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Tooth Decay - When To Call a Doctor

You should make an appointment with a dentist if:

  • You have not seen the dentist in 6 months to a year.
  • You have a toothache. Sometimes a toothache will go away for a while, but the tooth decay will continue. A constant toothache that does not go away could mean that you have severe decay, and you may lose your tooth.
  • You have swelling in your gums near a sore tooth. This may mean that there is severe tooth decay or an abscessed tooth. For more information, see the topic Abscessed Tooth.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a wait-and-see approach. If you get better on your own, you won't need treatment. If you get worse, you and your dentist will decide what to do next.

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Watchful waiting is not appropriate for a toothache. If you ignore the decaying tooth after the pain goes away, the tooth may become seriously damaged.

Who to see

A dentist is best able to evaluate your tooth decay and pain.

If you have severe decay, the dentist may refer you to a specialist, such as:

  • An endodontist, who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of problems of the pulp.
  • An oral or maxillofacial surgeon, who specializes in removing teeth and other mouth surgeries.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 19, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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or
Answer:
Never
(0)
Good
(1-3)
Better
(4-6)
Best
(7)

You are currently

Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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