Severe Toothache – Is It a Dental Emergency?

If you’ve ever had a toothache, you’d know it can be very painful. It can be enough to interrupt your day, stop you from eating and even give you a headache. Severe toothaches should never be ignored as they may be a warning sign of a more serious issue. 

At Whitehorse Dental, we want all our patients to have healthy, pain-free smiles. In this article, we discuss whether a severe toothache is considered a dental emergency.

What can cause severe toothache?

A severe toothache is a dental emergency, especially if it is accompanied by fever and/or seeping pus. A mild toothache may not be cause for concern, but a persistent throbbing that continues to get worse should be looked at by an emergency dentist. Here are some possible causes of a severe toothache: 

A cavity

A cavity is a hole in the enamel (outer layer) of your tooth. Cavities are early signs of tooth decay, so should never be ignored. It can sometimes be hard to spot a cavity, especially if it is in your back teeth. Some increased sensitivity to cold things  may be your first warning sign. A dentist can spot the cavity with ease and offer treatment- usually a simple filling (if you catch it in time).


A severe toothache that is accompanied by sensitivity to temperatures may indicate an infection. Tooth infections occur in the innermost layer of our teeth- known as the pulp. The pulp is home to the tooth’s nerve endings and other tissues. If it becomes infected, it can be extremely uncomfortable. This kind of infection needs immediate attention, if left untreated you risk losing that tooth altogether.

Teeth grinding

Toothaches can also be caused by habitual things we do such as teeth grinding. Teeth grinding or bruxism is a common condition. People often do it in their sleep unbeknownst to them. People who grind their teeth may wake up with sore or aching teeth, but the pain should fade throughout the day. If the teeth grinding is severe, it can damage your teeth. This can lead to more persistent pain. Luckily there are plenty of solutions to treat and prevent bruxism- just ask your dentist.

Signs and symptoms of toothache that require immediate care

Not all toothaches require immediate dental care, but many do. So, we’ve compiled a list of symptoms to watch out for:


Fever should never be ignored. If your toothache is accompanied by fever, it may be a sign of spreading infection. If this is the case, it’s important to seek emergency dental care immediately. .

Dental abscess

A dental abscess may appear at the base of an infected tooth. It can look like a small red pimple and often have a yellow centre. Abscesses contain pus and can burst at any time. If you suddenly become aware of a foul taste in your mouth it may indicate a burst abscess.

Swollen gums or jaw

If you’ve had a persistent toothache and notice swelling in your gums, jaw or both you should seek an emergency dentist. Swelling often indicates an issue below the surface, such as an infection.

Chipped, broken or fractured jaw

If you have previously chipped, broken or fractured your jaw you may experience aches and pains from time to time. However, if you get a toothache that doesn’t go away or becomes worse it may indicate a problem. You should contact an emergency dentist and let them know about your previous injury.

Get the care you need at Whitehorse Dental

At Whitehorse Dental we have a dedicated team of emergency dentists. We are committed to providing top quality treatments and services with a focus on patient comfort. If you have a severe toothache this isn’t going away, give us a call to make an appointment today.