Help! Regular Dentist on Vacation, Emergency Dentist Can’t See Me

About four nights ago I woke up in incredible pain. At the time, I felt sure it was my lower left molar, but now my whole jaw hurts. I took Tylenol that night and managed a little sleep, but when I called my dentist in the morning, I discovered he was out of town until next week. I left a message for his on-call. The office isn’t seeing any patients, but the emergency dentist offered to call in a pain prescription to get me through until my regular doctor is back. I accepted it, but the pain medicine isn’t helping. I’ve been scouring the net for home cures. I’ve practically had an ocean of salt water in my mouth over the past few days and I bought all the clove oil my local drugstore had. I can’t sleep, eat, or work. There is no way I can make it until next week. What should I be doing? If it helps any, I don’t see anything wrong with any of my teeth. The gums are a little red, but not seriously swollen or anything, so I don’t think it’s an abscess.


Dear Tristan,

Sorry to hear you’re in so much pain. It’s very concerning that the emergency dentist did not provide you with a reasonable solution. Based on the high level of pain you’re feeling, it sounds like you may have an infection or a broken tooth. Infections don’t always present as a visible abscess. A pocket of pus can form at the root of the tooth and work its way inward, rather than towards the surface. If one of the roots have broken or fractured, you wouldn’t see that either. There’s also a chance that the tooth itself has formed a small crack, which could require x-rays and/or magnification to detect. It sounds more likely that you have an infection, based on your symptoms, though the tooth itself could have damage that’s contributing to the problem.

As a first measure, you should call the emergency dentist back, and very clearly explain your level of pain. It’s possible that the person you spoke with did not have a true understanding of what you were experiencing. If it’s an infection, the only thing that will make you feel better is a course of antibiotics, followed by treatment of the underlying problem. If they can’t see you, hopefully they will prescribe antibiotics, and you’ll feel almost back to normal within a day or so. Measurable relief usually appears within about 12 hours of starting antibiotic treatment.

If they aren’t willing to help, contact your primary care physician and tell them what’s happening, to see if they will get you started on antibiotics. Failing that, an urgent care can prescribe them, or an alternate emergency dentist will likely agree to see you, just to handle the urgent issue.

Do not try to live with the pain, as it’s a sign that something is seriously wrong. Follow up with the chain of doctors as listed here, and make sure you get some form of treatment. When your regular dentist returns, be sure to let him know about the difficulties you faced in his absence. Best of luck to you.

This blog is sponsored by Elgin dentist, Dr. Steve Sirin.

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