Each and every day we see patients with acute dental problems.
In other words, we treat a lot of toothaches.
These visits are usually scheduled on an emergency or last minutes notice and often involve patients in severe or prolonged pain. Our goal in these situations is simple. First, figure out what is wrong. Second, get rid of the pain. If it were just always that easy…
A toothache visit starts like any other doctor visit. Patient information and medical histories must be updated and reviewed. Most often, a baseline blood pressure will be taken. This reading is usually a little high due to the pain present. Most dentists will then prescribe two films (x-rays) of the offending tooth or area of pain. One film checks for decay (cavities) and bone loss (gum disease) in between the suspect teeth. The second film checks for infection in the bone around the roots of the teeth in the offending area. Two separate x-rays must be taken because one x-ray film is not large enough to show everything that might be causing the problem. Finally, a digital picture or two may be taken. These pictures help patients obtain proper insurance benefits, as well as providing a way for people to actually see what we see. A picture of a broken down tooth is usually worth a thousand words.
Then comes the big question, “How does it hurt?”
Toothaches come in all different shapes and sizes. The nature of the pain is a major clue as to what is going on. Oftentimes, the type of pain will be the tell. Consider:
“It hurts when I eat sweets / hot food / cold food.” These are all signs of cavities or dental decay. The good news is that this type of pain can be removed by eliminating the bacteria causing the pain. Usually, this is done with a filling, onlay, or crown.
“It hurts when I bite on it.” This is a classic sign of cracked tooth syndrome. The initial treatment for a cracked tooth is an onlay or crown. Sometimes, if the crack is deep into the tooth, a root canal may be required. Most of these teeth can be saved if the tooth is treated expediently.
“I cannot tell which tooth it is, but I have a dull ache in the area.” Commonly, this is how gum disease presents itself. The offending area will often also have loose teeth and bleeding gums.
“It throbs / wakes me up / hurts constantly on it’s own.” These are all signs that the nerves of the offending tooth or teeth are damaged beyond what your body can repair. If the offenders are to be saved, root canals and crowns are often required. Removal of these dead or dying teeth is also an option.
This list could go on, but the above are the most common pains we see. The key is to listen to your body and get to a dentist at the first twinge of a problem. The less it is hurting, the more likely it can be fixed.
Until next week, keep smiling.
-Please send comments to Drs. Parrish at www.ParrishDental.com.