The cause of a toothache is difficult enough to figure out when it's your own tooth that's hurting; figuring out what's wrong with your child's tooth is even more complicated. You have to rely on secondhand information about where the pain is and what it feels like. And while it's more likely to be a small cavity or even a piece of food stuck between teeth, it's easy to conjure up images of broken teeth or pediatric root canals.
Of course, the best person to diagnose your child's toothache is their dentist. But how do you know whether you need an emergency appointment or not?
When To Call Right Away
If your child has a fever accompanying their toothache, this is a sign of a serious problem. It points to the possibility of a bacterial infection that has spread beyond just the tooth. Facial swelling is another sign of a potentially serious infection. So if you notice either of these symptoms, you need to call a dentist or doctor right away, no matter what time it is. If you don't have a regular doctor or dentist, find an emergency dental clinic or take your child to an emergency room.
Severe pain is also cause to call right away. This is more difficult to determine, however, since you're not the one feeling the pain. So look for pain that doesn't respond to treatment. If you give your child over-the-counter pain relief such as acetaminophen and their pain doesn't improve over the next couple of hours, call your dentist.
When To Call For A Non-Emergency Appointment
If you take a look inside your child's mouth, there are a couple of signs that their toothache will need dental attention. If you can see a cavity – often a brownish spot – in a tooth, a fracture or other visible tooth damage, or a small abscess or swelling at the base of a tooth, you should call your dentist the next time they're open. These problems won't get better on their own, and your dentist will determine how quickly they need to see your child.
Any toothache that doesn't get better after 24 hours is also cause to call your dentist and make an appointment. There are some dental problems, like small cavities, that you might not be able to see by inspecting your child's teeth, and they are the most likely causes of a toothache that doesn't get better.
When To Wait And See
If, when you were checking inside your child's mouth, you found any food stuck between teeth, remove it with some floss. If that was the root cause of the pain, it should fade away over the next few hours.
In general, if it's not a dental emergency but a mild toothache, it's okay to wait for a day and see whether your child's pain persists or goes away. Toothaches that are caused by things like biting into something hard or minor sensitivity to cold will usually resolve on their own, and home treatment with acetaminophen or ice packs is all that's needed.
And remember, if you're unsure about how serious the problem is, you can always call your dentist to discuss your child's symptoms and get their advice on what to do next.
For more information, contact Dentistry For the Entire Family or a similar location.