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FAQ:  Pain: Teeth - Molars


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Question:
I am currently traveling abroad and will not be back home in Little Rock for another 6 weeks. I have a back molar that has been having some intermittant pain. It is a tooth that has a resin composite filling that was done about 12 years ago, the margins of which may have deteriorated somewhat. The molar in front of this currently problematic tooth had a root canal approximately 10 years ago.

My question is what I might do as a stop-gap measure until I return home and see an endodontist. Would an antibiotic help relieve any pain from infection until I get home? I also need to take a long flight to return home, and want to make sure the changes in cabin pressure don't result in discomfort. ...Dan in AR

Answer:
Intermittent pain does not necessarily mean that you have an infection. The tooth may be getting necrosed (dying), but that does not always mean you will have an abscess that exits the tooth into the surrounding bone. If the body maintains the infection inside the tooth you will not have problems. Of course, there is likelihood that you may get an infection with a lot of pain. Only your body and immune system can dictate the outcome.

Taking antibiotics is advisable only if you already have an infection and are going to get treatment while on the medicine. Taking antibiotics to prevent problems is not wise, especially with the problems that we have today with all of the resistant bacteria building up in your body. You could make yourself worse.

Yes, cabin pressure can put gas on the fire! See a dentist right away and if there is a chance of infection have them start the root canal and relieve any possible infection. Otherwise, take your chances and keep a bottle of antibiotics, only if you notice severe pain and swelling. Use it only as a last resort, but have it handy just in case. Good luck!

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