I had a terrible toothache two weekends ago and went to see an emergency dentist. It was so bad. I told him which of my teeth hurt and after hitting my teeth and poking, he told me the tooth next to the one that hurt needed a cavity filled. What? Then he didn’t even fix the cavity that day! At the time I was mad, but it’s okay because I want another opinion. After my visit, my sister asked me what I expected since emergency dentists aren’t real dentists. Is that true?
Danika, Biloxi, Mississippi
There are two parts to your question it seems. 1) Are emergency dentists really dentists?; and 2) Was the emergency dentist right or wrong in your case?
Let’s address question one first. The answer in most cases is yes, emergency dentists are real dentists. Most dentists who advertise being an emergency dentist are regular dentists who offer to see patients, whether they are established patients or new to their office, either by squeezing them into the schedule, seeing them on a weekend, or by staying late. They are licensed dentists with their regular patients and regular practice, but they are also available for dental emergencies that may arise.
Because emergency dentists also have their regular practice and squeeze you in, they may not always have the time set aside to fix everything you need. Especially if you are a new patient and are going with a dental emergency, the dentist doesn’t know what he is going to find in your mouth. The fix may be more than something simple and quick. That may be why he didn’t fix your cavity that day.
Now onto the second part–was the dentist’s diagnosis correct? Without seeing your x-rays and exam notes, we can’t say. It sounds like the dentist’s routine was sound. It’s common to tap the teeth to verify the source of a toothache. Sometimes teeth “refer” pain. In other words, a tooth with trouble can make a neighbor tooth hurt instead. At times those troubled teeth are cracked or have deep cavities. It’s quite possible that you do have a tooth that needs a cavity filled that was radiating pain to the tooth next to it.
If you aren’t comfortable with the diagnosis of the emergency dentist, you can visit your regular dentist or find a new one and compare the results. Whatever you do, get your tooth fixed as soon as possible before you get an infection!
This post is sponsored by Dr. Cummiskey at Generations Dental Care in Enfield, CT.