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When to Call the Dentist for Tooth Pain

When to Call the Dentist for Tooth Pain

Tooth pain isn’t uncommon, and there are plenty of innocuous reasons for a toothache. Depending on the type of pain, you might be able to tell what’s causing it and solve the problem with a home remedy or over-the-counter medication. However, if your tooth pain is sharp, throbbing, or severe, it could be a dental emergency. 

Dr. Margaret Culotta-Norton and Dr. Peter Grinc in Washington, DC, provide emergency dental services when needed to address tooth pain.

Common causes of tooth pain 

Tooth pain and loss are a theme in many people’s nightmares for a reason. During a toothache, your entire head can hurt, making it difficult to eat, drink, speak, or cope with the pain. Depending on what’s causing the pain, you might need immediate dental treatment to rescue your tooth, so don’t delay. 


If your toothache feels sharp and electric in response to temperature changes, it might be nerve pain. There are many reasons you might be experiencing tooth sensitivity, from recent whitening sessions to simple wear-and-tear. 


Congested pain that radiates into the teeth is not uncommon, especially among those with sinus problems. This kind of tooth pain is felt more in the roots of your teeth, and is usually accompanied by a headache, stuffy or runny nose, and other allergy symptoms. 

TMJ disorders

Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) refers to problems with the mandible joints, the hinge where your jaw connects to your skull. Sometimes, TMJ disorders can lead to inflammation and stiffness in the area, as well as radiating tooth pain. Luckily, most cases can be alleviated with night guards and orthodontics. 


Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is a condition that causes you to clench and grind your teeth. It might be a subconscious stress response while you’re awake, or you might do it while you sleep. Grinding at night can be solved with a night guard, while daytime bruxism requires more of an effort to break the habit. 

Tooth decay

If plaque is left on your teeth for too long, it will begin to eat through your enamel until it reaches the softer tissue within. Holes caused by tooth decay are called cavities, and can make your tooth sensitive to pressure and temperature. Cavities must be cleaned and filled in before the tooth root becomes infected, or a full root canal and dental crown will be necessary.

When to call the dentist about your tooth pain

Most causes of tooth pain can be quickly diagnosed and treated, so call your dentist before pain gets too severe. If you suddenly experience pain or worsening of pain, make an emergency appointment immediately. 

You’ll need an examination and possibly X-rays to check for cavities, cracks, misalignment, and signs of bruxism. If your toothache is caused by tooth decay, you’ll need immediate treatment before you lose the tooth. Other issues may require more complex treatment solutions.

The sooner you seek help regarding sudden or chronic tooth pain, the better. To schedule a consultation, call 202-833-1111 or request an appointment online.

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