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Does this scenario sound familiar – You’ve been really busy, you haven’t been to the dentist in quite a while, and now your tooth is hurting. It has hurt before but the pain went away and you ignored it, but now it is back and worse than last time.
What do you do?
The first thing you need to do is to decide if this is something that needs immediate emergency treatment or is it something that can wait until your schedule allows a convenient visit to the dentist.
The severity of the pain and how long it lasts is one way to decide. If the pain is severe, lasts more than several seconds at a time and is tending to get worse, and/or if there is swelling, you need to pick up the phone, make the call, and at least describe your symptoms to the dental team member. They can then tell you if the problem you are having seems urgent. To make a final determination of what is happening, though, an exam and an x-ray of the affected tooth or teeth will be necessary.
If you haven’t been to the dentist for some time and especially if you are experiencing tooth pain, schedule an appointment ASAP.
The sooner the problem can be identified, the better the chances of getting a simple resolution. Don’t worry about the pain, once you arrive at Morgan Dental Care, we have a trained sedation dentist to care for your dental issues.
How can you tell if you have a legitimate toothache?
- Spontaneous pain. It hurts while you try to sleep, watch TV, etc
- Hot or cold temperatures make it hurt worse
- Sweets make it hurt.
- Pain on biting
- It hurts when food gets trapped down in the tooth – An area where food is collecting that didn’t used to be there is a sure sign of trouble.
- Hot makes it worse, cold makes it actually feel better. This is a sign that the nerve in the tooth is dying.
Toothache due to decay (cavities):
When a cavity in a tooth grows and begins to get close the the nerve inside the tooth, pain will result. It may start out feeling just about like the sensitivity from exposed root surfaces as described above. But it usually progresses faster and you may also have pain from eating sweets or from biting pressure on the tooth.
When you have pain from a cavity, it usually means decay is not far from infecting the nerve, which will eventually cause an abcess. If you have sensitivity to cold that is getting worse and lasting longer and/or is becoming more steady pain, it is likely your problem could be caused by a cavity.
If the cavity is not treated in time, it will progress to become an abcess. Pain from an abcess can be extreme and the infection can be serious. Treating it is something that should be considered urgent. If untreated, the infection will continue to spread into areas surrounding the tooth. This can happen very suddenly; literally within hours.
While a dental abcess can often be temporarily controlled by antibiotics, it cannot be eliminated except by removing the source of infection, which is inside the infected tooth. This is done by a treatment known as root canal treatment. If the tooth is damaged beyond being able to restored, extraction (pulling) of the tooth may be the only alternative.
When a tooth cracks, it is usually because it has been weakened by either a large filling, a large cavity or a traumatic incident. Symptoms of a cracked tooth typically begin as a sharp pain when biting that occurs only on occasion and lasts only a split second. Gradually the pain may become more frequent and then become longer-lasting when it occurs. Sometimes a crack may allow bacteria to penetrate the tooth and get to the nerve. In this case an abcess can develop just as when there is a deep cavity.
Cracked teeth are unpredictable because of the unique nature of each crack. Some will be easily repaired; a few will abcess; and some, still fewer, will not be restorable and ultimately have to be extracted. But the liklihood of a satisfactory result, preserving a comfortable, functional tooth, is best when the problem is handled at the earliest stage.
Most broken teeth are teeth that were cracked before they actually broke. Very often the symptoms of a cracked tooth go away as soon as the tooth breaks, if the break is not too deep. However, if the break does go deep, or if it is due to a large cavity, it may trigger significant pain. Regardless of whether or not there is pain, the tooth should be evaluated immediately to determine what needs to be done and how urgent the treatment may be.
Periodontal (gum) abcess
Advanced gum disease can create very deep defects in the gum and bone around the teeth that can trap bacteria and develop into a painful abcess. A periodontal or gum abcess, like a tooth abcess, is a serious infection that requires immediate treatment. Antibiotics may prevent it from worsening for a while, but will not eliminate the abcess. Treatment of the gum is essential to alleviate this problem.
Won’t it be easier and cheaper just to have the tooth out?
Having a toothache does not mean you have to lose the tooth. If you do end up having a tooth pulled, you will immediately have impaired chewing, a potentially embarrassing space and in the long term, shifting of the remaining teeth is likely. You can usually be out of pain just a quickly by saving the tooth as by pulling it.
Remember, it often costs about the same to resolve a toothache with treatment that will save the tooth as it does to have it removed.
Even if you need more than a filling to save a tooth, and the cost is more than the extraction, it is almost always less expensive than replacing the missing tooth after it is gone; and better to have your own tooth.
Other causes of pain in and around the teeth: There are other conditions that can cause pain in the area of your teeth:
- Sinus infection can mimic toothache in an upper molar
- Impacted or infected wisdom teeth
- Jaw joints TMJ with arthritic conditions
- Sensitivity caused by exposed root surfaces as a result of gum recession
- Abnormal growths or tumors
The only way to be sure of what is causing your tooth pain is a visit to a dentist. Even then, the exact cause is not always immediately obvious even to the dentist and may take some effort to determine.
What you can do to relieve the pain:
- Keep the area clean
- Take over the counter pain medicine as indicated. Whatever you take for aches and pains.
- If you have an open cavity, you may get relief with an over the counter toothache remedy such as Anbesol
- If cold makes it feel better, swish ice water over the tooth periodically until you can see a dentist. But don’t delay getting an appointment.
- Call our office for an appointment We will make it a priority to get you out of pain quickly