Ouchy Tooth
October 15, 2013 7:09 AM   Subscribe

I have a really painfully sensitive spot on the top of one of my teeth, near the gumline. What is this? How can I mitigate the pain till I see the dentist? (Or is this a dental emergency?)

In the past few weeks I've noticed that while chewing my food I'm getting some dull pain in the teeth on the upper left side of my mouth. I notice it in particular when I chew on something especially hard (crunchy peanut butter, popcorn, etc). Last night I tried to identify which tooth was causing me the trouble and isolated it to the first molar behind my canine on the upper left side - there is a spot at the top of the tooth, right near the gumline, where if I press it I get an awful sharp pain. The pain is only noticeable when I am chewing (dull pain) or if I press that spot (sharp pain). I looked at the tooth in the mirror and there doesn't appear to be any discoloration or an obvious cavity.

I brush twice a day but am not great about flossing. I flossed last night and there didn't seem to be all that much plaque/gunky stuff coming out.

I know YANMDentist, but does anyone have any ideas what might be causing this pain/sensitivity? Are there any ways I might be able to mitigate the pain until I get a dentist appointment? Or is this something where I need to see a dentist ASAP? I'm supposed to be traveling from Thursday-Sunday this week - can this wait until next week?

(I also have no dental insurance at the moment and am still paying off a CareCredit balance from my regular dental checkup + 2 fillings last year.)

Please hope me - up till now I've had no major problems with my teeth - never ever any tooth pain till now - so this is kind of freaking me out.

posted by thereemix to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
mitigation - try ibuprofen
posted by thelonius at 7:15 AM on October 15, 2013

You can try oil of clove (get from pharmacist) that may help with the tenderness.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:16 AM on October 15, 2013

To mitigate pain you might try clove oil. It should be in the same aisle as toothbrushes and toothpaste.

On preview, what Ruthless Bunny said. :)
posted by Meep! Eek! at 7:17 AM on October 15, 2013

When I have a sinus infection, I get the pain you describe in the same area. Any chance you have a sinus infection?
posted by Pineapplicious at 7:19 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would see a dentist ASAP but I am prone to cavities along the gumline.

I'm sorry that you don't have dental insurance. I suggest being upfront with the dentist and their staff about your financial limitations. When I have not had insurance, I have had similar problems.

I usually tell the receptionist before I make the appointment that I'm on a budget and ask how much things will cost. Then when I see the dentist and they're recommending treatments I say "look, I care about my teeth but my budget is really limited and I literally cannot pay for very much". The dentists I've been to have been really kind and understanding about it.

By being pleasant, polite, and clear, I've gotten:

--x-ray fees reduced or waived
--cleaning fees waived
--suggestions about what fillings need to be done ASAP and which ones can wait if I'm careful
--and in one case, the dentist went ahead and did a quick filling for me for no charge besides the exam fee.

Asking is key.

Also look to see if there is a local dental school that can help you out--from what I hear, it takes forever but the price is right.

Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:29 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes try oil of clove.

Also though, keep on doing regular brushing - try regularly using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth like Sensodyne or Crest Pro-Health Sensitive + Enamel Shield - and keep flossing regularly as well. I had pretty bad pain in a couple of teeth and Sensodyne worked pretty quickly to alleviate that.
posted by gudrun at 7:29 AM on October 15, 2013

If your gumline is receded in that area, the newly exposed bit of tooth can be very very sensitive.
posted by elizardbits at 7:45 AM on October 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Get some oragel for topical pain relief and swish a little hydrogen peroxide around the area if you have it.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:52 AM on October 15, 2013

While I tend to agree with the idea of the receded gumline (and definitely oil of cloves if you can stand the flavor, if not go with the overnight version of oragel), you may also have developed a crack in the tooth, if it's causing pain when you bite down. I've gone through that a couple of times. If you need to wait a few days to see the dentist, then please be sure not to eat on that side of your mouth, and stick with soft foods a while.
posted by mittens at 8:12 AM on October 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, sounds like the likely culprit is that your gumline has receded a bit, essentially exposing the nerves at the base of your tooth. Seconding Sensodyne or its peers to help with this.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:46 AM on October 15, 2013

Do you have a filling in that tooth? Those symptoms in my tooth meant an unhappy filling eventually needing a root canal. I'm sure unhappy teeth have a few different causes though, which the dentist will need to figure out.

I didn't get it checked out until it was hurting even without chewing (~6 months after noticing pain with chewing), and I didn't get lectured for not coming in earlier, for what that's worth. I'd get it looked at when you have a chance so it doesn't get worse (i.e. more expensive) but I don't think a week or two will make much difference unless it's really severe pain or an abscess, which it doesn't sound like. Ibuprofen and oragel will both help until you can get to the dentist.
posted by randomnity at 9:05 AM on October 15, 2013

If there's a dental college nearby you could try calling them too. At least in NYC, it's cheap to let the NYU kids dig around in there. Plus dental students are usually enthusiastic and really want to do a great job.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:36 PM on October 15, 2013

This is not treatment of the cause per se, but I have bad teeth/periodontal due to diabetes, and these things have helped me.

* Sensodyne (generic brand OK too)
* Generally switching to an advanced dental health toothpaste
* Frequent mouthwashing with an antigingivitis dental rinse
* More vitamin C (which promotes healing)

These can alleviate symptoms, even pain, but of course if you have an actual cavity or receding gums this won't really solve that. It does sound like you have an exposed nerve, and that can be caused by either of those separately, or more likely both (as receding gums expose parts of the tooth to decay that were heretofore protected).
posted by dhartung at 3:38 AM on October 16, 2013

Step 1: make an appointment to see a dentist
Step 2: stop doing things to make it hurt (pressing on it) and chew on the other side if you can
Step 3: get a small tube of sensodyne and apply a small amount to the area in question. this approach will desensitize the tooth better than almost anything. it works best if you do it after you brush before bed, just leave it there, don't rinse it away
Step 4: keep your appointment at the dentist even if the tooth starts to feel better.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:42 AM on October 16, 2013

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