I don’t have a regular dentist, but for the past 2 months, my tooth and gums have been hurting and getting worse. Last Friday, a dentist took me as an emergency patient. After the exam, he only gave me something for pain. He said he wasn’t sure where the pain was coming from, and I needed to see a specialist. Why wouldn’t a dentist be able to figure out why my tooth and gums hurt? He just looked at my tooth. Would an x-ray have helped? Do I really need to see a specialist, or can I go to another dentist who takes same-day appointments? Nigel
Nigel – Pain in your tooth can come from an infection in the tooth or an infection in your gums. If an infection is both in your tooth and your gums, it might make it difficult for the emergency dentist to make that determination.
What Causes a Toothache and Gum Pain?
Possible causes of toothache and gum pain include:
- Tooth infection – An infection in the root canals of a tooth can spread into the bone and tissue around the tooth, which help support and stabilize the tooth. A dentist can determine if the problem started in your tooth and spread to your gums and jawbone.
- Gum infection – Another possibility is an infection that starts in the gums and spreads to the tooth. An advanced gum infection (periodontal disease) can leak into the tooth roots and up into the pulp, causing a severe toothache. Johns Hopkins Medicine confirms that gum disease damages tooth roots, and you will need gum disease treatment to smooth tooth roots.
- Both are infected – Both your gums and tooth may be infected. If that is the case, a dentist needs to carefully review the history of your toothache, take an x-ray, and test your tooth’s sensitivity to pressure and temperature.
Schedule an appointment with a periodontist (specialist in the gums and supporting structure of the teeth). The periodontist can help you find a general dentist and coordinate your care.
Dr. David Pumphrey, an Atlanta periodontist, sponsors this post.