Category Archives: Emergency Dentist

Is My Dentist Trying to Scare Me?

I went to my dentist after saving up for a while because I don’t have dental insurance. During the appointment, he told me I had a tooth infection. I knew my tooth had been hurting which is why I started saving to begin with, but the tooth stopped hurting. He wanted to schedule a follow-up appointment right away, but I don’t have money for two appointments. I told him I’d have to get back with him. That’s when he told me if I put it off, that the infection could kill me by getting to my heart, brain, or lungs. Is this true or is he just trying to scare me to get me to come back?

Amy

Dear Amy,

Let’s start with why your tooth stopped hurting. When your infection first set in, there was pain. As the infection progressed, however, the pulp of your tooth died so it stopped hurting. Unfortunately, that didn’t end the infection. It is continuing to spread.

As to your dentist trying to scare you, I can’t tell you exactly how urgent your particular infection is because I haven’t examined you. What your dentist said is true. Tooth infections can spread to your heart, lungs, and brain. Believe it or not, people still die from dental infections. This is why tooth infections are considered dental emergencies.

As I said earlier, I didn’t examine you so I can’t tell you how advanced your infection is. It may be that he felt you weren’t taking the situation seriously enough so he wanted to impress upon you not to just ignore this.

I understand that money is a challenge. COVID has made it nearly impossible for many people to keep up with their dental care. One thing I know about dentists is that many of them are compassionate and went into their field with a desire to help people.

The first thing I would do is explain to your dentist your financial situation and how long it took you to save up for your appointment. Make sure he understands that you are taking it seriously but that you are in a difficult financial situation. He may offer to give you the treatment you need and then allow you to pay off the cost of treatment over time. If he doesn’t, there are dentists that will. Just call around. You will find someone.

This blog is brought to you by Lafayette, LA Dentists Drs. Foreman and Thimmesch.

Is Every Toothache a Dental Emergency?

I’ve been reading about toothaches online because my daughter is complaining about a back tooth. Everyone seems to indicate that any time there is a toothache, it means a dental infection. Is that ALWAYS the case? I’m in a tough spot. At the moment there is only $35 dollars in my bank account. I don’t want to leave my daughter in danger, but I don’t know how to pay for the appointment. The tooth she is complaining about is in the back of her mouth. I would be surprised if it developed an infection because I had those teeth sealed and her last checkup had an all-clear.

Cassie

Dear Cassie,

child getting teeth attended to

While in most cases a toothache can indicate a tooth infection, it is not so in EVERY case. You didn’t mention how long it had been since her last check-up. So it is hard to tell if it was close enough where you should not be too concerned.

I recently spoke with someone in a situation such as yours. Her daughter was complaining about a back tooth. Like you, this mother was responsibile and caring, so she worried about the potential of an infection. However, when she took her daughter in, the tooth was perfectly clear. The conclusion was that her daughter, who struggles with anxiety, had been clenching her teeth. This lead to the pain her daughter was experiencing.

In her case, the solution was to get a mouth guard. She couldn’t afford a custom one at the time. So, as a temporary solution, they purchased a one-sized fits all one at their local pharmacy for just a few dollars. While not ideal, it will do in a pinch while she saves up for the better device.

Because there is no way to know without checking, I would simply recommend calling your dentist and explaining the situation. Most dentists are compassionate and went into their field because they wanted a job that allowed them to help people. As you already have a working relationship with this dentist, they may be willing to just take an x-ray and peak in order to see what is going on and allow you to pay off the appointment a little at a time. This is especially true of dentists who see children.

At least this way you will know what your daughter is dealing with. If it is a tooth infection, then it would be considered a dental emergency. This is simply because these infections will continue to spread until the infected pulp is physically removed by the dentist.

Many people don’t realize that these infections can become life-threatening because of their proximity to the brain, heart, and lungs.

This blog is brought to you by Lafayette, LA Dentists Drs. Foreman and Thimmesch.

She Shouldn’t Trust This Dentist

I am going to be honest and up front with you that I am not the best dental patient. Being in the dental chair makes me nervous in the best of circumstances so I tend to avoid dental work as much as possible. This is likely why this happened to me. I was in a lot of pain for about a week and finally caved to see a dentist. He did some x-rays and found a problem with a tooth that already had a filling. He told me there is very little chance that he can save the tooth and I should expect him to have to extract the tooth. From there, he wants to provide a dental implant. I’ll be honest that this whole thing sort of terrifies me. Is there another option?

