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Don’t Ignore the Pain: 5 Red Flags That Your Toothache Needs Urgent Attention
Jan 04 2024

Experiencing a toothache? Don’t overlook the pain; it may indicate underlying dental issues requiring urgent attention. Here are five red flags suggesting your toothache needs immediate dental care.

Common causes of toothaches

  1. Dental Decay (Cavities): Caused by bacterial acids eroding enamel, leading to the formation of cavities or holes in teeth.
  2. Infections in Teeth or Gums: Bacteria entering through cavities or cracks can result in infections, causing intense pain and sensitivity.
  3. Gum Disease: Involves gum infection and tissue damage, contributing to toothaches, particularly during activities like chewing or brushing.
  4. Dental Trauma: A cracked tooth or loose filling can expose sensitive layers, causing discomfort and toothaches.
  5. Teeth Grinding (Bruxism): Putting pressure on teeth through grinding or clenching can lead to toothaches.

Red flag #1: Severe and persistent pain

Severe and persistent pain is a crucial indicator that your toothache demands urgent attention. If you endure continuous and intense pain lasting more than a day or two, it may signify a significant dental issue. Persistent pain suggests that a cavity has reached the inner layers of the tooth, leading to inflammation and nerve irritation. In some cases, the pain may be a result of an infection in the tooth or gums. Delaying treatment allows the infection to worsen, potentially leading to complications. Addressing this pain promptly is vital to prevent further issues and complications.

Red flag #2: Swelling and inflammation

Swelling and inflammation around the affected tooth or gums are important signs of urgency for your toothache. This swelling could indicate the presence of an abscess, a pocket of pus formed during an infection in the tooth or gums, causing intense pain, redness, and swelling. If not treated promptly, the infection can spread, leading to more severe health issues, and the swelling may affect mouth movement or swallowing. Inflammation can also signal gum disease, bringing discomfort and pain, especially during chewing or brushing.

Red flag #3: Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures

Persistent sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures is another key indicator that your toothache requires urgent attention. While mild sensitivity can be common and temporary, the continued sensation after the stimulus is removed may signify an underlying dental issue. This sensitivity often arises when the protective enamel layer wears down, exposing the sensitive dentin underneath, potentially due to tooth decay, gum recession, or toothbrush abrasion. With the dentin exposed, sensations of hot or cold reach the nerves, leading to pain or discomfort. Persistent sensitivity might indicate a deeper cavity or tooth infection, making it crucial to consult a dentist promptly. Early intervention can prevent further damage and provide relief from the discomfort associated with tooth sensitivity.

Red flag #4: Difficulty chewing or biting

Facing challenges while chewing or biting down on food is a clear indicator that your toothache demands swift attention. Discomfort or pain during chewing might point to an underlying dental problem that needs to be addressed. Difficulties in chewing can arise from issues like tooth decay, a cracked tooth, or gum disease. Pressure on the affected tooth during chewing can lead to pain or sensitivity, potentially limiting your ability to eat specific foods or chew on one side of your mouth. Overlooking this challenge may lead to nutritional deficiencies or additional dental issues.

Red flag #5: Bad taste or odor in the mouth

Persistent bad breath or an unpleasant taste in the mouth is another signal that your toothache requires immediate attention. These symptoms may point to an infection in the tooth or gums, leading to unpleasant odors or taste. In the presence of an infection, bacteria can release toxins causing a foul smell or taste, and an abscess may contribute to the unpleasant taste due to the presence of pus.

When to seek emergency dental care

While some toothaches may resolve on their own or with over-the-counter pain relief, there are certain situations when you should seek emergency dental care. These include:

  1. Severe and persistent pain that lasts for more than a day or two.
  2. Swelling or inflammation that makes it difficult to open your mouth or swallow.
  3. High fever accompanied by a toothache, as it can be a sign of a severe infection.
  4. Bleeding that doesn’t stop after applying pressure.
  5. Trauma to the mouth or jaw, such as a knocked-out tooth or a broken jaw.

If you’re unsure whether your toothache requires emergency care, it’s best to contact your dentist for guidance. They can assess your symptoms and advise you on the appropriate course of action.


Never ignore toothaches, as they may signal underlying dental issues needing urgent attention. Whether you’re facing severe pain, swelling, sensitivity to hot or cold, difficulty chewing, or an unpleasant taste or odor, seeking immediate dental care is essential. Prioritize your dental health to prevent complications, relieve pain, and sustain a healthy smile. Don’t overlook the pain – take prompt action for the sake of your dental well-being. Schedule an appointment with A&B Dental Clinic today at 604-877-0664.

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