Pharmacists frequently consult with patients who experience dental pain. While the problem may be minor, dental pain often indicates a serious underlying pathology. Pharmacists do not have the necessary skills or dental equipment to differentiate between benign and serious etiologies. Therefore, referral to a dentist is a virtual necessity for all patients who ask the pharmacist about acute dental pain.
Categorizing Dental Pain
Dental pain can be categorized using different taxonomies. It may arise from a problem in the tooth or its supporting structures, or it may be due to a problem elsewhere that is misperceived by the patient as originating there (e.g., referred pain). Dental pain can also be classified by etiology. All occurrences require dental referral.
Pain Originating in the Tooth or Periodontium
This type of pain can be due to trauma, a cracked tooth, pulpitis, or a host of other causes.
The microblogging service Twitter is a new means for the public to communicate health concerns and could afford health care professionals new ways to communicate with patients. With the growing ubiquity of user-generated online content via social networking Web sites such as Twitter, it is clear we are experiencing a revolution in communication and information sharing. In a study titled "Public Health Surveillance of Dental Pain via Twitter," published in the Journal of Dental Research - the official publication of the International and American Associations for Dental Research (IADR/AADR), researchers demonstrated that Twitter users are already extensively sharing their experiences of toothache and seeking advice from other users. Researchers Natalie Heaivilin, Barbara Gerbert, Jens Page and Jennifer Gibbs all from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), Preventive and Restorative Dental Sciences, authored this study.
The researchers investigated the content of Twitter posts meeting search criteria relating to dental pain. A set of 1,000 tweets was randomly selected from 4,859 tweets over seven nonconsecutive days. The content was coded using pre-established, non-mutually exclusive categories, including the experience of dental pain, actions taken or contemplated in response to a toothache, impact on daily life and advice sought from the Twitter community.