As we enter week ‘something or other’ of Isolation, we have learned that in order to cope, we have to put on many hats. We have become stay at home parents, home school teachers, full time cooks, therapists (for ourselves and our friends), exercise instructors, doctors, and yes, even dentists. Our office reception has remained open during this time in order to help triage issues that arise among our patients. As well, all of our dentists are one phone call away.
As we have discussed in previous blogs, dentists are currently only allowed to treat emergencies that fall into the categories of severe pain, swelling, bleeding and any treatment that can’t be managed by medications or verbal instructions.
Let’s take a look at your new role as a triaging dentist during our self-isolation.
There are many times that you may experience acute (quick onset) pain in the mouth that starts suddenly and you notice that it seems to settle down. It may return a few times. This happens quite often and may be related to clenching at night or slightly injuring your teeth during eating. One can also have occasional sensitivity to cold and hot, without it representing a serious problem.
Cold sensitivity is common and may be diet related. Sugar consumption can lead to teeth being more sensitive temporarily. One of the first things that we will instruct in cold sensitivity is to decrease sugar and acidity levels. Examples are coffee with sugar, soda, and citrus fruit. These all decrease pH (an indicator of acid levels) and can lead to sensitivity. To counter this, use toothpastes such as Sensodyne and consume products that are alkaline (less acidic) such as dairy products. Clenching at night can also lead to sensitivity as the teeth are traumatized and the nerves become over reactive temporarily to cold. If you have a nightguard, try wearing it.
If on the other hand you lose a filling, or have a deep cavity, these may not resolve on their own and you would need treatment. Generally, initial signs of nerve issues are related to cold sensitivity that prolongs in duration and intensity. Later signs are sensitivity to hot. These issues should be brought to our attention so that we can direct you further.
Often, one may call in with a chipped tooth. At present, if the chip is not causing pain, then we may need to observe it until the office reopens. This may pose a sharp edge and you could use an emery board (nail file) to sand down any sharp corners. A chipped edge close to the tongue can cut or rub the tongue and cause pain in the tongue or throat. Of course, if you are unsure, then call the office. We may ask you to take a photo to send to us.
Stressful times can lead to clenching at night while you are sleeping. This activity can lead to a whole host of symptoms from sore jaws, pain in teeth and sensitivity. If the muscles are overactive at night, they will stiffen and tighten. You can try to place warm compresses on them and take an appropriate anti-inflammatory or pain medications. Consult your doctor for what medications are appropriate for you.
Bad smells and taste can arise from bacteria trapped in gums, tongue and throat area. Ideally, everyone should have their teeth scaled regularly, but at this time, we have to make an exception. Try to use an electric toothbrush, floss, brush your tongue and rinse with an antibacterial mouth rinse.
In children, the call that we most often receive is either related to broken baby teeth or adult teeth coming in behind or beside. In these cases, unless there is pain involved, it may be part of the normal process of tooth eruption (growing in). Keep us posted if you have any concerns, and we may ask for photos to confirm that all is okay.
If you notice that you have pain that cannot be relieved with these methods discussed above, or swelling of the mouth or gums, then you must call our office and we will guide you to treatment. This may involve medications prescribed from a pharmacy or a referral to one of our amazing specialists, who are remaining open to care for our patients.
We hope that we are able to return to normal function in the near future, but in the meantime, we welcome you as “deputy” dentists and we are always here to help.
Stay safe and healthy!