Tooth Pain


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Tooth Pain

Tooth pain can present in many different forms.  Unfortunately, if gone untreated, it can be debilitating and very dangerous.  It is always a good idea to consult with a dental professional if you have any concerns, feel pain or sense that something isn’t right.

In order to help diagnose any underlying issues, there are some things basic concepts and questions to answer.  You should start with a self-assessment.  What type of pain are you experiencing and where?  Do you see anything in your mouth that doesn’t look right?  Think about anything that may have changed recently.  Did you hear or feel something when eating?  Did you experience any type of trauma like a fall or blow to the face?  Is there something that makes the pain feel better or worse?  Do you have pain with hot, cold, biting or spontaneously?  Does the pain go away quickly or stay around and if so for how long?  Does the pain radiate to eye, ear or down your neck?

Answers to these questions can help you and your dentist understand what may be happening.  Try to understand if the pain is on the top or the bottom and whether it is in the back or the front.  Once you think you have it generally located, look in the mirror with a flashlight or with the light on your phone.  You can also enlist the help of someone else if needed.  See if there are any noticeable breaks in the tooth or missing fillings or tooth structure.  Look around the teeth at the gums and try to see if there are any red areas, swelling, or white areas like a pimple.

The best possible outcome is a mild, one time pain.  Sometimes teeth can be sensitive without any real underlying issue.  If you feel something once and it is short in duration and a 1 or 2 on the pain scale (a scale from 1-10, “1” being very mild sensitivity and “10” being debilitating, worst pain possible), give it some time and you may not feel it again.

There is a generalized, consistent or intermittent type of pain that can be caused by eating or drinking hot/cold things or certain types of foods.  This if often felt on several teeth or in a particular area of your mouth.  You should speak to your dentist and hygienist about this type of pain.  There are certain toothpastes that can help.  Also, your dental professional can recommend certain other ways to care for your teeth or avoid certain foods or drinks.

Some pain is difficult to pinpoint because it comes and goes without any real consistency.  You may not remember exactly where, when or why you feel the pain.  Keeping a log or jotting down a note of when you feel the pain, the type of pain and how long it lasts, is very helpful.  A pattern may emerge and you may notice that there is pain when you drink something cold or when you lie down at night.  This information should be communicated to your dentist.

As you move up in the pain scale, it is often clearer where the pain is coming from.  You may notice that every time you eat or drink something there is pain.  Again, make a note of where in your mouth you feel it and try to see if there is anything out of place.  Common sense dictates that you should avoid doing the things that bring about pain.  Don’t tap the tooth or stick your fingers in your mouth, this can only cause more issues.

Abscess or infection in the bone around the tooth can cause significant pain and swelling.  The infection can sometimes find a way of the bone and cause a pimple or “fisula” in the gum area.  This is a dangerous situation.  You may notice this pimple come and go with or without pain and with or without swelling.  This does not lessen the need to be seen by a dentist immediately!   Do not let this go untreated.  Patients will also convey that they had a bad taste in their mouth which can also be a sign of a draining infection.

You should be concerned with cold and hot (more hot) sensitivity from eating or drinking that stays around for 20 seconds or more.  Be aware of pain caused from biting or tapping pressure that lasts the same amount of time.  Pain radiating (traveling) to the eye, ear or neck is not a good sign either.  Swelling is also a dangerous sign.  If the swelling is bad enough that you are having trouble breathing or there is obstruction in your airway, call 9-1-1.  The only real type of home care for a true abscess is pain control. See your dentist immediately. NSAIDs like Advil, Aleve, or Tylenol can sometimes help.  Read the label, speak to your dentists or the pharmacist to understand the indications and risks for each of the medications.  You can cause damage to your body with too many pills.

Broken fillings or teeth are sometimes easier to diagnose because you can see them.  It may be difficult though if it is toward the back of your mouth especially on top teeth.  Sometimes you will know because the area feels rough or different with your tongue.  If it is not possible to get to a dentist right away, you can get some temporary filling material in the pharmacy to place until you can get in to see the dentist.

There are many other causes of tooth and mouth pain.  Be a good recorder of information and think about when it hurts and where the pain is.  Record what, if anything, makes it feel better or worse.  Try to see if there are any red or white areas on the gum tissue or in your mouth and if you have a broken tooth or filling.  Call your dental professional right away with your concerns as oral health directly effects systemic health.