On topic with Dr. Dill: 

Potential dangers of ignoring a toothache

The nerves inside your teeth are among the body’s most sensitive. So the pain, throbbing and sensitivity caused by a toothache are hard to ignore. This discomfort provides a powerful incentive to see your dentist right away. But the potential complications of a toothache offer an even stronger reason to seek help immediately.

What could happen if you delay seeing a dentist

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    Greater cost and pain: A toothache that goes untreated can lead to more extensive and costly dental procedures such as root canals and crowns. It may even result in tooth loss.

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    Infection that can spread: Effects of a toothache can go beyond your mouth. It can result in an infection that can spread to your jaw, face, neck, heart and brain. Signs of an infection spreading may include a fever, headache, fatigue, dizziness, swelling, dehydration, rapid breathing, increased heart rate and stomach pain.

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    Life-threatening condition: In rare cases, an untreated toothache can take an unexpected turn for the worse. This happens when an infection causes an intense toxic response by your immune system — a condition called sepsis — which can lead to septic shock and even death.

If you are experiencing pain in or around your tooth, don’t delay in scheduling a visit with your dentist, who can diagnose the source of the issue and provide treatment options. As you wait for your appointment, over-the-counter pain medication may provide temporary relief. You can also try using a cold compress or rinsing with warm salt water.

Common reasons for a toothache

Tooth decay due to poor oral health care is the most common source.

Broken, chipped or cracked teeth from an injury or accident, chewing on hard items such as ice, or grinding your teeth.

Infected gums from bacteria buildup can cause pain, bleeding and swelling.

Damaged fillings that are worn, chipped or cracked may cause your teeth to feel sensitive.

Tooth abscess happens when a pocket of pus forms around the tooth due to poor dental hygiene, dry mouth or a high-sugar diet.


If you have a severe toothache — one that lasts longer than a day — get help right away. A toothache accompanied by a fever of 103 F or higher, along with symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, confusion, a skin rash or repeated vomiting, may be a sign of a more serious medical condition. Seek immediate treatment from a physician if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.


Meet Delta Dental’s Vice President of Dental Science and Network Strategy, Joseph Dill, DDS. With more than 30 years of experience in the dental field, including eight in private practice and 16 in dental insurance, Dr. Dill provides expert insights and helpful advice to keep you smiling bright.

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