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Dental pain: When to seek treatment for toothache?

Almost every person experiences pain in the teeth and gums at some point in their lives. Dental pain is often characterised as a constant throbbing pain, but in some cases it can even be episodic, i.e. it may come and go. The pain can occur with a vengeance at night, or when one eats or drinks something hot or cold. Dental pain is not always felt in the teeth, sometimes the pain can spread to the face and jaw.

The dentist is the most qualified person to diagnose the cause of your toothache. It’s especially important to see a dentist if you are in severe pain, instead of hoping that it will go away on its own. You should also seek advice as soon as possible if you have tooth pain accompanied by fever, or if you feel unwell, or if the tooth pain was caused by an injury. Over-the-counter pain relievers can also ease the pain until you see your dentist.

Causes of Dental Pain


Causes of Dental Pain

Dental pain is most often due to:

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay (caries) is another word for a “Cavity”. This is caused when the outer surface of your tooth has been eaten away by plaque. The plaque attaches itself to the tooth enamel and produces an acid that dissolves away the tooth structure. This can eventually spread inward towards the pulp and if left untreated can cause severe pain, sensitivity to temperature and eventually necrosis of the nerve. If you suspect you have a cavity in your tooth, contact your general dentist first, and they will determine if you will require a filling or Root Canal Treatment.

 Inflammation of the Pulp 

This condition is commonly referred to as a “pulpitis”. This occurs when the pulp tissue becomes irritated or inflamed. Symptoms of a pulpitis can include sensitivity to temperature or biting, dull ache in the jaw, pain which interrupts your sleeps or referred pain in the head, temple or ear.

 Cracks and Fractures

Cracks and fractures can appear in teeth from general wear and tear or by biting down on a hard objectIn some cases, the crack will be evident immediately and you may even be able to feel it with your tongue. In others, however, it may only manifest itself as a dull pain when biting or sensitivity to temperature changes. Many people report a sharp pain if they bite down on something a certain way. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is best to schedule an appointment with you dentist or our office for and evaluation of the tooth. Depending on the severity of the crack, the tooth may require a crown, Root Canal Treatment, or if the fracture is too severe, the tooth may need an extraction.

 Dental Abscess 

 A dental abscess is typically caused by a buildup of bacteria inside the pulp area of the tooth. This tends to cause pain to biting and inflammation or swelling in the surrounding tissues. Other symptoms may include persistent bad-breath, extreme sensitivity to temperature changes or a localized bump/bubble on the gums near the tooth, also known as a sinus tract. At this point the pain is usually severe and will require urgent attention. Over-the-counter medications such as Advil or Tylenol can help reduce the symptoms until your appointment.

No matter what the cause of dental symptoms, it is extremely important to see your dentist or endodontist immediately.  The sooner the symptoms are diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome of the case.

Knocked Out Teeth

Knocked Out Teeth

More than five million teeth are knocked out every year in children and adults but if this happens to you due to an injury or accident it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s lost for good. Proper emergency action can save the tooth so that it can be replanted successfully and last for years to come.

Traumatic Dental Injuries

Traumatic Dental Injuries

Traumatic dental injuries often occur as a result of an accident or sports injury. The majority of these injuries are minor – chipped teeth. It’s less common to dislodge your tooth or have it knocked completely out but these injuries are more severe. Treatment depends on the type, location and severity of each injury. Regardless of the extent of the injury, your tooth requires immediate examination by a dentist or an endodontist. Sometimes, your neighboring teeth suffer an additional, unnoticed injury that can only be detected by a thorough dental exam.

Endodontists are dentists who specialize in treating traumatic dental injuries. With their advanced skills, techniques and technologies they often can save injured teeth. If you have a cracked or injured tooth, find an endodontist near you right away. Most endodontists offer tremendous flexibility in accommodating emergency cases, including weekends in some instances. You’ll have relief from your pain and likely save your tooth, so act as quickly as possible.

Common Toothache Remedies


If you are unable to see a dental professional immediately, there are several remedies you can do at home. Gargling with salt water is one of the most common and easiest methods for relieving tooth pain. It can be accomplished by adding a tablespoon of salt to a glass of warm water and then rinsing. Another common solution to a toothache is a cold compress. Placing a cold compress on the inside or outside of your mouth helps to numb the area and provide pain relief. Whichever home remedy you choose, if the pain does not relent after several days or grows more severe, it is vital that you seek a dental professional for further care.

