How Do You Know When a Toothache is an Emergency?

Even though your may consider your teeth to be only a small part of your body, if you’ve ever experienced a toothache or even slight discomfort, then you know how it can easily ruin your whole day. But how do you know when a toothache has escalated from a nuisance to an emergency?

At her Houston dentist office, experienced dentist Isabelle Farmer says that toothaches or even a general sensitivity of your teeth are issues that may or may not be a sign of something bigger. Whether or not you need to see a dentist right away about the problem is something that can almost always be answered based on how long the immediate pain lasts. As a general rule of thumb, she usually tells her patients at Houston Smile Docs that any type of pain in the mouth that lasts longer than two weeks needs to be looked at by a dentist.

If you have minor tooth sensitivity or pain when you drink something cold but the pain goes away almost instantly, then Dr. Farmer says it is usually fine to wait awhile before making an appointment. However, even minor sensitivity is something to discuss with your dentist at your next check-up.

On the other hand, if you have extreme sensitivity when you eat cold or hot foods,  and that sensitivity lasts for an extended period of time, then you should make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Lingering pain, she says, is an indicator that there is most likely a problem with the nerve of the tooth. The sooner you see your dentist, the sooner you can find relief.

At Houston Smile Docs, she says, there are desensitizing treatments available for patients in the office. However, Dr. Farmer usually advises patients who are concerned about tooth sensitivity to try a product like Sensodyne first. As an over-the-counter toothpaste, Sensodyne is a relatively low-cost treatment method that patients can buy without a prescription from the dentist.

In some cases, Dr. Farmer says, your tooth sensitivity can be traced back to grinding habits that you may not even be aware of. Clenching and grinding is a problem with so many patients, she explains, that at Houston Smile Docs, it is usually one of the first things that the staff looks into when a patient comes into the office complaining of sensitive teeth. Your teeth can easily become aggravated due to nighttime issues, she says, which will then cause the teeth to become sensitive to factors like hot or cold temperatures, or even sweet foods during the day. In addition to using toothpastes for sensitive teeth, your dentist may recommend that you start wearing a nighttime appliance in your mouth to prevent further damage from clenching and grinding.

Of course, she adds, these treatments will not help with more major toothache issues or if you have been experiencing any swelling in the mouth. When you have swelling in your mouth, Dr. Farmer says, you need to be checked out by a dentist immediately. Addressing your concerns in a timely manner, Dr. Farmer insists, is your best defense for ensuring that a problem is not being given the chance to escalate into something that will need extensive treatment.

*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.

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