Dentistry: Do-It-Yourself Dentistry (cont.)

"You can use crazy glue to replace a tooth off a denture, but that becomes more problematic because the consumer may have difficulty refitting that tooth," Sherer says. "If I were attending a wedding or had a meeting with the queen, I would crazy glue my tooth in, but if I could wait a day or so, then I would," he says. Partial dentures are mounted on a metal frame and fill a gap left by missing teeth. Complete dentures may be worn when all of the top or bottom teeth have been lost. They consist of artificial teeth mounted in a plastic base molded to fit the mouth.

Gauging Gum Pain

Over-the-counter pain-relieving gels and liquids such as Anbesol and Orajel can provide temporary relief, as can ibuprofen and other over-the-counter drugs that relieve swelling and inflammation. But "you have to get to the root of the problem, and sometimes you may have a gum infection brewing that may require antibiotics," Sherer says.

Howley agrees. "If there is swelling and bleeding around the gums, see a dentist as soon as possible because it may indicate something more serious," he says. "You may need antibiotics, or if there is an abscess, you may need to have it drained." This was exactly the case with my recent dental emergency.

The good news is that if you really need a dentist (as I did), "there are areas or facilities that you can visit over a weekend without necessarily waiting for your dentist," Sherer says. "Regional hospitals have dental residency programs and residents on calls and dental schools in the area have emergency facilities"

A root canal refers to damaged tissues in the tooth. If you suspect this is the issue, "keep cold and sweets away from the painful area," Howley says. "If you do this, the pain will typically go away, but if you also have sensitivity to heat, it's an indication of more serious problem." For example, "if you drink coffee and the tooth hurts even after stimulus is gone, this tends to indicate a problem with a nerve or that the tooth is dying or traumatized and you need to do something about it," he says. "It may be a simple as an antibiotic and Motrin, and sometimes it's as simple as keeping hot, sweet, and cold away until you can have it looked at by a dentist."

If you can't quite put your finger on the pain (literally or figuratively), go through a mental checklist to identify the culprit. "Is it a missing filling? A broken tooth? If so, you could try aspirin or ibuprofen. Is it gum related? If so, topical ointments may work," Howley says.

Make Your Own Dental Bag

While it's hard to plan for dental mishaps, it's a good idea to pack a small just-in-case bag replete with some tooth repair basics. It should contain:

  • Salt packets
  • Gauze
  • Q-tips (in case you want to swab the area)
  • Ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory painkiller
  • A small container (if you lose a crown or piece)
  • A phone number of a dentist
  • A pack of sugar-free gum

Published April 18, 2005.


SOURCES: Tom A. Howley, Jr, DDS, president, Academy of General Dentistry. Warren Scherer, DDS, chairman, department of general dentistry and management science, New York University College of Dentistry, New York City.

©1996-2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.
Last Editorial Review: 4/22/2005 8:34:31 PM



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