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900 Cummings Center,
Suite 106T, Beverly MA 01915

April 5, 2023

When Is a Toothache an Emergency?

Toothaches can range from minor inconvenience to severe pain, and it's not always easy to determine when to seek emergency dental care. In this article, we, your Beverly dentists, will discuss the situations in which a toothache becomes an emergency and share valuable advice on how to handle dental emergencies to protect your oral health.

Common Causes of Toothaches

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, or cavities, are caused by bacteria that produce acids, which erode the tooth enamel, leading to pain and sensitivity.

Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can cause toothaches due to inflammation and infection of the gums.

Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth occurs when bacteria infect the tooth's pulp, leading to a buildup of pus, which can cause severe pain and swelling.

Tooth Fracture

A cracked or broken tooth can expose the tooth's nerves, resulting in significant pain and discomfort.

Damaged or Lost Fillings

When a filling is damaged or lost, the affected tooth becomes more susceptible to bacteria and decay, which can lead to toothache.

When is a Toothache an Emergency?

While not all toothaches require immediate dental attention, there are several situations where it's essential to seek emergency care:

Intense Pain

If you're experiencing severe pain that isn't relieved by over-the-counter pain medications, it's crucial to visit your Beverly dentist as soon as possible. Intense pain can indicate a more serious issue, such as an abscessed tooth, which requires prompt treatment to prevent further complications.


Swelling around the affected tooth or in the face can be a sign of a dental infection, which needs to be treated urgently. In some cases, the swelling can spread to other areas, such as the neck or eyes, and can be potentially life-threatening if left untreated.


A fever accompanying a toothache can be another indicator of an infection. If you have a toothache along with a fever, it's essential to seek dental care immediately.


If you've experienced a dental injury, such as a cracked or broken tooth, it's crucial to visit your dentist as soon as possible. Leaving a damaged tooth untreated can lead to further complications, including infection and the potential loss of the tooth.

Loose or Knocked-Out Tooth

A loose or knocked-out tooth is a dental emergency, and it's essential to act quickly to increase the chances of saving the tooth. In the case of a knocked-out tooth, it's crucial to handle it carefully, avoid touching the root, and keep it moist until you can see your dentist.

How to Handle a Dental Emergency

If you're experiencing a dental emergency, follow these steps:

  1. Call your Beverly dentist immediately to schedule an emergency appointment. Explain the situation and follow any advice provided by the dental professional.
  2. Take over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary, but avoid placing aspirin directly on the tooth or gums, as this can cause further irritation.
  3. Use a cold compress on the outside of your cheek to help reduce pain and swelling.
  4. If you have a knocked-out tooth, gently rinse it with water (avoid scrubbing), and try to reinsert it into its socket. If this isn't possible, place the tooth in a container with milk or a tooth-preservation product.
  5. For a loose tooth, try to gently reposition it back into its proper place without forcing it.

Preventing Dental Emergencies

While some dental emergencies are unavoidable, there are several steps you can take to reduce the risk:

  1. Maintain good oral hygiene, including regular brushing, flossing, and using an antiseptic mouthwash to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
  2. Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings to ensure your teeth and gums remain in optimal condition.
  3. Wear a mouthguard during sports activities to protect your teeth from potential injuries.
  4. Avoid biting on hard objects, such as ice, hard candies, or non-food items like pens, which can cause tooth fractures.
  5. Address teeth grinding (bruxism) with the help of your dentist. A custom-made night guard can help protect your teeth from damage caused by grinding during sleep.

A toothache can be a sign of various dental issues, and it's essential to recognize when it becomes an emergency. If you're experiencing intense pain, swelling, or fever, or have suffered a dental injury, it's crucial to seek immediate dental care from your Beverly dentist.

We are committed to providing exceptional dental care and ensuring your oral health is maintained. If you're experiencing a dental emergency or have concerns about a toothache, don't hesitate to schedule an appointment with our dental practice. We're here to help you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile.

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