Dental Pain

Complex Situation Requires Expertise

If you've ever experienced dental pain, you know it isn't something to be taken lightly. In fact, most people can't take it at all! That's why it's so important to understand the basics of tooth pain, so that you can take quick action at the first sign of trouble, possibly nipping the situation in the bud and preventing an all-out episode of severe discomfort.

Pain Primer

First, it's helpful to understand a little about how your mouth and jaw are wired. The nerve fibers connected to your teeth are different from those in the rest of your body, in several important ways. First, they are not proprioceptive: although they can send pain signals to your brain, they do not send highly specific location signals as do other body areas. This means that although the damage exists only in your back left molar's nerve, your brain may tell you that your entire lower jaw is affected. Further, it can be very difficult to identify the precise source of the problem, making the patient and the dentist both feel foolish.

A second factor in the function of your dental nerves has to do with the two types of fibers involved. Some fibers are 'slow' and narrowly shaped, producing pain that is experienced as a dull ache or throbbing feeling. This may cover an entire area and be difficult to isolate. Such dull pain may be initiated by a damaged nerve cell triggering your immune system response, releasing chemicals that further irritate the nerve. Then, the inner 'pulp' tissue itself may begin to hurt, especially at night when blood pressure increases within the tooth. A fractured tooth that 'flexes' during biting and chewing can also stimulate this kind of nerve, and trigger an increasingly uncomfortable 'tooth ache' sensation.

Other fibers are 'fast' and more widely shaped, often responsible for the sharp, quick pain message of early tooth decay in a particular spot. This kind of fiber responds to stimuli like cold air, hot or cold food and drink, and biting/chewing pressure, and may last from a few seconds up to a minute. Often, this occurs when the tooth's protective enamel exposes the underlying dentin, stimulating and irritating the tiny, sensitive tubules inside the tooth or tooth root structure.

Once dental pain has started, it can affect anything from a single tooth, to your entire jawbone, muscles, jaw joints, face, head, and neck. In fact, the pain can actually transmit from one area to another and create secondary pain, due to the interrelatedness of the face and jaw's structures and functions.

Professional Pain Killers

Obviously, recognizing and diagnosing this kind of pain is not an easy job. It requires a comprehensive knowledge base of all the relevant variables, astute diagnostic skills, and years of experience recognizing the myriad of clinical manifestations of pain.

This is one of the most critical jobs your dental health provider can do for you. Why? Because first of all, no one wants to be in pain. And no medical professional wants his patient to be in pain. But even more importantly, dental pain is often a sign of a moderate to serious condition…it's typically not the first sign of a problem, but a sign of a rather advanced one. Thus, once begun, it can escalate rapidly to seemingly unmanageable proportions.

On the other hand, someone like Dr. Goldberg can effectively apply his 30 years of experience in specialized dental care, quickly and effectively assessing, diagnosing, and treating dental pain. That's why we encourage our patients to call us at the least sign of discomfort… tooth sensitivity, aching jaws or face muscles, chronic headaches, or any other kind of oral pain. The sooner we see you, the sooner we can identify and arrest any problems.

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© 2008 Dr. Goldberg | Site designed and maintained by TNT Dental.