Simple Steps To Better Dental Health
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Featuring consumer information from Columbia School of Dental & Oral Surgery
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Oral Health Made Simple: Your Prescription For Knowledge
 PREVENT PROBLEMS
Small BoxAll About Cavities
Small BoxBrushing and Flossing
Small BoxFluoride
Small BoxMouth-Healthy Eating
Small BoxSealants
Small BoxTaking Care of Your Teeth
Small BoxTobacco
Small BoxYour Dental Visit
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 CONDITIONS
Small BoxBad Breath
Small BoxCavities
Small BoxCold Sores
Small BoxDry Mouth
Small BoxImpacted Tooth
Small BoxSensitive Teeth
Small BoxTMJ
Small BoxTooth Discoloration
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 TREATMENTS
Small BoxCrowns
Small BoxDentures
Small BoxFillings: The Basics
Small BoxGum Surgery
Small BoxImplants
Small BoxRoot Canal Treatment
Small BoxScaling and Root Planing
Small BoxWhitening
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 GENERAL TOPICS
Small BoxControlling Pain
Small BoxCosmetic Dentistry
Small BoxEmergencies
Small BoxFill, Repair, Replace
Small BoxKids And Teens
Small BoxOral Health and Your Body
Small BoxOrthodontics
Small BoxPeriodontics
Small BoxSeniors
Small BoxMORE
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Step 1 Prevent ProblemsSimplestepsPrevent Problems
Step 2 Understand ConditionsSimplestepsUnderstand Conditions
Step 3 Explore TreatmentsSimplestepsExplore Treatments

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Severe Pain (Not From Trauma)

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space placeholder.What You Can Do.
space placeholder.What Your Dentist Will Do .
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Any injury to the gums or teeth can be very painful. At other times, you may have dental pain and not know why. For example, sudden pain may be caused by pieces of food that come in contact with a decayed area of the tooth. Food, heat or cold may create pressure near the nerve and cause pain. The nerve inside the tooth also may be exposed if you lose a filling or crown.

Pain that gets worse over time can also be caused by food that's stuck between your tooth and gum. If you don't brush and floss well, the bits of food remain. Bacteria multiply in this area, and an infection of the tooth and gum may develop. This type of infection is called an abscess. It can be at the root end of the tooth (in bone) or in the gums. An abscess can be a serious health problem if it is not treated.

Pain when you bite or chew can be a sign of an abscess, especially if you also notice a bad smell or a bad taste in your mouth.

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space placeholder.What You Can Do
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First, call your dentist and make an appointment.

In the meantime, here are a few steps you can take at home to try to relieve the pain:

  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Even if this helps, you still need to see your dentist. If you medicate the pain and don't get treatment, the infection can spread. It could even become life threatening.


  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water every hour or so. Mix one-half teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces (1 cup) of water. This won't heal an infected tooth, but it may ease the gum swelling.


  • If the pain is caused by food stuck in a cavity, brushing and using dental floss in the area may remove it.


  • If you've lost a filling or crown, dip a cotton swab in clove oil and apply it to the exposed part of the tooth. You can buy clove oil in drugstores and supermarkets. You also can use a topical anesthetic, such as Anbesol.


  • If you will be traveling in an airplane, the changes in pressure may make the pain worse. Try to get dental treatment before traveling by air.
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space placeholder.What Your Dentist Will Do
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Even when dental problems cause a lot of pain, the problems, and the treatments, often are relatively simple if you seek help right away.

The first thing your dentist will do is take an X-ray. If you have a cavity, your dentist will remove the decayed part of the tooth and place a filling. Once the inner part of the tooth is protected, the pain will usually disappear right away.

If your problem is related to pieces of food stuck under your gums, your dentist will remove the pieces. If you have an infection, you may be given a prescription for antibiotics and pain medicine. Take your antibiotics exactly as directed, even if you start to feel much better after only a day or two.

An abscess in the tooth will require root canal treatment. An abscess in the gum may need to be drained. If the tooth is very damaged, it may have to be removed.

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© 2002-2014 Aetna, Inc. All rights reserved. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician before starting a new fitness regimen. Use of this online service is subject to the disclaimer and the terms and conditions. External website links provided on this site are meant for convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement. These external links open in a different window.