Mouth Pain: Ignore It, Wait, or Call Your Dentist?

It’s Friday late afternoon, and a spot in your mouth begins to hurt. You are not sure if it’s on your gum or if it’s a tooth. By the time you get home, the pain is not much worse, but not better, either. What should you do? Your dentist’s office is closed, but you really don’t want to go to the emergency room if it’s not necessary.

“Pain that doesn’t go away with an over-the-counter pain reliever is pain you need to call your dentist about,” says Dr. Carol Ford from her Phoenix dental office. “If you have recently seen your dentist and the pain is new and unexpected, don’t wait.” Your dentist wants a phone call sooner rather than later, because a small problem can be treated quickly and easily, and a big problem may not be.

“Pain is a sign that something is wrong, and all pain that doesn’t go away means you should call your dentist,” says Dr. Ford.

The American Dental Association suggests you call your dentist or go to the emergency room for any accident or sudden change in your mouth. Here are some guidelines.

dental_painYou should go to the emergency room if

  • One or more of your teeth is knocked out. The tooth needs to be kept moist. Tuck the tooth between your gum and cheek or put it in a container of milk before you leave for the emergency room.
  • You get something stuck in your teeth and cannot remove it with floss. Do not try to remove something jammed between your teeth with a sharp or metal object.
  • If you bite your tongue or cheek hard enough to cause serious bleeding, use an ice pack to reduce swelling. Go to the emergency room if the bleeding doesn’t stop quickly or if the bleeding is serious or caused by a fall or a blow.

You should call your dentist immediately if

  • You notice a tooth that is loose
  • You break a dental appliance (dentures, braces, or a crown) and can’t chew or open your mouth fully.
  • You feel a lump in your mouth
  • Your face begins to swell around a hurting tooth

You should call your dentist for an appointment if

  • You wake up with jaw pain
  • Your gums bleed when you brush or floss
  • You notice rough spots on your cheek or gums
  • Your teeth hurt when you eat or drink cold or hot foods
  • You have frequent sores in your mouth or fever blisters

“If you aren’t sure what to do, call your dentist,” says Dr. Ford. “A patient knows when they are in pain, and no one needs to be a hero with dental pain,” she continues.

The way to keep all your teeth intact is to see your dentist regularly. If you do that, you’ll know to call if you have continuing pain.

 

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