Many dental visits start with a patient reporting that they think they have a cavity because they are having tooth pain. Sometimes this turns out to be the case, but often their symptom comes from a different type of problem. Most times the problem is tooth related, but sometimes it has a different point of origin. Because of the inexact nature of pain and the many possible causes, a thorough examination is usually in order.

Although many times when a patient presents with pain, it does originate from a particular tooth, the symptom does not necessarily indicate tooth decay. A symptomatic tooth may be decayed or it also might be cracked, or even infected. Other possible causes of teeth pain can be tooth grinding, bruxism, dry mouth, sensitivity due to bleaching, gum disease or herpes. Only when a diagnosis is confirmed or at least supported by a thorough clinical exam, should the dentist take the appropriate steps needed to correct the problem.

At the beginning of the patients visit it is helpful for their dentist to do briefly discuss their symptoms, prior to examining the patient, in order to better understand what provokes the pain. An accurate dental diagnosis starts with a patients narrative about their symptoms. What quadrant is experiencing the pain? Does the patient have sensitivity to cold or hot liquids?, pain on chewing ? Is there swelling present or are any areas in the mouth that are tender? Does the pain start shortly after eating? Do the patient’s teeth ache? What are the situations that tend to cause the onset of symptoms? Hearing the answers to these questions helps a dentist understand what sort of dental problem a patient is experiencing, At that point, usually a radiograph is taken to gather more information.

After this thorough evaluation, usually the possible diagnoses are narrowed down to one or two possibilities, and treatment can be recommended. Sometimes, after an evaluation the pain a patient describes, the problem appears not to be of tooth origin. In that case, some of the other possible diagnoses are Trigeminal Neuralgia, Sinusitis, TMD Pain, Sialoliths. Ear infection, Oral Cancer and Oral herpes are just some of the many other conditions that patients actually have when they come to the dentist and are in pain.

If you are experiencing pain in and around your mouth a visit to the dentist probably is in order. Do not procrastinate and a visit to a dentist can usually pinpoint the problem. Many problems are best addressed in their early stages and action can save both time and money, as well as allowing a better outcome.