When we injure ourselves, practically anywhere on our bodies, we usually experience pain instantly. Whether it is a paper-cut, or a splinter, or a speck in the eye, or a stubbed-toe. There is pain, it is immediate, and it compels us to do something.
Teeth don’t always give an immediate signal that something is wrong; often not until the problem has gotten serious. In a previous article I wrote about the things our teeth tell us, when they give us pain to hot, cold, or pressure.
Sometimes, a serious infection doesn’t cause pain. Oh, usually in such situations, people will report that they did have some pain, a while ago, but the pain went away. Hmmm. But, the problem didn’t.
A fractured tooth, or a broken filling, or a lost crown usually produce enough discomfort that the person seeks a dentist’s help quickly.
But, a tooth with a large cavity; the nerve becomes infected; the problem is that the initial pain is overlooked; the problem gets worse without dental care; the nerve of the tooth dies; infection spreads into the bone.
If the individual neglects the problem long enough, the pain may go away on its own. Because the body is quite an ingenious machine: it finds a way to wall-off the infection into a chronic abscess.
By definition, an abscess is an infection that is enclosed. It is surrounded by inflamed tissue, and usually contains pus. But abscesses have to get drainage, and sometimes a drainage channel called a fistula develops.
Abscesses can drain into the maxillary sinus, or like the fistula in this picture. Those are problems enough, but it can get much worse: drainage could go into the cheek, or under the tongue. Those are much more serious, even life-threatening.
The bottom line is: Never overlook dental pain. Even if you think you can “tough it out” and the pain seems to go away. Much of the time, something more serious is brewing and it may not give you any symptoms until it is very far advanced.
Best to seek regular dental care, and to treat dental pain as you treat pain everywhere else in the body.