“I’ll go to the dentist when the tooth hurts,” (or the variation “when my tooth bothers me”)—how many times have you heard this, or perhaps even said it? Do you know why it’s not a good idea to wait to see your dentist until you have pain?
- Your dental treatment will be more expensive (cost more).
- Your dental treatment will be more involved and complex. Most dental diseases are silent in their early stages. By the time you feel pain, the problem is quite advanced.
- Local anesthetic (commonly called novocaine) may not work as well to control your pain during treatment.
- Most painkillers (both over-the-counter and prescription) do not eliminate severe dental pain.
Toothaches: With toothaches, your pain comes from the tooth’s nerve. The nerve of your tooth is buried deep within the tooth and surrounded by hard material (dentin and enamel). This means that tooth decay has to travel quite a distance to reach the nerve of your tooth to cause pain!
When you’re seeing a dentist on a regular basis, hopefully, your dentist will find the tooth decay long before it gets to this point, and you can do a filling. Once you’re having pain, the most likely situation is that the decay has created a path to allow your mouth’s bacteria access to the tooth’s nerve. This causes the nerve to die and creates an abscess (localized infection). The only ways to treat this abscess and get you out of pain are to have a root canal or to remove the tooth.
Tooth decay can grow from a small, fillable area to a dental abscess in as short a time as one year under the right conditions. Abscesses and infections can cause death if the underlying cause is not treated. They are nothing to fool around with!
Gum Pain: Your gum pain can be caused by a number of conditions ranging from something simple (canker sore. etc.) to something very complex (periodontal disease, cancer etc.). Here, we’ll discuss some of the more common conditions that are not as easy to treat once they’re far along.
A pimple-like area on your gums that grows and shrinks is usually a sign of an infection of either your tooth or your gums. Your infection is trying to find a way to drain, and it will follow the easiest path. Sometimes it will travel into the neck area (making swallowing difficult for you) or up by your eye (making seeing difficult as well as placing it closer to your brain—a place that you do not want infection to travel!)
Loose teeth can also cause gum pain. (Just ask any child who’s in the process of losing his or her baby teeth!) In an adult, loose teeth are caused by periodontal disease, which is a low-level infection of the areas around your teeth. This infection eventually causes the bone around your teeth to move down the root of the tooth. When the bone gets near the end of your root, there is no longer enough support for the tooth. As a result, your tooth moves around and tugs on the gum that is still attached to it, causing pain. Unfortunately, we currently have no way to replace the bone around your teeth, so once it’s gone, it’s gone and the only option is to remove your tooth. (But the bone loss that came before can make it difficult to make you a denture or other replacement for your teeth.)
Early intervention and treatment for a dental problem may cost a few hundred dollars. Waiting until the tooth or area bothers you could cost you a thousand or more dollars (or even your life in the most severe cases). Please don’t wait until it hurts to seek dental care!
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist located at 1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd., Lorain, OH 44053. Her office can be reached by phone at 440-960-1940 or by using the contact us form on her website at www.drjrobb.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/DrJenniferRobb (please feel free to join our facebook page)