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Why Can’t the Dentist Find the Source of My Toothache?

Posted by AllSmiles

Man holding the side of his face, portraying dentist cannot find source of toothacheI don’t have a regular dentist, but for the past 2 months my tooth and gums have been hurting and getting worse. Last Wednesday a dentist took me as an emergency patient. After the exam he only gave me something for pain. He said that he wasn’t sure where the pain is coming from and I need to see a specialist. Why wouldn’t a dentist be able to figure out why I have a toothache? He just looked at my tooth. Would an x-ray have helped? Do I really need to see specialist, or can I look for another dentist? Thank you. Thomas


Thank you for your question.

Pain in your tooth can originate with an infection in the tooth, or with an infection in your gums. If an infection is both in your tooth and your gums, it would make it difficult for the emergency dentist to make that determination.

What Causes a Toothache?

  • Root canal infection – An infection in the root canal of a tooth can spread into the bone and tissue around the tooth, which help to support and stabilize the tooth. With a history of the progression of your pain, along with x-rays, a dentist can determine that the problem started in your tooth and spread to your gums and jawbone.
  • Gum infection – Another possibility is an infection that starts in the gums and spreads to the tooth. An advanced gum infection can spread into the tooth roots and up into the pulp of the tooth, causing a very painful toothache.
  • Gum and tooth infection – It is possible that both your gums and tooth are infected. If that’s the case, a dentist needs to carefully review the history of your toothache, take an x-ray of the tooth, and test the sensitivity of your tooth to pressure and temperature. Another dentist may be thorough enough to determine the cause of your pain. Otherwise, you may have to see an endodontist (root canal specialist) or a periodontist (specialist in the gums and supporting structure of the teeth).

The infection will continue to spread until it is treated, so please do not delay treatment. An experienced dentist can save the tooth and prevent the need for an extraction and implant.


Dr. Thomas Goebel, a Moline cosmetic dentist, sponsors this post.