May 18, 2020 10:46 AM   Subscribe

I have a gum inflammation on the inside of a molar, and blood in the area when I brush and floss. I can't see a dentist for obvious reasons. What can I do to keep myself comfortable and uninfected until it's safe to go to a dentist?

The gum inflammation really hurts; I'm suspecting some gingivitis. I also haven't seen a dentist in about three years because I wasn't able to afford dental insurance under Obamacare, which I recognize is my own fault here - I shouldn't have avoided the dentist for so long. Aside from salt water rinses, what are other ways to alleviate the pain and keep the inflammation from getting worse until COVID-19 restrictions abate enough to allow me to get a non-emergency dental appointment?
posted by nayantara to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Ow, that sounds miserable. Rinsing with alcohol-based mouthwash would probably sting like a mother but also help disinfect.

Dentists where I am are closed for elective visits but still open for emergency work. With the patient traffic way way down, this is probably as safe a time as any to go, because the staff will still be using protective practices as they would during any visit. I'd encourage you to go.
posted by Sublimity at 10:50 AM on May 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have this as a chronic problem and I'm diligent about seeing my dentist (well, I may have skipped an appointment once!) and I'm kind of in the same boat as you are right now (infection + resurgence of gingivitis). Here is what has worked for me:

- Water pik with saline solution (1tsp per 2 cups of water) 3x per day (after every meal), if I'm feeling like things are under control, I switch back to plain water
- Brush and floss after breakfast and after dinner
- Made a tea out of chamomile and sage, cool to room temp, and swish it around my mouth
- Made a solution out of about a half cup filtered water and 2-3 drops of tea tree oil and 2-3 drops clove oil (swab it over the affected area; go easy on this)
- Evening rinse of perioshield
- Taking a probiotic

It's a lot to do but it's kept me very comfortable. I saw results after about 3 days after I started this regimen.
posted by missmobtown at 10:54 AM on May 18, 2020 [8 favorites]

I had something similar, but in my case, I had a gingival pocket where food accumulated. Dental floss didn't work to remove the food. I had to use a WaterPik after every meal. If I didn't clear the food out, I would experience a lot of pain within an hour or two after eating. Also, hitting the right spot with the jet of water caused a fair amount of pain and bleeding, but it was necessary. I also rinsed with chlorhexidine mouthwash (this is a disinfectant). This product is typically available only by prescription in the US, but I was somehow able to order it through Amazon. I think it took about ten days for the problem to resolve. I did visit the dentist, but he didn't really offer any advice beyond what I was already doing. After that experience, I started flossing and WaterPiking every night, and I've never had a recurrence in five years.
posted by alex1965 at 10:59 AM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Seconding chlorhexidine mouthwash.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:00 PM on May 18, 2020

Call your dentist for a phone consultation. They can give you some good advice. If it turns out that this is an abscess then it will be important to go in and have it treated. It really sucks to have a dental emergency at midnight on a Saturday night if you could have prevented it.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 12:05 PM on May 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

For what it's worth, I would consider pain and bleeding an emergency (or at least a possible emergency), and I think you could try calling a dental office to describe the situation and see if they can help you sooner rather than later.
posted by Pfardentrott at 12:41 PM on May 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

What you're describing definitely counts as an emergency. It doesn't have to be life-or-death to constitute an emergency, it just has to be something that you shouldn't wait months to treat.

I had a tiny filling fall out of the side of my tooth last week and I called my dentist and they got me an appointment today. They had a procedure in place -- you go in wearing a mask, bring your own pen to fill out paperwork, and wash your hands before checking in. They had me fill out a questionnaire to make sure I didn't have covid-19 symptoms like cough, etc, and took my temperature. My son had to have a thing fixed at the orthodontist last week and they followed similar procedures. This is in Northern VA. We're still under stay-at-home orders, but you can still go to the dentist for things that shouldn't wait.

I'm a person who has gone YEARS without dental care when I was in my 20's. Going back after years of neglect is one of the most stressful things I've ever done!! At that point in my life I definitely didn't think things were an emergency unless it was really, really bad. One thing that I have had to learn over time (I'm 50 now) is that it's perfectly ok to get treatment for something, even if it's not on fire.

If you don't have a regular dentist, just google and pick somebody nearby based on reviews. Then call and explain the situation. I guarantee they have seen things way worse than your teeth so don't be stressed out. Explain you haven't been for a few years, you're having some tenderness, and ask what they think you should do.
posted by selfmedicating at 12:59 PM on May 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you can't do anything else soon, see if you can source some Orajel to keep it in the house in case the tooth starts really hurting. Call a dentist today and see if you can get the process of having it seen started without delay; if there is going to be a delay try multiple dentists and get on their waiting lists. If necessary also start the process of raising cash to cover the visit, if you can.

