January 9, 2019

woman with a toothache

If you’ve ever experienced a dental emergency, you already know that it’s no party. There’s something about mouth pain that feels so much worse than any other pain.

And when a dental emergency arises it might feel like it came out of nowhere and was totally out of your control. The good news is that it can be prevented with a few simple things.

But what happens if maybe there was a chink in your preventative armor?

A Dental Emergency That Calls for a Root Canal

If you see us regularly then it’s likely that Dr. Powell will catch the problem before you start feeling pain (all the more reason not to skip out on radiographs and exams). However, if you haven’t been seen as regularly as you should, you might fall victim to that bad bacteria you’ve heard us mention so many times before.

Though not all tooth infections are accompanied by pain, you could notice these symptoms:

  • Lingering sensitivity or pain once the hot or cold item has been removed from the tooth.
  • Severe pain when biting or chewing.
  • Pulsing pain.
  • Pain that radiates to other parts of the face and neck.
  • A darkened tooth.
  • A bump on your gums that doesn’t go away.
  • Sensitivity or pain to tapping on your tooth.

When a toothache accompanies swelling in the mouth, such as a lump you can see and touch, root canal surgery is often called for. This is especially the case if the swelling lasts a while or you also have really bad breath or an awful taste in the mouth.

Swelling is actually a sign that an infected tooth needs immediate treatment and/or antibiotics. Along with not feeling well overall — especially if you have a fever or swollen lymph nodes. These are all strong signs that you need a root canal and that you need to call us ASAP.

What Is a Root Canal?

If it turns out that you do need a root canal, Dr. Powell will take X-rays and evaluate your mouth to confirm the diagnosis.

We know hearing that you need a root canal can be scary, but a root canal just sounds a lot scarier than it is! The actual treatment really isn’t that bad at all. In fact, it’s usually the symptoms that are painful and not the treatment.

Root canal treatment is how you save your tooth. It’s basically the process of cleaning and repairing the inner chamber of your tooth. Our dentist will make sure that you’re nice and numb, and then he will create a tiny hole in the tooth. Next, he will go in and clean out the pulp chamber — making sure it’s free of bacteria, debris, and infection.

The next step is the placement of medicine inside the tooth. Along with antibiotics, that medicine usually stays inside the tooth for about a week, and then you’ll come back for another checkup to make sure the infection is finally gone. If it gets the green light, then the tooth chamber is filled and we can put on a permanent restoration (like a crown or onlay.

Can Emergency Root Canals Be Avoided?

Root canals are usually the result of decay that’s been left unchecked or trauma to the tooth.

Making sure that you see us regularly at the recommended intervals is crucial to prevention. Cavities that are caught and treated while they’re small, or even decay that is reversed before it damages your tooth enamel, will ensure that decay doesn’t go too deep. Also, good home-care with the use of tools like Sonicare and Hydrofloss are all part of prevention.

Additionally, the foods you eat and the drinks you drink can even play a role in the health of your teeth.

As far as avoiding trauma, sometimes it might be unexpected. You can, however, do your best to wear things like helmets or sports guards when participating in potentially dangerous activities so that you’re not caught off-guard (like what we did there? LOL).

There’s also the problem of grinding or clenching your teeth. In this case, getting an occlusal guard to wear over your teeth is a smart way to stop further damage from happening to your mouth.

Are There Any Alternatives to Root Canals?

If you’ve been diagnosed with needing a root canal treatment there’s only one other option at this point: tooth extraction.

And sometimes this ends up being the case anyway for severely infected teeth.

When tooth extraction is necessary (or chosen) then getting a dental implant to replace that missing tooth could be a viable option. Much like how leaving a cavity untreated eventually leads to the need of root canal treatment or extraction, missing teeth can start to cause a series of negative side effects.

So you’ll want to be sure that you replace any missing teeth.

Another Kind of Dental Emergency: Dry Socket

So maybe you’ve gone the tooth extraction route, and you’re thinking you’ll be safe from pain…but actually, you’re not in the clear yet.

A dry socket is a wound healing complication that can happen after a tooth extraction. Although, only around three percent of people who have a tooth extracted actually succumb to dry socket.

What is a Dry Socket?

If you get queasy easily you might want to make sure that you’re sitting down before you read the next line.

A dry socket is basically a blood clot that has come out and exposing the super sensitive underlying nerves. So yes, dry sockets are incredibly painful.

And if left untreated, a dry socket can delay the healing process and cause an infection or other complication.

Typical symptoms of a dry socket are:

  • Severe pain a couple of days after an extraction.
  • Radiating pain that extends to the face and neck.
  • Visible bone.
  • You might see the blood clot come out.
  • Unpleasant taste.
  • Foul mouth odor.

How Are Dry Sockets Treated?

Dr. Powell will gently clean the area and then a medicated dressing is placed to cover the exposed nerves and bone. This treatment usually provides immediate relief. This dressing may need to be replaced every few days during the healing process which typically takes 7-10 days.

Additionally, medications may be prescribed to manage pain and help reduce inflammation.

Can You Avoid a Dry Socket?

While dry socket can be extremely painful you can do a lot to avoid it.  The most important thing you can do is to follow Dr. Powell’s pre and post-treatment care instructions.

Here’s a few things that can help you avoid getting a dry socket:

  • Keep the area clean but avoid directly brushing it. Only brush and floss the teeth around the area.
  • Avoid using toothpaste.
  • Do not rinse your mouth for 24 hours after extraction.
  • After 24 hours, gently rinse with a warm salt water solution.
  • Avoid sucking and forceful spitting.
  • Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco.
  • Do not touch the extraction site.
  • Avoid carbonated and hot drinks and food that is spicy, hard, or which might leave bits behind, like popcorn. Instead, eat soft foods like yogurt, mashed potatoes, and eggs.
  • Avoid taking aspirin.

Don’t End Up With a Dental Emergency

At the first signs of a dental emergency, call us! The longer you wait the worse things will become.

Hopefully, you’re not reading this post in pain but rather being proactive so you can avoid ending up with a dental emergency.

In which case, let’s look at what you can do on your end to avoid ending up in pain because you can actively prevent that!

It’s your visits to our office for routine dental cleanings and exams that allow us to spot and treat decay early before it damages the tooth pulp and leads to the necessity of a root canal treatment.

It’s also a great idea to pay attention to habits that hurt the enamel of your teeth. Such is the case with grinding and clenching your teeth, which is why getting an occlusal guard is a great way to protect your teeth while you sleep.

Last, but not least, your dental home-care plays a HUGE role in the health of your teeth and gums. With the proper instructions, tools and professional guidance you can make sure that the bad bacteria doesn’t cause you problems and pain. These are all things YOU can do to proactively keep your teeth healthy and free from the ravages of decay!

And now you know that regular dental visits, good home-care, completing treatment early (vs. putting it off), and making sure that you aren’t skipping X-rays and exams are exactly how you prevent a dental emergency.

You see, you really do hold the ticket to staying away from pain and dental emergencies! We’re here for you whether you’re at the point where you can avoid a dental emergency or on the verge of experiencing one, please give us a call to schedule a visit with our exceptional team. You can even request a visit online.

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