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When To Call Your Dentist About a Toothache (and When to Wait it Out)

Experiencing an aching tooth or persistent discomfort in your mouth should be your first warning sign that you need to contact your dentist. Often, persistent pain in our smile could mean the presence of a cavity or a dental infection. 

The American Dental Association recommends having any troubling toothache evaluated immediately by a dentist. Dentists often leave time slots available for emergency patients, so you may be able to get a same-day appointment. Read on to learn which symptoms to watch for when it comes to a detrimental toothache, and when you should wait it out before calling for an emergency appointment. 

Your Toothache May Be A Warning

When you experience sensitivity or dull aching in your mouth, it should be considered a warning sign. This sensitivity can be the result of sinus or allergy issues or even sudden changes in elevation; however, these scenarios should result in your pain being temporary and only lasting for a few hours. If you are experiencing pain due to a cavity or an infection, then your discomfort will persistently last for more than 48 hours and will continue to worsen with time. 

Poor oral hygiene, a diet high in sugary foods, and infrequent brushing and flossing can allow for plaque to coat the teeth, erode tooth enamel, and enable cavities to form. Cavities can then spread through the tooth and eventually reach the inner pulp where a tooth's nerve center is located. Once tooth decay has developed to this stage, the infection begins and you will require  a root canal for treatment

Dangers of Decay and Infection 

In addition to discomfort, tooth decay and infection may weaken the structure of a tooth, which increases your risk of injuries, including cracks or chips. If a tooth is infected, the inner pulp can die, which effectively kills the tooth. A tooth extraction will then be necessary to help stop the spread of infection to other surrounding teeth or into the jawbone itself. If you ever experience persistent tooth sensitivity, toothaches, pain while chewing, or swelling, these can all be signs of an advanced cavity or an infected tooth that requires attention from a dentist as soon as possible. 

Home Remedies To Try First

If a toothache strikes when you can't see your dentist, like in the middle of the night, you may feel desperate to find some pain relief. For temporary relief, consider trying one of these homemade toothache remedies:

Salt Water Rinse

One of the easiest and most effective ways of reducing discomfort from a swollen tooth is to rinse your mouth with a warm salt water rinse. Add a few teaspoons of salt to a glass of warm water and swish the mixture around in your mouth for a few seconds before spitting the liquid out. Warm water will help to ease the pain, and the salt will help to reduce any swelling in your gum tissue temporarily.

Cold Compress

If you are experiencing swelling in addition to a painful tooth, holding a cold compress against the outside of your cheek may provide some temporary relief. A cold compress will help to numb the area, which can relieve discomfort. It may also help to reduce swelling and inflammation. Cold compresses may offer temporary relief to help you fall back asleep, but they will not address the root cause of your toothache. Be sure to contact your dentist in the morning for further instructions.

Clove Oil

Clove oil can be used for temporary production and to decrease swelling associated with a toothache. For this homemade toothache remedy, simply dip a cotton ball in clove oil and gently rub the cotton ball over the sore area of the tooth and gum tissue. Clove oil contains eugenol, a natural anesthetic, which gives this home remedy the ability to help with the pain associated with a toothache.

Tooth Pain Medications

Over the counter pain medications can help to keep you comfortable while waiting to be seen by your dentist for an emergency appointment. Just like other home remedies, pain medications are not a long-term solution for discomfort from a toothache. If you medicate your pain without seeking treatment, the cavity could get worse and lead to an infection. Always follow package directions when taking any over-the-counter pain medications.

How Your Dentist Can Help 

Home remedies for experiencing tooth sensitivity and discomfort may provide you with some temporary relief, but they are not long-term solutions for repairing a damaged tooth. Our team at Tompkins Dental is here to help halt any discomfort you may be experiencing when it comes to your teeth and gums. For more information on our emergency treatments for tooth decay or damaged teeth, call us today to schedule an appointment. 

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