When to See Your Dentist About Tooth Pain

Tooth pain can cause a lot of alarm, especially if you’re nervous about seeing the dentist. But ignoring the pain could make things worse — which would mean more extensive treatment and cost. How do you know when it’s time to schedule a dental visit?

Dr. Taylor’s Family Dental Center offers same-day emergency appointments for urgent dental problems like tooth pain. Here’s how to tell if you need a dental visit or if your tooth pain might resolve on its own.

Common causes of tooth pain

Lots of issues can cause tooth pain. These are three of the most common issues behind painful symptoms.

#1: Cavities

Cavities (tooth decay) are probably the most well-known cause of tooth pain. A cavity happens when decay-causing bacteria “break through” the protective enamel layer of the tooth, creating a hole into the deeper part of the tooth. 

Cavities can form in an otherwise healthy tooth, and they can — and often do — form around old fillings. Many cavities can be treated with fillings. Larger or deeper cavities might need a larger filling called an inlay or onlay or a dental crown.

#2: Abscesses

Abscesses happen when a bacterial infection invades the gum tissue or the “pulp” inside your tooth. As the infection continues, pus and other debris build up around the infection site, forming a dental abscess. 

With a gum abscess, you’ll have some swelling around the infection site. As the abscess drains, it can cause a foul taste, along with bad breath. 

#3: Cracks or fractures

Cracks or fractures often are caused by direct trauma, like biting something very hard or being struck in the jaw or face. They can also happen in teeth that have large fillings or untreated decay. 

A fracture or chip may be visible, but a crack can be very hard to spot on your own, especially if it forms on the back side of a tooth or near an existing filling. Some cracks are too tiny to see on your own. Even a tiny crack or chip can increase your risk of cavities by exposing the interior part of your tooth to bacterial infection. 

When to see the dentist

Generally speaking, if you have mild discomfort that goes away within a day or so, it could be related to another issue, like sinus problems or even a tension headache. But if your tooth pain doesn’t resolve in a couple of days or if it’s accompanied by any of these symptoms, you need to schedule an office visit as soon as possible:

Pain that’s continuous or recurrent is more likely caused by a cavity or infection. If you grind your teeth habitually, that can cause tooth pain — or more likely jaw pain that you can “feel” in your teeth. But even a grinding problem needs to be evaluated by a dentist since regular grinding can lead to tooth and jaw problems in the future.

Bottom line: Like pain in any other part of your body, pain in your tooth is an indication that something’s not right. As much as you might want to, you really can’t diagnose the cause of tooth pain on your own. Scheduling a visit is the best way to stop the pain and prevent more serious oral health problems.

Don’t ignore tooth pain

It can be tempting to ignore tooth pain and hope it goes away on its own. But delaying care — even a little bit — can allow an underlying problem to become much worse. The best way to prevent that is to have Dr. Taylor evaluate your tooth as soon as possible. To schedule your visit at our Waterford, Michigan, practice, call the office or use our scheduling tool to book a visit online.

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