What Are the Consequences of Ignoring an Aching Tooth?

December 31, 2019

If you’re like most dental patients, you might wince at the first sign of tooth pain and hope it goes away. But a problem in your tooth cannot go away on its own, and letting a toothache fester too long can have real consequences for your health. As your toothache goes from bad to worse, be aware of these risks and the benefits of visiting a dentist early.

Nerve Exposure and Pain

Pain in a tooth stems from the nerve at its core. This nerve, protected by a hard outer coating, delivers oxygen and nutrients to the sensitive tissues surrounding it. Sugary, acidic foods create an ideal environment for bacteria in your mouth, which gradually wear away at the outer shell of your teeth to reach the tissue below. This occurrence is called a cavity. 

A cavity is a permanent hole in your tooth; your body has no mechanism to repair it. The nerve within will gradually be exposed to the air, food, and water, increasing its rate of deterioration. This is when you will start to feel pain in your teeth, especially after consuming hot or cold foods and beverages. You may feel a throbbing pain or a more localized sting when you press down on the tooth. 

Dental Abscesses

As your tooth’s infection eats through the nerve and enters your gums and jaw, an abscess may form. This localized infection sits at the base of the affected tooth and is typically painful and easy to notice. You may experience swelling and heat in the area. Symptoms of an abscess are typically your last warning to get into the dentist’s office before the tooth fractures. 

Dangerous Infections

If you ignore the pain and swelling of an abscess, the infection behind it will continue to spread through your bloodstream. Dental infections are dangerous because of their proximity to your face and brain. A brain abscess or similar infection can move quickly and result in death. For this reason alone, a toothache should never be ignored for long. 

Collapse and Loss of the Tooth

Once a tooth loses enough of its core, it will no longer have the strength needed to support your bite. You may only notice a crack initially, but in other cases the tooth splits in half, leaving what’s left of its interior exposed. After this occurs, it is often not possible to save the tooth, even with a crown. You will need to have it pulled and then decide whether or not to replace it with an implant. 

Failure to Catch Other Conditions

While cavities are the most common cause of tooth pain, they are not the only health problem presenting these symptoms. Sometimes a toothache is simply sinus trouble inflaming your nerves, but it may be a sign of advanced gum disease. Ear infections and heart attacks can also cause pain through the teeth. If your pain is being caused by a more serious illness, ruling out a cavity is the first step toward diagnosis. 

Increasing Dental Treatment Costs

Besides potentially putting your life in danger, ignoring an aching tooth is also bad for your financial health. Regular visits to the dentist help prevent tooth decay and can catch cavities before they grow too large to fill. While fillings are relatively inexpensive, a root canal and crown or a dental implant are a larger financial investment. 

Save yourself the extra pain, time, and expense of fixing a severely decayed tooth. By scheduling regular dental exams for yourself and your family, you can rest assured that your teeth are being monitored and corrected in a timely manner. Contact us at Cherry Hill Dentistry today to learn more and begin preserving your teeth for the long run. 

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