painful dental cavity

Can a painful dental cavity be called a dental emergency?

One often asked question is ‘can dental caries be an emergency’?

The answer is a simple ‘Yes” it would depend on the pain tolerance of the person.

However, if treated right at the onset then the cavity will not progress to an emergency.

If it causes pain, discomfort or aesthetic embarrassment then it is an emergency. It requires immediate attention from the dental health personal.

How do cavities get formed?

When foods rich in carbohydrates and sugar like bread, milk, soda, fruits, cakes, candies they allow the bacteria in the mouth to multiply. This usually appears like a sticky film over the teeth and is called as plaque. Particularly in the molars because it has lots of peaks and valleys (called cusps) and food can settle there if proper rinsing is not done after eating. This turns the saliva acidic and the minerals on the teeth begin to dissolve.

Abrasion is another way that cavities get formed. Abrasion is caused by overzealous brushing. Resulting in the receding of the gums and tearing of the Cementum. The cavity formed here is wedge shaped; pain and sensitivity are the first symptoms.

Doesn’t controlling the pain reduce the emergency?

No, taking over the counter medication reduces the pain. But it does not address the decay or the lost minerals. When the cavity stops hurting, it could also mean that the nerve is dead. This could lead to further infection.

Using desensitizing pastes could solve the issue temporarily but the underlying cause has to be addressed.

If an aching tooth stops hurting, then probably the nerve is dead, this makes it even more dangerous for dead nerve can get infected.

Which part of my tooth can get a cavity?

A tooth is made of three layers, the outermost enamel. The enamel is made of dense minerals and has no nerves or blood vessels. The layer below is the dentine which has tubules and it connects the outer world sensation like heat and cold to the pulp. The pulp is the core and is made up of blood vessels and nerves.

When the cavity is in the enamel person could experience food sticking, and sensitivity which is often neglected. When the decay goes further it involves the dentine, then sensitivity is present and quite often pain too. But if the decay reaches the pulp, then there is definitely pain and has to be attended to immediately.

In the root cementum is the part of the tooth that helps to hold the tooth in the socket, there is no enamel here.

When should I consult a dental health personal?

The tooth ache, or painful dental cavity is considered an emergency:

  1. If there is associated fever and high temperature.
  2. If there is a swelling associated with that tooth.
  3. If the tooth hurts on biting.
  4. If there is pain in the region around the tooth on pressing.

These are the signs that indicate that the enamel and the dentine layers have been breached.

Is there a specific age group that can get dental cavity?

A dental cavity can occur at any age though the cause would be different. Often despite good oral care there can be caries this is the rampant caries which happens rapidly.

  • Early childhood if the child is used to going to bed sipping from a beaker it could lead to what is called as ‘milk bottle caries’
  • Adolescents and young adults are prone to nutrition induced caries due to increase intake of low PH aerated drinks and disorganized eating habits.
  • Seniors could develop cavities due to decreased salivation and dry mouth.

What are the complications that could happen from a tooth cavity?

Fractured of the tooth with cavity this could not only be painful, but also aesthetically compromising. It could interfere with speech. Damage of the gums this could result in swellings and pain.

It can lead to nutritional issues due to improper chewing or eating. In certain cases, it can even progress to serious systemic problems.

What is the immediate care to be given to a dental cavity emergency?

Immediate care of a bad toothache would depend on the type of problem. But on a broad spectrum these would be steps.

  • Brush gently; flossing might help to remove food particles that are stuck. Rinse with warm water.
  • Aspirin or other painkillers could help, but do not put a painkiller either in the cavity or near the tooth.
  • Do not do a hot water fermentation as it will cause swelling.

These measures would temporarily contain the pain. But the most important thing to do is set up an appointment with your dentist at the earliest.

How can I prevent tooth decay?

Few simple things will keep your teeth safe and healthy.

  • Rinse your mouth after eating, or drinking sugary liquid.
  • Brush twice a day with a dental council approved toothpaste. Check the fluoride requirement with where you stay.
  • Clean between your teeth daily with inter-dental cleaner or floss.
  • Eat proper periodic meals, and avoid snacking.
  • Check if your local water conditions need you to take fluorine substitutes.
  • Reduce intake of aerated drinks.
  • Visit your dentist once in 6 months for examinations and cleaning.

Are there any other conditions that I need to take care off?

Often if the structure of the tooth renders it too susceptible to cavity, then dentists use what is called as a Pit and fissure sealant. It is like laminating the teeth, to prevent cavity formation.  This procedure is usually done on the molars and premolars.

In case you are on antihistamines, then it is essential to drink water to keep the mouth hydrated.

Pregnancy and surgery are other conditions where conscious increase in calcium intake has to be done, to prevent the body from drawing the calcium requirement from the teeth.

Teeth cannot protect themselves; they need to be taken care of.  Dental emergency requires a dental healthcare person and not an ER.

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