Dental emergencies can happen any time, day or night. Unfortunately, that means they don’t always happen during office hours when you could just come right in and get the help you need. In almost every case, though, the faster you get to the dentist the greater the likelihood of saving the tooth.
We know that it’s impossible to predict when an emergency might occur, so the first thing you should do is make sure you have the necessary after-hours contact information.
When an accident happens or you begin to suffer pain, our first goal will be to stop that pain and address any immediate health concerns. That is the simplest definition of emergency dentistry, and once we have that under control, we can schedule follow-up treatments at a later date if necessary.
What Constitutes a Dental Emergency?
Not everything is an emergency, and most people know this. Unfortunately, are so worried about whether or not their problem is a real emergency that they’ll just try to “tough it out” and not get the care that they need.
There are a couple simple ways you can judge whether or not your situation constitutes an emergency. First, purely cosmetic issues are not a cause for a trip to the emergency room. However, there are some emergencies that could damage the appearance of your teeth, and the faster you get them treated the more likely you’ll keep your teeth – and keep them looking good.
Second, you can safely assume it’s a real emergency if you’re bleeding from the mouth, have swelling bulges on your gums, are in severe pain, have loose teeth, or are experiencing swelling the facial area.
Taking Immediate Action
If you experience one of these situations, there are some things you can do yourself to alleviate the pain and give us a better chance to save the tooth.
Missing Teeth – A lost tooth is a real problem that needs immediate attention. If you still have the tooth, make sure you only handle it by the crown. Never touch the root. Gently rinse it off without scrubbing it or removing any tissue. If you can, put it back in its socket. If you can’t, put it in a small container of milk and call us as soon as possible.
Broken Teeth – Chips that don’t hurt aren’t really an emergency, and can wait to be repaired – just keep the pieces clean and be careful while you eat. Cracks and fractures may be more serious, and there could be damage on the inside of the tooth, so they definitely count as an emergency.
If you have a serious fracture, clean your mouth by gently rinsing with warm water, apply a cold compress to any swelling, and alleviate any pain by taking acetaminophen (not aspirin).
Toothaches – If you have a toothache that just doesn’t seem to go away you can rinse your moutt with warm water and use dental floss to clear out anything lodged between them. Any swelling should be met with a cold compress on the outside of your mouth. If you’ve heard that you can relieve the pain by placing aspirin or some other painkiller against gums you have heard wrong. This could end up burning the gum tissue.
Soft Tissue Injuries – Any cuts and tears inside the mouth on the lips, tongue, and cheeks may lead to an emergency. Clean the area with warm water, and, if the tongue is bleeding, you may need to place pressure on the wound using gauze. If the bleeding is serious, get to an emergency room.
Lost Crowns (or other temporary restorations) – This isn’t often considered an emergency, but it can become one if you aren’t careful. Try fitting the crown back in place so that the teeth stay in their proper position and call us for an appointment. However, if the loss is causing pain, then you definitely qualify as an emergency and we’ll find out what has gone wrong.
Note that if you do put the crown back yourself, use only over-the-counter dental cement or denture adhesive. This is not a DIY project that can be solved with superglue.
Abscesses and Infections – These can be extremely dangerous to your overall health. Abscesses occur around the root or the space between teeth and gums and can damage the surrounding tissues and teeth. If you have any pimple-like, painful swelling on your gums you need to come see us.
Take any dental emergency very seriously. Do what you can to preserve your teeth and contact us as soon as you can and we’ll make sure you get the treatment you need.