Pain management is something dentists spend quite a bit of time and effort trying to alleviate or eliminate. Dental pain is amongst the most common orofacial pain complained about in the United States, and for a good reason—the face is filled with so many nerves and sensitive areas that even the slightest dental adjustments can make patients feel miserable. Many sufferers of dental pain are afraid to see a dentist because of dental visit anxiety and fear of facing more pain. Patients assume that dental care means hours of discomfort or outright misery and that the cure is often just as bad as the ailment. This doesn’t have to be the case since modern dentists and endodontists have created a very effective strategy for managing pain. With proper care and pain management, a trip to the dentist should result in considerable relief for your mouth rather than a torturous ordeal with a painful recovery.
The 3D Strategy
Many dentists and endodontist follow what is known as a 3D strategy for dental pain management: diagnose dental treatment, and drugs. Endodontists excel at knowing what the problem is, how to fix it, and which medications will control the pain. This strategy has been proven to be an extremely effective approach for alleviating or removing pain entirely. While tooth pain is very common and can have debilitating effects, it doesn’t have to affect your life.
Diagnose the Pain Condition
Diagnosing the pain condition is step one in the 3D approach to dental pain management. For any tooth pain to be effectively treated and managed, an endodontist must first discover the source of the pain. Finding the source of dental pain is not always easy and can take some time to figure out, depending on the case and the severity of the issue. One of the reasons identifying the core problem can be difficult has to do with referred pain, or pain you feel in an area that is not the cause of the problem. Where the patient may think the tooth pain is originating from may, in fact, be referred pain caused by a problem somewhere else. For instance, the source of a toothache felt on the bottom molar can sometimes be attributed to a problem in the top molar and vice versa (especially when a toothache is close to your ear).
For a dentist or endodontist to find the true source of the pain, the practitioner will go through a series of steps designed to recreate the dental pain the patient says they are suffering from. This may include having a patient test their bite or isolating the individual teeth with a rubber dam and then spraying a cold substance such as Endo-Ice on the tooth, for those complaining of sensitivity to cold substances. If the referred pain is still masking the underlying cause of pain, specialists will take x-rays to get a closer look at the problem. Issues such as cavities will show up after this process.
Again, the ease to which a toothache can be diagnosed varies case by case but is usually straight forward when the patient provides a clear and honest dental history. Sometimes it will take several visits to the dentist or endodontist for the source of the dental pain to be successfully and effectively treated. It is important that patients suffering from dental pain keep their dentist up-to-date on their recovery and inform them of any lingering pain there may be. In some instances, the inflammation and pain from a dental procedure may take some time to subside, but if it is a pain due to a problematic bite, the pain will not subside until the bite is adjusted. Those suffering from dental pain often don’t know the true source, which why it is important to keep a clear line of communication between the patient and practitioner.
Dental treatment is step two in the 3D approach to dental pain management. Once the dentist or endodontist knows the cause of the problem, he or she will formulate a plan addressing the issue. Successful dental treatment will greatly reduce the inflammatory process that is typically the latent cause of the dental pain. Most dental treatments will result in a vast improvement on the pain felt by the patient within the first week, and some patients may experience immediate relief depending on the treatment received. The key to successfully removing the source of pain and cause of inflammation is in providing the correct dental treatment, further emphasizing the importance of step one in the 3D approach to dental pain management. Some treatments may be done in one visit while others may take several. This is due to a variety of factors such as time and the treatment involved.
One of the most publicly known dental treatments for dental pain is the often-dreaded root canal, one of several weapons in the arsenal of endodontic treatment. Root canals are preventable through the practice of fastidious dental hygiene and routine visits to the dentist. It is important that patients understand what causes root canals, the types of foods and drinks that lead to tooth decay, and what good dental hygiene looks like. In short, root canals are necessary when the soft inside of a tooth, called the pulp, becomes inflamed or infected. This can be caused by decay due to cavities or from stress on the tooth which causes it to chip or crack. Once inflamed or infected, the pulp can ache to an unbearable degree and a root canal must be performed.
Many patients that are in need of a root canal have allowed their dental pain to go untreated due to anxiety and fear of visiting the dentist. It should be a relief for many to know that root canals are often painless and have desirable outcomes. Because of this, you should never wait until your dental pain reaches an unbearable point; the pain of a root canal will always be less than the pain of an inflamed, infected, and rotting tooth.
The last step in the 3D approach of dental pain management is drugs. There are many things to be considered before drugs are prescribed, and clinicians take great care to obtain an accurate and clear medical history of their patient before writing a prescription. Drugs are a great and effective form of pain management and can be tailored to the patient and their needs. The most commonly used drugs for dental pain management are often over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Studies have also shown that acetaminophen used in conjunction with ibuprofen provide significant and effective pain relief for the user. One of the most obvious benefits of the use of these two drugs is that when they are used over-the-counter, the risk of them becoming habit-forming is far less.
It is common for dentists and endodontists to pair two drugs together to achieve successful pain relief. Common combos are acetaminophen with codeine, acetaminophen with oxycodone, and acetaminophen with hydrocodone. Antibiotics are also often prescribed in the case of infection and do not typically provide the pain relief that the drugs mentioned above do. In many instances, antibiotics will be prescribed along with a pain reliever.
Local anesthetics are also commonly used in the treatment and prevention of dental pain during a dental procedure. The types of drugs used by the clinician will vary patient by patient. To prevent drug misuse, it is important that the clinician limit the amount of pain reliever prescribed, educate their patient, and monitor for any signs of substance abuse. The amount of pain felt by patients following a dental procedure is also greatly related to their dental hygiene and the effort they put into their post-procedure care. Those who continue to smoke or practice poor dental hygiene following a dental procedure experience far more pain than those who practiced good oral health habits. This is important to note to patients following a procedure, as the knowledge may prevent post procedural decisions that may exacerbate their pain and dental health. For any dental sensitivity following dental procedures, fluoride rinses may be prescribed and help aid in the pain/sensitivity relief of the patient.
There is no reason to suffer through the dental pain. Modern medicine and practices make dental work as painless as possible, letting you get back to your life quickly and manage pain effectively. Make an appointment with one of our endodontist in Houston today if you are experiencing any facial pain that continues to grow worse.
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