Kelly

Dear Kelly,

A woman grabbing her jaw in pain, in need of emergency dental care

Please bear in mind that I haven’t examined your tooth so I can only go on what you’ve described. However, based on what you’ve said, I have my doubts about this dentist’s diagnosis.

If a tooth was truly that far gone, I don’t think your dentist would have even needed to take an x-ray. The decay would have been evident to the naked eye.

Even if it was under the filling, that extensive amount of an infection means the filling would have caved in or fallen out at that point.

Another issue is that type of dental infection takes a LONG time to develop. You would have been in a significant amount of pain for substantially longer than a week.

Before moving forward, I would like you to get a second opinion from another dentist. It could save you some unnecessary dental work. I do realize the idea of seeing another dentist probably doesn’t sound much better to you, but I believe I have a solution to that as well.

Your fears of the dentist are not at all uncommon. There are many people who struggle with fear of the dentist. Those who visit a dentist who offers some type of sedation tend to have an easier go of things.

When you get your second opinion, I’d like you to not tell the dentist what your first diagnosis was. Just allow him to look at your tooth and form his own opinion.

If Your Tooth Cannot Be Saved

Hopefully, your tooth is saveable. However, if it isn’t, the one thing I agree with the dentist you saw was his choice of tooth replacement. If you do have to replace a tooth, dental implants are the absolute best replacement. This surgically implants a prosthetic tooth root then attaches a crown to it. It is the closest thing to having a healthy natural tooth again.

Another option is a dental bridge. This suspends a false tooth between two dental crowns. It doesn’t require surgery. However, it does mean you have to crown the two adjacent teeth. Unless those teeth already need a crown then I don’t recommend grinding down healthy tooth structure.

This blog is brought to you by Lafayette, LA Dentists Drs. Thimmesch and Foreman.

Root Canal FAilure

I’m a bit worried about something. I had a root canal treatment done about 3 years ago. About a month ago it started hurting. My dentist did a retreatment. A week later the pain increased quite a bit. I called him and he prescribed an antibiotic. It started to feel a bit better but now it is worse again. I called his office again and he said to give it time, some people take longer to heal than others. I am in tremendous pain. Is he right about this? If so, how much is a reasonable amount of time to give it?

Nicole

Dear Nicole,

Something isn’t right with how your dentist is handling this. It appeared like you said that your pain went down and then started back up. This is a clear signal you still have an infected tooth.

Though root canal treatments are successful about 95% of the time, when it does fail, the chances of a re-treatment being successful go down with each successive try.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. It is always better to save a tooth whenever possible. I would consider your situation a dental emergency. This infection will continue to spread. Dental infections can turn life-threatening because they are so close to your heart, brain, and lungs.

Because of the severity of your situation, I am going to suggest that you call a prosthodontist. These are root canal experts. Explain the situation when you call. They will likely try to get you in right away. If they can’t, make sure they call in a new, different antibiotic for you.

If it turns out the prosthodontist tells you the tooth can’t be saved, then extraction will be the only option. When that happens, you will need replace the tooth. Ideally, you’d get a dental implant for that as it will help preserve the underlying bone structure.

This blog is brought to you by Lafayette, LA Dentists Drs. Thimmesch and Foreman.

Antibiotics for Tooth Infection

I had a severe toothache and went to see a new dentist. My regular one closed permanently shortly after the quarantine started. He was close to retirement anyway. This dentist gave me an antibiotic that I was taking three times a day. My tooth started to get better, but now has gotten worse. What do I do now? I have never had this happen before.

Alice

Dear Alice,

Woman grabbing her jaw in pain needing an emergency dentist

I hope your new dentist didn’t think giving you an antibiotic was enough. He should have scheduled a follow-up appointment with you to have a root canal treatment. If he didn’t, that is a real problem.

An antibiotic is useful to hold off an infection until you are able to have the treatment you need. However, it does not heal the tooth. The only way to do that is for the dentist to get in there and physically remove the infected pulp.

