Where Can I Go for a Toothache?
Based on the severity of your pain and the possible reason for your pain, you may go to your dentist or seek urgent/emergency care. You also need to consider your history of dental treatments, insurance coverage, and treatment costs when deciding between providers or locations.
Where can I Get Treatment for Toothache?
Depending on the severity of your toothache, you may seek treatment at a variety of places. Besides the dentist, you may consider going to urgent care or the emergency room for tooth pain.
Going to the Dentist
It is always a good idea to visit your dentist when experiencing pain or discomfort in your teeth or gums. However, it is no surprise that the cost of dental treatment and visits can often be high, which is why many patients might avoid making an appointment. First, it might help to rule out the less severe causes of toothache to determine your need for medical attention.
You may try to adopt a more thorough dental cleaning and maintenance routine to assess if your toothache is related to a lack of proper dental hygiene. Suppose you identify that you might have something stuck in your tooth or a previous cavity filling. In that case, you might try to use dental cleaning tools available at a drugstore or pharmacy.
However, if none of these steps help the pain and your toothache observes the following developments, you must see your dentist.
- Lasts more than two days
- Is not relieved with the use of painkillers
- Is accompanied by a high body temperature, pain when you bite, redness of the gums, or a bad taste in your mouth
- Is followed by swelling or inflammation of your cheek or jaw
Going to Your Primary Care Physician
It is also essential to keep in mind that it might not be helpful to visit your primary care doctor with one or more of the above conditions. They would not be able to perform any dental procedures or offer you any dental care. Your primary care doctor will only be able to prescribe pain-relieving medications that might help temporarily address the pain. A downside of depending on painkillers for toothache is that while you may stop feeling the pain, the dental condition causing the pain will worsen. If not attended to by the right expert (in this case, a dentist), your teeth might experience permanent damage.
Going to an Urgent Care or Emergency Room
There may be times when the severity of your pain might need you to seek emergency or urgent care. If you are experiencing other symptoms such as a fever, swelling in your face, or trouble breathing or swallowing, along with your toothache, you must go to your nearest emergency room or urgent care facility.
Especially for conditions like a tooth abscess, any of these other symptoms might indicate that the bacterial infection is spreading to other teeth, into your jaw, and the surrounding tissues. If left untreated, a tooth abscess can spread from the jaw to other parts of your head and neck and ultimately may cause sepsis.
Another reason you might consider going to urgent care instead of your dentist for a toothache is that getting an appointment with your dentist might take a while. In that case, you can visit your local urgent care, which may help you manage your pain better while you are waiting to visit your dentist.
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How much does toothache treatment cost?
Here are the average costs of some dental procedures most commonly administered to treat tooth decay, gingivitis, abscessed teeth, and impacted wisdom teeth. Getting a better understanding of the potential costs of some of the more common dental treatments might help you decide whether you need dental insurance.
|Procedure||Cost Without Insurance|
|Dental crowns||$2325 to $3200|
|Wisdom Tooth Extraction||$720 to $2735|
|Dental Fillings (Resin)||$100 to $400|
|Root Canal (Front tooth)||$700 to $1100|
|Root Canal (Mid-mouth)||$800 to $1200|
|Root Canal (Molar)||$1200 to $1800|
|Routine Cleaning (Adult)||$100 to $200|
|Deep Cleaning (entire mouth)||$500 to $4000|
What are the causes of toothaches
It can be tricky to figure out the reason behind your toothache. Some toothaches can be mild and temporary and may be caused by something stuck in your teeth, soreness or irritation in your gums, or even sensitivity. Such pain can often be relieved at home by using teeth cleaning tools, mouth rinsing, or taking over-the-counter painkillers. However, other times you may experience a toothache caused by more serious dental issues which may require medical attention.
A Cavity or Tooth Decay
A cavity in your mouth results from decay caused in one or more of your teeth. Tooth decay is permanent damage that occurs in either the outer or inner layers of a tooth. This decay breaks down the tooth creating tiny openings or holes which can often be painful. A study conducted in 2016 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that more than 90 percent of adult Americans had experienced tooth decay. Tooth decay can be caused by the consumption of sugary drinks, high-carbohydrate foods such as bread, cakes, candy, or even cereal.
Inside the hard outer layer of your teeth, a softer inner layer is made up of connective tissues, blood vessels, and cells. This part of your teeth is known as the dental pulp. When a bacteria invades this dental pulp and starts multiplying, it often causes toothache, discomfort, and the collection of pus inside the tooth or gums. An infection in the dental pulp almost always requires dental treatments to salvage the tooth and stop the pain.
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A survey conducted from 2009 to 2014 found that about four in ten adults in the U.S. 30 or older have experienced gum diseases. Just like an abscessed tooth is the result of an infection in the tooth, gum disease results from an infection inside the gums and the surrounding bone structure.
The most common type of gum disease is gingivitis which happens by plaque build-up on your teeth. As a result, it causes inflammation of the gums and the surrounding tissue. Three out of four Americans deal with gingivitis. If your dentist catches the onset of the infection early on, it can be reversed upon treating it with the proper dental care. However, if left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of your mouth, causing a more severe gum disease called periodontitis.
If your toothache is localized to your upper back and bottom molar area, then you might be experiencing an impacted wisdom tooth. Wisdom teeth are the last set of teeth to grow in as an adult, and it occurs typically between the ages of 15 to 25 years. The pain is caused when the third molars at the back of the mouth develop, but there is not enough room in your gums to emerge normally. Pain from a normally growing wisdom tooth may go away on its own. However, removing the tooth might be necessary and the only way to stop the pain in the case of an impacted wisdom tooth.
When experiencing a toothache, it is always good practice to pay a visit to your dentist. However, visiting your dentist is often challenging, especially when you might not have dental coverage and pay out-of-pocket for all services and treatments. But, it is better to catch a potentially severe dental condition sooner rather than later for your dental and financial well-being.
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Girisha is a second-year graduate student at Columbia University, pursuing a Master's in Public Health. She is excited to combine her passion for Public Health and writing with the hopes of delivering quality health information, one article at a time!