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When Does a Toothache Become a Dental Emergency?

A man sits in a dentist's chair clutching his cheek while looking at his dentist.

If you have ever gone about your day and suddenly felt a toothache come on, you are not alone. Most of the time, these aches aren’t something to be overly worried about, and you schedule your next dental appointment to get it looked at. However, there are times when you need more immediate emergency dental care to address the issue, but how can you tell the difference? 

Knowing when it’s time to visit your dentist for your toothache can mean the difference between getting in front of a more significant issue or seeing your oral health take a hit. Here are some of the most common causes you need to keep an eye out for: 

Persistent Oral Pain and Discomfort 

Typical toothaches last between one to two days, so when you start feeling constant pain and discomfort in your teeth that simply isn’t going away, it’s time to take a deeper look at your teeth. Typically, persistent pain can be the result of two causes — untreated cavities and infected teeth. 

Most Common Causes of Oral Pain

Cavities eat away at your tooth’s enamel and dentin, the hard protective layers of your teeth. As these layers start to deteriorate, you begin to experience pain and discomfort while eating and drinking. These feelings tend to be more pronounced when you eat overly sweet foods. The longer the cavity goes untreated, the more damage is done to your overall oral health. 

Additionally, an untreated cavity can lead to a tooth infection. As the cavity continues to attack your afflicted tooth’s nerves, you begin to feel severe pain and discomfort. A worsening infection can lead to tooth sensitivity and gum swelling near the infected area. 

Oral Trauma

Untreated cavities aren’t the only sources of your toothache that you need to worry about, as other conditions may also require emergency dental care. If you suffered severe oral trauma — think a cracked tooth, a hard hit, or severe slip and fall — then you may need to get some emergency dental procedures done quickly. The pain suffered from this type of oral trauma can mirror a toothache but ultimately be caused by multiple broken teeth. 


Dental problems can come in all shapes and sizes; however, you may consider a regular part of your life is tooth grinding, aka bruxism. Typically a stress-related reaction, prolonged tooth grinding can cause serious damage to your teeth and affect your overall health. This extended grinding can put more pressure on the ligaments and roots that can mimic a toothache. 

How Do I Know It’s Time for Emergency Dental Care?

For patients dealing with acute toothaches, there are some signs they can keep an eye out for to let them know it’s time for an emergency visit to your dentist’s office. When a toothache lasts longer than a couple of days, it usually means you’re dealing with an advanced cavity, and you need an immediate treatment plan. Whether that involves a root canal, filling, or tooth extraction will be determined by your dentist. 

Why You Shouldn’t Wait for Emergency Dental Care

When it comes to persistent toothaches, leaving them alone will only come back to bite you further down the road. Cavities and tooth infections left untreated can cause more severe problems like gum disease that can negatively affect your oral and overall health. With the help of Hamilton Dental’s emergency oral surgeons in Hamilton, NJ, you can receive the immediate relief you need!

Need help to replace a cracked tooth in Monmouth County, NJ? Contact our team to schedule your next dental appointment today!