If the tooth can be saved, you would do that with a root canal treatment and many times a dental crown will need to be placed as well. If the tooth can’t be saved, then you’d need a tooth extraction.

It is a bad sign that the infection started to get better and then progressed again. This is a dental emergency and needs to be seen right away.

If You Lose the Tooth

My guess is you will still be able to save the tooth. If, however, you get back in and it isn’t possible, then the tooth will have to be extracted to keep the infection from spreading. Dental infections can turn life-threatening.

When a tooth is extracted, it is important to replace it. If you don’t, the other teeth will shift and tip into the open space, which will throw off your bite. In some cases, it can lead to TMJ Disorder and daily jaw pain and migraines.

Hopefully, this dentist didn’t cost you a tooth.

This blog is brought to you by Lafayette, LA Dentists Drs. Foreman and Thimmesch.

what is essential treatment?

I know during this time of quarantine that we all have to do our part. I’ve been doing very well and not going anywhere. Unfortunately, I took a spill down our stairs and ended up chipping a tooth. Would this be considered an essential treatment? I feel silly. I know it is just a chip but it is bugging me.

Camille

Dear Camille,

a before and after picture of dental bonding for a chipped tooth.

The CDC hasn’t listed what procedures and treatments are considered essential and what isn’t. For the most part, they expect us to avoid routine procedures. If it were just a cosmetic issue alone, I would say you would need to wait until the quarantine is over.

However, based on what you said, there is more to this than just cosmetics. You took a fall which caused the damage. There could be underlying trauma to the tooth which needs immediate treatment. Sometimes the ligament can be stretched and if you don’t splint the tooth you can end up with a tooth that comes loose. Other times, the trauma is so severe, the pulp of the tooth dies and you need a root canal treatment.

Under normal circumstances, I’d suggest you call your dentist and ask him to squeeze you in for an emergency dental appointment. In this case, the only appointments are for situations like yours.

If you’re going to need an emergency appointment. This is the perfect time!

Getting the Chipped Fixed

If it turns out there is not damage from the trauma that requires immediate treatment, then your dentist can likely go ahead and fix the chipped tooth. I mean…you’re already there.

The ideal solution for this is to have dental bonding done. You can see an example of that in the image above. I will warn you. It does take an expert cosmetic dentist. If your dentist isn’t one, my suggestion is you see him for the trauma. Then, once the virus calms down, see an AACD accredited dentist to do the bonding to repair the chip to your tooth.

This blog is brought to you by Louisiana Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Mike Malone.

antibiotics for a Tooth infection

I had a painful tooth and went in to see a dentist. He said it is infected and placed me on some antibiotics, I think it was amoxicillin. It did get better at first but now I think it is back and my face is starting to swell. Did I need a different antibiotic?

Casey

Dear Casey,

A man holding his jaw in pain in need of a dentist

Is it possible your dentist asked you to schedule a follow-up appointment and it slipped your mind? The reason I am asking this is antibiotics alone are not the correct treatment for a tooth infection. They are often prescribed to keep the infection at bay until the dentist has time to deal with the infection itself. This is usually done with a root canal treatment. They’ll often cover the tooth with a porcelain crown as well.

Here is the problem with antibiotics. Once the infection gets serious the pulp inside the tooth dies. When that happens, there is no longer blood flow in the tooth. That means the antibiotic can no longer reach the source of the infection.

It will keep it from spreading for a time, but eventually, the antibiotics run out. With the source of the infection still viable, it begins to spread again. This is what is happening to you.

Don’t Mess With Dental Infections

Don’t mess with this. You mentioned your face is starting to swell. I would consider this a dental emergency. you need to see a dentist who is willing to treat this today.

Believe it or not, there are still people who die from tooth infections. Think about how close your jaw is to your brain, heart, and lungs. If you let the infection get that far, it turns life-threatening quickly.

If your dentist didn’t plan on doing anything other than the antibiotics, that is a serious concern. It would mean he doesn’t have a real understanding of how dental infections work. That is the bare basics when it comes dental care. In my opinion, if that is the case you need to find a new dentist.

This blog is brought to you by Lafayette, LA Dentist Dr. Mike Malone.