common is physical trauma, such as falling or getting hit in the face while playing sports. If you think your tooth is damaged, this is a reason to visit your emergency dentist. It can cause severe pain and may also expose the pulp of your teeth to bacteria and infection.

Abscesses & Other Infections

Sometimes, you might experience tooth pain because of an abscess or another oral infection. If the pain is localized to a particular area in your mouth, then it may be an abscess, which is a pocket of infection usually in the gum under a tooth. You might also notice a red spot on your gums or even a large bump on the gums where an abscess is. You should visit an emergency dentist for a suspected dental abscess, as they can spread quickly and cause other issues. 

Sometimes, it may even be a different infection in the mouth causing tooth pain. For instance, oral thrush is a type of yeast infection that can happen in your mouth and may lead to inflammation in the gums and tooth pain. Oral infections can spread and negatively affect your health, so usually it’s best to see your dentist right away if you think you have an oral infection.

TMJ Disorder

Sometimes, your tooth pain might not even be due to anything wrong with your teeth. For instance, if you have a TMJ disorder, the pain may radiate from your jaw and feel like a toothache. However, the issue is truly in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) of your jaw. If you have a TMJ disorder, you likely don’t need to schedule an emergency appointment, but do talk to your dentist about your symptoms and see what TMJ treatments are available for you.

Other Health Conditions

In other cases, it may be another health condition that might be causing your tooth pain. For instance, sinusitis (inflamed sinuses) can be painful and may feel like tooth pain. Some people even experience tooth or jaw pain when having a heart attack. So, take any other symptoms you’re having into account. If you think you might be having a heart attack or another life-threatening issue, call 911 for emergency medical help.

Signs to See an Emergency Dentist

As we mentioned, temporary tooth pain may be something to schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss, but not necessarily a cause for making an emergency dental appointment. Here are some signs that you might need to visit your emergency dentist for your toothache:

  • Severe pain
  • Pain that doesn’t go away with home remedies
  • Tooth pain that gets worse over time
  • Toothaches that last more than one to two days
  • Tooth pain paired with swelling
  • Toothaches paired with fevers
  • Tooth pain after trauma to the mouth

These can be signs of serious dental health issues that need fast treatment from an experienced dentist.

Still Not Sure? Call Your Emergency Dentist to Talk About Your Symptoms

Any time you’re not sure if you need an emergency appointment or whether you can wait for an appointment during normal business hours, you can simply call to talk to the dentist. Our team can discuss your symptoms with you to help you determine if you should come in straight away or if you can treat at home for a few days. It’s a simple action that can help you make a good decision based on your tooth pain and other symptoms.

Get Dental Care at The ToothBooth

Whether you need a regular cleaning or need emergency dental care, our team at The ToothBooth is here to help. Our experienced dentist, Dr. Taha, offers a wide range of services to help you care for your smile. We provide high-quality, comprehensive dental care in a friendly, welcoming environment to ensure you’re comfortable and well taken care of. Call us now at (832) 437-0841 to make an appointment!