Tooth Pain Guide

What should you do when you experience tooth pain? The guide below should help you determine what your next step(s) should be. The color bands indicate how serious the problem may be.

Items described in this group may only last for a short time. Follow the instructions given and wait a few weeks to see if the pain subsides. If the pain rapidly becomes worse, contact your regular dentist.
Symptoms in this group may be the result of a serious issue. Make an appointment to see your regular dentist as soon as possible.
If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see us immediately.

Emergency treatment is available when needed. Our office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Emergency treatment is available on weekends and holidays when medically indicated.

Symptom Possible Problem What to do
Momentary sensitivity to hot or cold foods If it lasts only a moment, it generally does not signal a serious problem. The sensitivity may be caused by a loose filling or by minimal gum recession which exposes a small area of the root surface. Try using a toothpaste made specifically for sensitive teeth. Brush up and down with a soft brush — brushing sideways wears away exposed root surfaces. If this is unsuccessful, see your general dentist for further evaluation.
Sensitivity to hot or cold foods after dental treatment Dental work may inflame the pulp (nerves inside the tooth) causing temporary sensitivity. Wait four to six weeks. If the pain persists or worsens, see your general dentist for further evaluation.
Dull ache and pressure in upper teeth and jaw The pain of a sinus headache is often felt in the face and teeth. Grinding of teeth (bruxism) can also cause this type of ache. For sinus headaches, try over-the-counter pain or sinus medication. For bruxism, consult your general dentist. If the pain is severe and chronic, see your personal physician or an endodontist.
Sharp pain when biting down on food There are several possibile causes of this type of pain: decay, a loose filling, or a crack in the tooth. There may also be damage to the pulp tissue inside the tooth. See your general dentist for evaluation. If the problem is pulp damage, they may refer you to us.
Lingering pain after eating hot or cold foods This possibly means the pulp has been damaged by deep decay or physical trauma. See us to save the tooth with root canal treatment.
Constant or severe pain, pressure, swelling of the gum, or sensitivity to touch A tooth may have become abscessed, causing the surrounding gum and bone to become infected. See us for evaluation and treatment to relieve the pain and save the tooth. Take over-the-counter analgesics (pain medications such as Tylenol or Advil) until you are seen in our office.
Chronic pain in head, neck, or ear Sometimes, pulp-damaged teeth cause pain in other parts of the head and neck. However, other dental or medical problems may be responsible for the symptoms. See us for evaluation. If the problem is not related to the tooth, we will refer you to a physician or an appropriate dental specialist.