Abscess or just sore swollen dental ligaments?
January 27, 2015 6:47 PM   Subscribe

After a filling was replaced and ground down a couple of times recently, I have a tooth that is very sore to the touch, but does not ache on its own. The gum beside it is swollen and tender and soft, and if i make myself bite down it feels spongy under the tooth. The dentist says he can get me in again in a week. Is this an abscess? Do I need to push to get in faster?

Many years ago, I went to a very bad dentist exactly once. He put very deep fillings in teeth that didn't need them (according to a couple of subsequent dentists), and these still cause me trouble. One filling in particular was replaced a few years ago, then failed again a couple of months ago. The dentist I have now replaced it again, but mentioned that the filling was huge and might not work because of the depth (he said a crown might be better, but he'd rather not to do that yet in case it needed a root canal down the line). When the anesthetic wore off, it was clear that the bite was too high, and I went back and had it ground down some more. I think I waited a few days to do that, although it was very uncomfortable. Afterwards, it felt okay for a week or two, then suddenly started feeling like the bite was too high, again - and my teeth often felt the way they do when there is something stuck between them and pushing them just slightly (maddeningly) out of place.

I went back and he ground it down again, and we talked about how it was sore and he mentioned how the ligaments could be bruised from all the abuse. That's been a week and a half ago. Afterwards, it was still was very unpleasant to hit against that tooth when chewing, but I (somewhat uneasily) wrote that off as the bruising not being healed yet. Yesterday during the day, it seemed to finally be settling down again. But then this morning, I guess I had clenched my teeth hard in my sleep and the pain woke me up. All day, it's been painful to have anything contact the tooth, although the tooth does not ache on its own like a toothache. And my gum beside it is swollen and tender, although it also does not ache or throb or anything. The tooth is far in the back, so I can see enough to know that the outside gum is swollen but I can't get a good look at it beyond shape/outline.

Thanks for any information - looking online didn't make it obvious one way or another.
posted by dilettante to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
Best answer: Ugh yes it sounds abscessy to me, and if so you want to get this sorted out ASAP. If you're not feverish and don't have swollen glands on the tooth's side of your neck, then I think you could wait the week? I personally would wait the week but I regularly make terrible decisions, so hopefully a responsible adult will show up to answer this question as well.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:02 PM on January 27, 2015

Not a dental professional, but a hypochondriac with regular intense worries about my perfectly healthy teeth...

I think you're so focused on the tooth both mentally and physically (touching it with your tongue, fingers, biting down to assess pain) that you are exacerbating the bruising and abuse your poor tooth has been through. Leave it alone completely. Chew on the other side if you aren't already. No tongue or finger probing whatsoever. No biting hard to see if it hurts. No flossing for right now and I would avoid brushing that area for a day or two. Take anti-inflammatories. Gargle with warm salt water. If it continues to become more painful even after leaving it alone for 24-48 hours then I think you can see about getting in sooner with a clear conscience. Feel better!
posted by cecic at 7:15 PM on January 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you live in an area where it wouldn't be unlikely for a butt ton of snow to dump down on you and make your dentist decide it is safer and warmer at home and maybe let's reschedule all of the appointments on the books for today, I think you should definitely push to get an earlier appointment. Just to be on the safe side. Why wait?

Today is only Tuesday, so you have another three entire whole days for someone in that office to figure out how to get you in for an earlier appointment.
posted by phunniemee at 7:18 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's impossible to say what's going on without looking at it, but if it only hurts when you chew or push on it, and neither the gums nor the tooth hurts otherwise, that doesn't sound typical for an infection.

Have you tried taking any Tylenol or Motrin?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:30 PM on January 27, 2015

Response by poster: Don't want to threadsit, but:

I'm taking Advil pretty frequently, every six hours or so. I don't mess with the tooth if I don't have to, that hurts! But my tongue lives in my mouth and hits it some anyway, and the problem tooth hits the one above it when I'm chewing food on the other side of my mouth (I haven't been chewing on the problem side, again because it hurts to try to do that). It seems to keep getting pushed up and slightly out of place by something, maybe swelling underneath? Also, I tend to clench and maybe grind my teeth sometimes in my sleep, so that isn't helping. Pretty sure I do wake up and stop immediately right now, though.

This dentist is not open Fridays, FWIW, so after 4 pm on Thursday I'm on my own.
posted by dilettante at 7:38 PM on January 27, 2015

Push. I had something similar happen a couple of months ago and it turned out that some of the filling material had lodged in my gum. Then it turned out that all the messing around had cracked the tooth so I needed a crown. Then it turned out that first I needed a root canal. Pretty sure if the filling replacement hadn't been done, none of the follow up crap would have occurred, and the filling replacement was done in order to fill a gap between two teeth and not because it was medically necessary. But yeah you need to tell your dentist that this is more than follow up, this is serious pain that wakes you from sleep. That's a measure of pain that should get you in the door right away.
posted by janey47 at 11:55 PM on January 27, 2015

Best answer: I posted about dental stuff just the week before last and had similar symptoms to what you're experiencing. At that point it had been a couple of days since two fairly significant fillings had been done on teeth that had been causing me some discomfort. I had pretty severe pain that would come on suddenly, last about five minutes, then fade to a dull ache. And that was without touching it.

When I went back to the dentist we decided after x-rays and investigation that it was in most part a response to the trauma, both pre- and post-fillings, and that the cold air was exacerbating things. We left it alone and then I returned yet another week later for more work on other teeth, and by that point the pain was almost entirely gone.

So it took ten days for the pain to properly stop. I still have some tenderness when I touch it, but it's not major, and is still slowly fading. There is a chance, still, that the filling on one tooth was too late and I'll need a root canal, and that hinges entirely on the pain levels over the next month until my next visit.

After all that, I say push as well -- if something's wrong it needs to be sorted fast, and if nothing's wrong except post-surgery blerg, then you have peace of mind. Call them and see what they say, but they'll probably tell you to come back in.

Oh, and my tooth felt too high also, but as the swelling went down it started to feel like it fit better when I ate.

This is all anecdotal but I hope it helps.
posted by tracicle at 4:09 AM on January 28, 2015

Best answer: Your bite could still be off, or it could be an abscess. We have no way to tell. Push for an appointment sooner--I'd it is abscesses it might get worse before it gets better.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:44 AM on January 28, 2015

Response by poster: Got to the dentist today. Things seemed to have calmed down and I was going to try to wait it out but then the swelling picked up quite a bit. Verdict: abscess. Off to the endodontist tomorrow. Thanks for the replies!
posted by dilettante at 11:47 AM on January 29, 2015

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