A tooth that causes ongoing pain may be a sign of a serious problem. Use this chart to determine if you need to see your dentist right away.

Begin Here
1. Did you have an injury that knocked out a tooth? Yes --> You have TOOTH LOSS. -->


See your dentist or go to the emergency room right away. Keep the tooth moist. It’s best to keep the tooth in your mouth until you get to the dentist or emergency room. The tooth may be saved.

No, go down
2. Do you have pain that is specific to one tooth? No ---> Go to Question 5.*
Yes, go down
3. Have you broken or chipped a tooth, or is the tooth loose in its socket? Yes --> Your pain may be from a FRACTURED, CRACKED or LOOSE TOOTH. --> Save any pieces of the tooth, wrap them in a cool, moist cloth and see your dentist as soon as possible.
No, go down
4. Do you feel pain when you eat cold foods or liquids? Yes --> Your pain may be from a CAVITY. --> Make an appointment to see your dentist. Proper brushing and flossing along with fluoride rinses and coatings, as suggested by your dentist, may prevent tooth decay.
No, go down
*5. Do you have redness or swelling around one or more teeth, in your gums or in your face? Yes --> You may have a dental ABSCESS or an INFECTION in a tooth, gums or other tissues. -->


See your dentist or doctor right away.

No, go down
6. Do you have redness and swelling in large areas of your gums, or is the skin inside your mouth peeling? Yes --> You may have an infection such as TRENCH MOUTH, GINGIVITIS or PERIODONTITIS. A rare drug reaction, STEVENS-JOHNSON REACTION, may also cause this. --> See your dentist or doctor right away. You may be given antibiotics to stop the infection. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, may relieve discomfort. Many of these infections can be prevented with proper dental care, such as brushing and flossing regularly.
No, go down
7. Do you have headaches, pain near your ear, headaches, or do you hear a cracking sound when you bite? Yes --> Your pain may be from TEMPOROMANDIBULAR JOINT (TMJ) syndrome, a condition that affects the jaw. --> Try relaxing your jaw when you are tense or nervous. Stop chewing gum. Try a mild anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen. If you don’t get better, see your dentist.
No, go down
For more information, please talk to your doctor or your dentist. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor or your dentist right away.

This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide. Dallas: Word Publishing; 1996.