When to Seek Medical Care?


When to Seek Medical Care

When seeking a toothache pain dentist for tooth pain remedies, it is important to be aware of the severity of your dental issue. If the pain is radiating throughout your face, it is vital that medical care is sought quickly. If over-the-counter medication is ineffective at reducing pain, if severe pain lasts more than two days after a tooth is pulled or if pain is accompanied by discharge around one or more teeth, a doctor must be sought out. Pay attention to your teeth and don’t risk further pain and health issues by prolonging the wait for medical attention.

Common dental complaints, tooth pain and jaw pain are not unusual. Mild pain or pressure from hot or cold exposure is the most common cause of dental pain. If the pain increases in severity or persists longer than 15 seconds, after temperature exposure or pressure ceases, this is an indication of a more serious issue. A more severe level of inflammation often causes pain to radiate to the cheek, ear or jaw. The most common symptoms of a severe issue include:

  • Sensitivity to Hot or Cold Liquids or Air
  • Bleeding Around Teeth or Gums
  • Injury to an Area
  • Swelling
  • Pain While Chewing

Often associated with dental decay or gum disease, the common signs of a toothache should not be ignored. If an infected tooth is taped it may make the pain more intense. This sign may point to a problem tooth even when the tooth appears normal.

Medical Care for Pain and Emergencies


When a dental issue increases in severity or the pain becomes unbearable, you can visit dentists for emergency dental procedures. Working to provide a thorough approach to dental care, services range from tooth extractions to TMJ treatment. Offering convenience and high-quality care, our dental professionals are available to diagnose and consult on any dental pain you are experiencing.

Dental pain can quickly turn into a more severe health issue if an underlying condition is present. Beyond common toothache remedies, emergency dental care is the best way to deal with a pain issue that isn’t going away.

How is dental pain diagnosed?


How is dental pain diagnosed

Dental pain can be diagnosed by a dentist or endodontist. They may tap on the tooth to identify the source of the pain, look for areas of dental decay, swelling and redness. Your dentist will need to ensure that the pain is caused by your teeth and not by sinusitis, an ear infection or injury to the temporomandibular joint.

A thorough medical history assessment and oral exam can lead to a diagnosis. X-rays are often used to get a clearer picture of the source of the pain.

How can I prevent dental pain?


Good oral care

  • Brush your teeth regularly. Do this twice a day with a medium or soft brush. Also brush the gums and tongue along with the teeth
  • Choose a toothpaste fortified with fluoride. This helps if you have sensitive teeth
  • Clean between the teeth with dental floss or interdental brushes to remove trapped food particles and plaque
  • Use a fluoride-based mouthwash. However, do not use it right after brushing your teeth
  • Avoid consuming sugary foods and drinks
  • Don’t smoke
  • Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production

Visit your dentist

The second most important factor is visiting your dentist yearly for dental cleanings, evaluations, and oral cancer screenings.  Dentists are trained to diagnose dental issues early to prevent the issue from becoming worse and causing sudden dental pain.

Another important factor is being aware of dental symptoms, tracking the source and progression of symptoms, and advising your dentist when symptoms persist.  Dental symptoms are hard to ignore, but being proactive regarding these symptoms takes a bit more effort.  Contact your dentist’s office to discuss the symptoms and they will schedule an appointment to diagnose those symptoms.

Protection from injury

it is important to protect teeth from injury by using recommended dental fixtures.

  • Mouthguards: Used to protect an athlete’s smile from serious injury caused during contact sports such as football, hockey and lacrosse.  They can help prevent injury to teeth, lips, cheeks and tongue.  Although there are a few types of mouth guards available, it is important to consult with your dentist to determine which one is best for you.
  • Nightguards:  Used to protect your teeth from strong vertical forces caused by grinding and clenching while asleep.  These strong vertical forces can cause teeth to crack, break and slowly wear teeth away.  Although there are a few types of mouth guards available, it is important to consult with your dentist to determine which one is best for you.  Your dentist may also want to evaluate the root cause of the issue, and recommend treatment based on the results.

Although there are ways to prevent dental pain, dental pain can arise suddenly due to unforeseen injury or trauma to teeth, such as cracks and traumatic dental injuries.

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