A sudden, severe toothache is one of the most common symptoms of a dental emergency (which typically involves harm to one or more of your teeth). But toothaches can also indicate issues that aren’t exactly an emergency. You will still need to seek dental treatment to alleviate them, just not immediately. If you aren’t sure why your tooth hurts, or whether or not it’s an emergency, then you should call your dentist as soon as possible to schedule an exam.
Why Your Tooth Hurts
Enamel is the protective mineral layer surrounding the more sensitive main portion of your tooth, called dentin. The layer grows weak as oral bacteria form plaque and stick to your teeth, producing acids when you eat that attack the enamel. A sensitive tooth might not be extremely painful at first, but it can grow increasingly worse as the enamel is further compromised and a cavity eventually develops.
A cracked or fractured tooth may or may not be an emergency, depending on the severity of the damage. However, if not treated promptly, the damage will grow more severe as your weakened tooth is exposed to biting and chewing pressure. The level of dental pain can indicate how severely the tooth is damaged, though some damaged teeth might not hurt immediately until the tooth’s nerves are exposed.
If you consistently grind your teeth (a condition known as bruxism), the constant stress and pressure of it can make your teeth sensitive. If you don’t treat the condition, then bruxism can lead to worse sensitivity as your teeth become worn down, or develop cracks and structural damage from the undue pressure.