I went in for emergency dental treatment a little over a month ago. My whole face swelled up overnight, it hurt something awful, and I had a foul taste in my mouth. My regular office wasn’t open at the time, so I went to a new doctor who could work me in. He prescribed antibiotics and I followed his instructions to a “T.” Even though I felt better and the swelling went down after a couple of days, I finished the full prescription. Just yesterday, I noticed the bad taste was back and I was starting to get a nagging throb on the same side. I think it’s starting to swell again too. I think it’s the same tooth! Is it possible that he didn’t handle it right or prescribe the antibiotics long enough? Or did I just wind up with a weird strain of infection that needs a different type? I’ve never heard of this happening, so I’m more than a little concerned and don’t know what to do. Naturally, my dentist is out for the weekend again and my only option is to go back to the same guy. I’m considering holding off until my office is open—I don’t know if I trust this guy. What’s my best bet?
It sounds like some details weren’t explained well or maybe you were distracted because you hurt when you went in. Let’s go over what’s happening here.
When teeth respond in that manner and become infected, it’s because the inside of the tooth has died. Under ordinary circumstances, blood flows in and out of the tooth. When that stops happening and bacteria takes hold, the result is a nasty infection. Antibiotics kill the infection, but they don’t treat the underlying cause: lack of circulation to the tooth. Thus far, science has not come up with a way to revive a dead tooth in this condition, so a root canal is necessary. This involves removing the dead tissue inside the tooth and filling it with a special material. Most dentists will add a crown after to give the tooth strength because non-vital teeth can become brittle. Thus far, you only addressed one component of the problem, and the tooth will keep reinfecting until you have a root canal.
It sounds like the infection is already in full swing, so you’ll need to get antibiotics on board again as soon as possible. It’s ok to go back to the same office you saw, but in a pinch, an urgent care center can prescribe antibiotics too. Regardless of which path you choose, you’ll either need the new office to perform a root canal or you’ll need to schedule with your regular office right after to follow up with additional treatment. Best of luck to you.
This blog is sponsored by Elgin emergency dentist, Dr. Steve Sirin.