Tooth Pain, No Insurance, 3 A.m.? when to Visit the Er or Wait for the Dentist


Just about everyone knows someone who has had a tooth start throbbing in the middle of the night, if they haven’t experienced the unpleasantness of the situation themselves. Probably just as many people have been faced with a limited budget, no dental insurance, and a throbbing tooth. When should you head straight to the dentist, no matter what the cost?

Tooth pain can be caused by a number of problems: an infection, a cavity, being physically struck, among others. Something that many people are unaware of is that very few emergency rooms have dentists available on call, and even fewer have them on staff. If you need a tooth extraction in Austin, TX; New York, NY; or New Orleans, LA; you’re going to have to be seen by a dentist, because doctors aren’t licensed to preform the procedure.

Dentists Should Treat All Knocked-Out Teeth

Doctors can prescribe painkillers, which may provide temporary relief. The American Association of Endodontists recommends lightly rinsing a completely knocked-out tooth with water and gently returning it to the socket, always handling it by the crown to protect the roots, within 30 minutes, to save it.

If this can’t be accomplished, the association recommends keeping the tooth moist in a specially designed kit, in milk, or in the mouth next to the cheek to attempt to keep the tooth alive. Above all, the association recommends keeping the tooth moist. Those suffering from a knocked-out tooth need to seek attention from a dentist as soon as possible.

Tooth pain caused by an infection or cavity may not be as serious. However, the pain caused by tooth problems can be intense. Once a tooth has developed an abscess, pain may subside after being treated with a course of antibiotics, but will likely return unless the underlying problem is addressed. In some cases, this may require a root canal, a filling, or having the problem tooth removed entirely.

Doctors Can Do Little To Help

A dentist will not only prescribe antibiotics or painkillers when required, they are trained and qualified to treat the underlying problem to keep it from happening again. A reasonable course of action might be to try over-the-counter pain killers when a toothache first occurs. For those on tight budgets, or when a dentist is inaccessible, visiting an emergency room for a toothache should be the final choice, once pain or pressure becomes unbearable.

In some countries, pharmacists can prescribe antibiotics. For most, a dentist or doctor will be the only professional legally permitted to prescribe them. Only a dental professional is fully qualified to diagnose and treat the underlying problem that is causing tooth pain. A doctor or emergency room can provide some limited help, but should be a last resort, particularly for those on tight budgets or when significant travel is required. However, don’t put off seeing a dentist. Pain for any extended period in a tooth should be checked as soon as possible and can lead to more serious problems.

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