Is your tooth pain an emergency?

A dull aching in your gums, excruciating tooth pain, or severe jaw pain are all indicators of dental problems or something worse. Unfortunately, a lot of individuals put off visiting the dentist, which can be dangerous because dental issues can sometimes worsen before you realize they are there.

“As we age, the nerves within our teeth weaken, and dentin, the porous substance that lies beneath dental enamel, accumulates, making it harder for us to feel pain in our teeth. Thus, a long-standing issue has the potential to worsen and become more complicated,” says Dr. Lisa Thompson, a Harvard School of Dental Medicine specialist in geriatric dentistry.

Find out more about the causes of dental pain, how to recognize it, and when to call 911 or your dentist.

tooth pain

Tooth Pain may arise from various issues. A cavity is a little hole in the tooth that is perhaps the most prevalent. Enamel is the outer coating of a tooth covered in a sticky mixture of bacteria and food particles called plaque. Plaque produces chemicals that erode enamel. Sharp discomfort and sensitivity to hot or cold meals are likely outcomes of exposed nerves in teeth, which are more common in deeper cavities. These symptoms may also result from a loose or fractured filling, which may expose the nerve, or from a shattered tooth.

excruciating tooth pain,
Image credit: diamondheaddentalcare.com

Trauma, such as biting down on a fork by accident, may also be the cause of tooth pain. This may cause bruising to the ligament that holds your tooth in place in your jaw, resulting in a toothache that is first sharp and then dull.

A cavity or cracked tooth pain may have caused a painful infection at the tooth’s root, resulting in an abscess—a small pocket of pus—if you feel pressure when you bite down on food, have sinus pressure without nasal congestion, or taste bad (acidic).


Gum Pain

Gum pain is typically not intense; rather, it is an achy soreness. There are numerous possible causes for this. Simple causes could include overly aggressive brushing, sensitive gums, or irritation from food particles (like popcorn kernels) being lodged in your teeth or in the area between your gums and teeth.

In addition, canker sores (aphthous ulcers), toothpaste irritants containing sodium laurel sulfate, and cuts from objects poking you can all cause gum pain.

gum pain

Inadequate fitting or poorly maintained dentures or partials may also be the cause of gum pain. “You might see red bumps on the irritated area or have a burning sensation from a fungal infection,” explains Dr. Thompson.

Another option is that gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease characterized by swollen, bleeding gums, is caused by plaque accumulation at the base of teeth, aggravating the gums. Gingivitis can develop into periodontal disease (becoming below the gum line) if left untreated. It can cause gum tooth pain, abscesses, and tooth loss by destroying the ligament and bone that keep the tooth in place. Indications of a gum disease-related abscess include a pus-filled pimple on the gum line and face edema.

Jaw Pain

Jaw pain can manifest as either an acute, abrupt ache or as a persistent soreness that gets worse with time.

The temporomandibular joint, which is located where the jaw bone and skull connect on either side of the head, is typically the source of dull, persistent jaw pain. Temporomandibular disorder, or TMD, is the term used to describe problems with this joint.

TMD can result from a variety of injuries, including dislocated joints, as well as issues with muscles, stress, arthritis, and even unconscious actions. Perhaps you nibble on a pen, chew gum, or grind your teeth at night,” Dr. Thompson explains.

jaw pain

Pay close attention if you get an acute ache in your lower jaw or neck. That may be a sign of a heart attack or it may be angina, a type of pain brought on by restricted heart arteries. Jaw pain related to the heart can happen even in the absence of more typical heart attack symptoms like breathlessness and chest discomfort.
What you ought to do

Unexpected jaw and neck pain may indicate a serious situation. In particular, if you have known heart issues, dial 911.

Any more pain in your teeth, gums, or jaw should prompt you to schedule an appointment with your dentist right away if you think you may have an abscess, gum disease, or a cracked filling or tooth.

“Once in the bloodstream, bacteria from the abscess can spread to other parts of your body, including the heart and brain. It may endanger your life. Dr. Thompson advises going to the emergency room if your dentist is unable to see you right away. They will only be able to prescribe antibiotics to you while you wait to see a dentist. “And feel free to experiment: get a soft toothbrush, try a Waterpik, or change toothpaste if you think that your diet, lifestyle, or brushing habits may be contributing to your discomfort. And continue to floss and clean your teeth every day.”

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