It could just be a temporary thing that something got into the gum or it got damaged by something you were eating that caused irritation and it will heal in the next few days. I have ended up with problems like this just from eating lots of very tough pork ribs. However to be on the safe side it would be smart to call and try to set up an appointment, or get on to a list to have one made when they open. If a week from now it all feels fine again you can always cancel any future appointments, or if one of the three dentists you contact sees you sooner than the other two you can call and thank them and cancel with the ones you don't need.

Keep flossing and use a soft vinyl gum stimulator. Flossing can reverse gingivitis. Make sure your toothpaste is a good one. Some people avoid fluoride because it is a deadly poison, or use a tooth whitening paste that either doesn't protect from cavities or that can cause gum irritation or even damage the teeth. If you are not using your regular toothpaste because you couldn't get it due to shortages take a close look at the stuff you are using.
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:21 PM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Coincidentally, I just got home five minutes ago after returning from a visit to my dentist for the same thing.

Where I live (North Carolina) medical professionals including dentists have discontinued routine visits but are seeing patients with conditions that require immediate attention. You have an infection in your mouth that really hurts, so please ask your dentist for an appointment, as well as any instructions that you can immediately follow to address the condition (possibly antibiotics for the infection?) and also the pain.
posted by elf27 at 1:24 PM on May 18, 2020

An abscess in your mouth is potentially dangerous and treatment may well qualify as "emergency" treatment. Call the dentist for advice.
posted by praemunire at 1:40 PM on May 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Hey, friend. Seven weeks ago, I realized that a particularly troublesome tooth had been more troublesome, kind of sore and warm, and that it might be worth having it looked at. The dentist saw me on an emergency basis and was very impressed by my, and I quote, “huge abscess!” It was very, very good that I went, and although I am $200 poorer, the bone infection in my face is nearly gone.

If you possibly can, go to the dentist. Memail me if I can help.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:51 PM on May 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

You've gotten good advice here. I'm a dentist and it's been fine to see patients with emergent symptoms such as pain and swelling.
Teledentistry is a growing avenue for practitioners to have a consultation and in some cases view, by phone cam, problem areas.
I'm sure there are dentists in you area seeing patients in their offices to deal with emergencies as well.

Try to make an appointment.

Now, in the mean time: gently brush the area with soft bristles run under hot water. gently floss. rinse with saline, chlorhexidine or just water; avoid mouthwash.

One thing that happens a lot is that an irritation like this can start with something getting stuck under the gumline. the patient then digs it out, but in the process irritates the tissue so much that it feels exactly like there is something still stuck, so they dig more, causing more irritation, so avoid toothpicks or flossing too aggressively at this point.

Gums are an area that benzocaine will sooth, so orajel/orabase, anbesol and other topical anesthetics can be applied.

Good luck, stay safe.
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:55 PM on May 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

Infections in your mouth and teeth can spread. Chlorhexidine rinse seems like a good idea, but, really, ask around and kind a dentists who works with people who have dental phobias; dentists are better trained than when I was a kid in the 60s. It will feel so much better when you address the issue.
posted by theora55 at 4:25 PM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Every once in a while I get some localized gum irritation/bleeding /pain/sensitivity. When it first started the dentist I saw every strongly recommended deep cleaning. I declined. I got a prescription for chlorhexadrine mouthwash from my doctor. That did not work.

What did work was sugarfree gum if I couldn't get to a toothbrush right after I ate, and an absolute obsession with brushing my teeth 20 minutes or less after I ate, no exceptions. Flossing the nce a day, no exceptions, really really well. Sometimes requires several passes with floss. And if something flares up, a week or two rinsing with diluted (with water) tea tree oil several times a day knocks it out of the park. It's a nerve poison so don't swallow it. A drop or two won't hurt you if you accidentally swallow some, just make sure it's a rare occurrence. For pain, clove oil rubbed directly on the spot. Hurts like crazy for a sec, then no pain for hours. You can dilute it for less pain, but I'm lazy and never bother.

This started for me over ten years ago, when I went on immune suppressants and several meds that caused dry mouth. That year I had multiple cavities, the first I'd ever had. Since starting my obsession with brushing, gum, and the tea-tree rinse for flare ups I've had no cavities and no more gum issues aside from a random gum flare occasionally. I never had that deep cleaning the dentist told me I had to have.

But my diet has improved greatly and that also makes a difference. I never have a localized gum flare up when I'm eating lots of greens, tons of fiber, and flaxseed on the regular. Also regular noshing on celery helps.
posted by liminal_shadows at 5:52 PM on May 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

As someone else who has freaked out about dental pain in the past week after too long since my last cleaning and checkup, I encourage you to call a dentist or two to both ask about your problem and what kind of procedures they've put in place for reducing risk while seeing patients. I now have an appointment with a dentist that is only allowing one patient and two staff members in the office at a time (in Colorado).
posted by deludingmyself at 8:05 PM on May 18, 2020

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