We hope you and your family are doing well and staying safe during these uncertain times. Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of phone calls from worried patients with questions about the tooth that’s been bothering them. We can’t give any diagnosis over a blog but wanted to explain some of the common symptoms to look out for. You should always check dental issues out at a dental office, but during certain times like the COVID-19 crisis visiting the dentist is not easy to do.

Remember, you may have multiple teeth in your mouth at different stages of toothaches producing different symptoms which can be very confusing for you to understand. Toothaches can be a serious health issue. When in doubt, give us a call at 973-363-0233 and leave us a message – we are happy to help you understand your toothache better.

The Cold Water Test:

When you have a toothache, check to see if the tooth is sensitive to cold water. If the tooth is sensitive to a glass of cold water, the next thing to check is to see how long the sensitivity stays after you drink the water.

May Be Ok: If the sensitivity disappears within 5 seconds, you may just have a sensitive tooth from recent dental work, gum recession, or a cavity. This may get worse and cause an infection, or may stay the same for a while, or rarely even get better IF it’s from a gum recession or recent dental work. It DOES NOT mean this will go away if you have gum recession or recent dental work, only that there is a small chance. You should still get these teeth checked out, but during the COVID-19 crisis, you may choose to not drink cold water or have ice cream on that side, and have it checked out when it’s safer to leave your house.

Will Feel Better Before Getting Worse: If the sensitivity stays for more than 5 seconds, minutes or hours, the tooth most likely needs a root canal treatment to SAVE the tooth (this does not mean taking the tooth out) or extraction to RETIRE the tooth. This tooth is in a PRE-INFECTION stage. If it’s left this way, the sensitivity will first go away because the nerve inside of the tooth is dead, making you think the tooth must have healed. Remember, teeth are one of the only body parts we have that cannot be healed. Sooner or later the tooth will eventually develop an INFECTION, which can lead to a dull, throbbing toothache not responsive to cold water, and even swelling and infection of your jaw and face.
Normally, you should go to a dental office right away as this will get worse at a certain point. However, during the COVID-19 crisis, managing the pain with Ibuprofen/Advil may be the next best thing. However, some reports have suggested that Ibuprofen/Advil is not a good medication to take if you have COVID-19, so if you have symptoms of dry cough, fever, difficulty breathing, loss of taste or smell, please do not take Ibuprofen/Advil and ask your physician about taking more safe painkillers.

Will Only Get Worse: If the tooth is not sensitive to cold water at all, the tooth may be dead and the infection growing in the jaw bone. If this is the case, the infection cannot be cured using antibiotics. Root canal treatment to SAVE the tooth or extraction to RETIRE the tooth will be necessary. If this is left alone, it can develop into a swelling that can go to the rest of the jaw or even your face and neck. Whenever you feel that your face is swollen, you need to go see a dentist ASAP.
If you feel like you have difficulty breathing or swallowing from the swelling, this is a true medical emergency because this could interfere with your breathing and you need to go see an Oral Surgeon right away or go to the Emergency Room. If you don’t have swelling yet, this is when using some antibiotics with painkillers like Ibuprofen/Advil could help you buy some time but ONLY during times like the COVID-19 crisis. However, some reports have suggested that Ibuprofen/Advil is not a good medication to take if you have COVID-19, so if you have symptoms of dry cough, fever, difficulty breathing, loss of taste or smell, please do not take Ibuprofen/Advil and ask your physician about taking more safe painkillers.

Wisdom Teeth:

Wisdom teeth are special because they can have toothaches just like the other teeth, but also have a special issue called “Pericoronitis” with the lack of space in the back of the mouth for patients in their 20’s. That really means that there is not a lot of room in the back of the mouth and that the gums covering the bottom wisdom teeth are getting angry and puffy from the top wisdom teeth biting in it. It is characterized by lots of pain on biting. Ultimately your wisdom teeth need to be taken out to resolve the issue. But during the COVID-19 crisis, this could be managed by lots of warm salt water rinses and not biting on the tissue with a soft diet. Whenever you feel that your face is swollen, you need to go see a dentist ASAP. If you feel like you have difficulty breathing or swallowing from the swelling, this is a true medical emergency because this could interfere with your breathing and you need to go see an Oral Surgeon right away or go to the Emergency Room.

Other Reasons:

There are many other reasons why you could have a toothache, and some of them are not even tooth-related, such as neuropathies (nerve problems causing you to think you have pain in a perfect tooth) or other things like your bite, jaw muscles, or jaw joints. You could also have things like popcorn kernels stuck in your gums (which WILL need a dentist to be removed) causing a great deal of pain, infections of the gum, and more.

Remember, you may have multiple teeth in your mouth at different stages of toothaches producing different symptoms which can be very confusing for you to understand. Toothaches can be a serious health issue. When in doubt, give us a call at 973-363-0233 and leave us a message – we are happy to help you understand your toothache better. If you are reading this during the COVID-19 crisis, please remember to practice social distancing, and stay safe and healthy!

Meet Your Dentistsin West Caldwell, New Jersey

Dr. Theodore Chang, DDS

Dr. Chang is passionate about helping his patients by providing the highest quality care. He enjoys improving smiles through the use of implants, veneers, crowns, bonding, Invisalign and more. He regularly takes part in continuing education courses in order to ensure his patients receive the most advanced dental care available.

Dr. Yoojin Kim, DDS

Dr. Kim is passionate about helping her patients by providing the highest quality of care. She enjoys improving smiles through the use of implants, veneers, crowns, bonding, Invisalign, Facial Injections and Fillers.
American Dental Association
Member of Academy of general dentistry
Member of New Jersey Dental Association
Member of American Academy of Implant Dentistry
Member of American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
Member of American Academy of Facial Esthetics
Member of Spear Study Club

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