Aspirin next to your tooth helps your heart and not your toothache

Since publishing Dental MythBuster #5 – Placing aspirin on a tooth cures a toothache, the post has racked up over 47,000 views and averages approximately 100 per day (as of March 2016). No wonder. People are always looking for home remedies and a do-it-yourself solution for a toothache is searched upon quite often.

low_dose_aspirin

Placing this next to your tooth might give you an unexpected reaction

Many have posted comments claiming I am wrong.  But the only piece of evidence offered by the posters is simply a summary of their own personal experience(s). It goes something like this:

I did it – and the pain went away – so it works – so you’re wrong.

Making broad generalizations based upon one single experience does not prove anything. What if I wrote this:

I smoked 2 packs a day for fifty years and I don’t have lung cancer. So cigarettes must not cause lung cancer then.

Would you agree with that person? Or would you say – everyone knows smoking will cause lung cancer – you can’t generalize based on one experience.

A Home Remedy for a Heart Attack

No, this is not a joke. I am bringing up this specific example to show that placing an aspirin next to a broken tooth will do more for your heart than the tooth!

Many readers know that if/when a heart attack is suspected, one of the first things you are supposed to do (besides calling 911) is to chew on an aspirin. Note that we said chew and not swallow. There are literally hundreds of sources for this, including the Red Cross and the American Heart Association. In fact, it is a critical part of the BLS/CPR algorithm (here is a link from the New York Times).

broken tooth showing where you should NOT put an aspirin

Placing aspirin next to this broken tooth will result in burned gums and a healthy heart but no toothache relief.

Why should you chew and not swallow the aspirin?

Simple. Because the thin mucous membrane of the mouth – especially under the tongue – allows for the aspirin to be absorbed into the bloodstream quickly. In this study, chewed aspirin exerted its desired effect almost two and half times faster than aspirin that was swallowed.

So, to summarize, when you place an aspirin in most areas of the mouth, it goes into the bloodstream quickly and goes to exert its effects on the heart and other organs – all far away from the mouth.

But What about the Tooth?

So if the asprin is absorbed and enters the bloodstream, how does it help the tooth? It doesn’t. Or more accurately, for toothache relief, it doesn’t matter whether you swallow, chew, or place the aspirin next to the tooth.

aspirin for a toothache

For a toothache, it doesn’t matter if you chew or swallow.

To those who are still claiming that placement of an aspirin next to the tooth will cure a toothache, I’ll ask this question:

How does the aspirin know to leave the mouth and go to the coronary arteries of a heart attack victim but to stay next to a throbbing tooth?

It doesn’t. This is why placement of an aspirin next a tooth won’t work any more effectively for toothache than swallowing it. The only difference is that you can get a nasty chemical burn of your gums (as seen in the first post).

What Does a Cavity Under a Crown Look Like?

As this blog approaches nearly 3 years of age and well over 150,000 views, I am able to see what the more popular dental topics are out there. Currently, the fourth most popular post on this site, clocking in with a little more than 19,000 views (as of July 2015), is Dental MythBuster #9: You can’t get a cavity under a crown.

In analyzing what people search for online, many readers – hundreds that is – searched for some variation of: what does a cavity under a dental crown look like?

I had just finished compiling this information when a long time patient of mine – one who I had been telling for several months now about decay under one of her crowns – called to finally schedule her extraction.

Photos and X-rays of Cavities Under a Crown

In this particular case, the decay was so deep that her only option was extraction (see below for why extraction was her only options). Below is a bitewing x-ray:

dental bitewing x-ray showing decay under a crown

The x-ray shows the definite shadow of decay underneath a crown.

I had first diagnosed this nearly a year ago primarily based on the x-ray. In this area of the mouth – the last tooth on the lower left – the cheek drapes up against the tooth – making it very difficult to see – and very difficult to brush!.

I then removed the tooth. And no, I did not put my knee on her chest! The decay was unmistakable. Upon completing the procedure and having the patient go home, the first thing I thought was: “this will make a great photo for my blog!” So here it is:

high quality detailed photo of extracted tooth with decayed cavity under a dental crown

The extracted tooth in all its glory. If you dare, you can click on it to see a larger version!

You can clearly see the decay on this crown when it is out of the mouth. However, when it was in her mouth, it was nearly impossible to see. It could only be “felt” with a dental instrument. But the x-ray showed it.

Why was the tooth extracted?

If you get decay underneath a crown, it doesn’t always mean that the tooth has to be extracted. Before I explain why this was extracted, let’s look at one where the tooth was able to be fixed:

high quality photo of a cavity under an incisor crown

The decay underneath this crown was predictably fixed with a new crown.

The tooth directly above could be saved because the decay was easily accessible and only extended slightly underneath the gum tissue. The tooth had already had a root canal.

For the first tooth, the decay extended deep underneath the gum tissue and went into the furcation (the furcation is where the two roots of two-rooted tooth meet). No amount of modern dental procedures could have saved the tooth. So we extracted it and placed a dental implant.

Please note that I have greatly simplified the criteria for when a tooth can be saved vs. extracted. There are dozens of other factors – all beyond the scope of this post.

So, to summarize:

  • You can get decay or cavities underneath a crown.
  • The extent and location of the decay as well as other factors will dictate the treatment needed to correct the problem.

As always, your dentist should answer all your questions. If he/she doesn’t, it’s time to look for a new one.