Typically, when you visit a dentist’s office, it’s for a routine checkup. Therefore, you may not even associate a dentist with an emergency. However, dental emergencies do happen, and they can be frightening or upsetting when they do.
Unfortunately, many people don’t know what to do or who to call in a dental emergency. In addition, they question whether their dentist will see them quickly enough or whether their insurance will handle the cost of any treatments. But, there are steps to take in the event of a dental emergency. Read on to learn more.
What Is A Dental Emergency?
Some oral health problems are urgent, meaning you should get to an emergency dentist as soon as possible. Others require patience, as they can be treated later. It’s vital to know the difference between the two if you experience an oral health problem when your regular dentist’s office is closed.
You may be wondering, “What constitutes a dental emergency?” And that is a good question. A dental emergency is any life or health-threatening condition or injury requiring immediate action to address.
The following conditions are considered life-threatening and require immediate emergency care:
- Trauma involving the facial bones that could potentially compromise your breathing
- Uncontrolled bleeding of the gums, tongue, cheeks, or lips
- Abscesses or other tooth infections, causing swelling or pain in the soft tissues
There are other dental emergencies that are not considered life-threatening right away, but they do require urgent care from an emergency dentist to prevent them from progressing. These conditions include:
- Severe tooth pain as a result of decay, trauma, or surgery
- Wisdom tooth pain
- Extreme tooth sensitivity
- Chipped, broken, loose, or lost teeth
- Injuries to the jaw
How To Handle Dental Emergencies
Depending on the severity of your dental emergency, there may be actions you can take at home before seeking care. The first thing you should do is try to remain calm. In situations of anxiety or stress, your body produces several reactions that will only make your emergency worse. So, take steps to relax while you contact your dentist.
Be sure to accurately describe any symptoms or injuries and the circumstances under which they occurred. Most likely, your dentist will want you to come in for an emergency visit to evaluate you.
It would be best if you visited an emergency dentist as soon as possible in the case of any urgent dental emergency involving infection of the soft tissues or uncontrolled bleeding. These oral health issues will worsen and even affect other parts of your body without proper treatment. An emergency dentist can help you treat any condition or injury, even if it requires a full-mouth restoration of your teeth.
Here are some tips on how to handle common dental emergencies at home. Note that these tips are intended to help alleviate symptoms and not replace appropriate treatment. Don’t hesitate to contact a dentist as soon as you experience an oral health concern.
The most common and immediate dental emergencies often involve dealing with severe pain, typically from a toothache. Even a mild toothache can make eating, speaking, and even sleeping difficult. So, when the pain progresses, it can be almost debilitating enough to prevent you from doing anything.
Severe pain accompanies infections, injuries, exposed nerves, and malocclusions, among several other adverse health issues. Even if there isn’t a health-threatening condition beneath the pain, a toothache is enough to warrant immediate action.
If you are experiencing a toothache, you can take over-the-counter medication. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen are formulated to fight inflammation, giving you a brief respite from some pain. Applying a cold compress to the area will also help reduce pain and swelling.
It would also be best to rinse your mouth with eight ounces of warm water mixed with half a teaspoon of salt. Doing so will help inhibit bacteria and plaque. You can also gently floss to get rid of any food particles trapped in your teeth that may be causing the pain.
You should visit an emergency dentist if your toothache:
- Lasts longer than a few days
- Causes swelling of the face or gums that a cold compress doesn’t alleviate
- Increases in intensity
- Also causes fever or an earache
Broken or Chipped Teeth
Unfortunately, accidents happen. Sometimes, these accidents cause trauma to your jaw that can damage your teeth. Whether from a car accident, a sports injury, or biting down on a piece of food that was harder than you thought it was, your teeth can be broken or chipped.
In the event of a broken tooth, you should rinse your mouth out with warm water to flush out any possible debris and help prevent infection. If the tooth was damaged due to trauma, apply a cold compress to the area to keep swelling to a minimum.
You can take an over-the-counter pain reliever to alleviate any discomfort from the broken tooth. However, please do not apply any pain relieving tablet directly to the gum area. There is a common misconception that doing so will be more effective when, in actuality, it could burn your gums.
If you’ve chipped off a small piece of a tooth, and there’s no pain from doing so, it isn’t considered an urgent dental emergency. A dentist will be able to save your smile with a cosmetic procedure called dental bonding if you’ve only chipped or cracked a small part of your tooth.
Sometimes, a severe enough trauma can forcefully remove a tooth from its socket. In these cases, you should start by applying a cold compress to the face to keep swelling down. You can also gently rinse your mouth with warm water if there is any bleeding.
If you still have the tooth, you should gently rinse any dirt off of it and save it. It may be possible to save the tooth and restore it. However, you must act quickly and get to a dentist as soon as possible. Thirty minutes or less is the ideal amount of time to see a dentist after losing a tooth, but it is possible to save teeth that have been out of the mouth for up to an hour.
The most vital thing to remember with dental emergencies is to remain calm and take the appropriate steps to mitigate the effects of a dental issue before visiting an emergency dentist. And even if you are experiencing an oral health concern that isn’t considered an emergency, your best course of action is to consult a qualified and caring dentist. So, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Kate Brayman and her team for the care you deserve.