What is a Dental Emergency and What Should I Do?
A dental emrgency is a problem with your teeth, mouth, or gums that must be evaluated and treated right away. Generally speaking, any situation where there is a risk of serious infection or the loss of a tooth constitutes an emergency. Any time you experience severe pain, swelling, fever, bleeding or a missing tooth, you most likely have a true emergency and need to be seen right away. If the pain you are experiencing comes and goes or is only moderate in intensity, or if you have a chipped or cracked tooth without severe pain, you may have a little more time to see the dentist.
Ultimately however, the best person to advise you as to the severity of your situation is a dentist. Thus, if you have any doubts, you should call. During normal business hours, you may be able to see your dentist in person. If after hours, try to talk to your dentist, or the on-call doctor to discuss your symptoms and concerns over the phone. If you are really not sure, or are experiencing any of the more severe symptoms listed above, and you can’t get in touch with your dentist, it is best to go to the hospital emergency room to be seen. Even if you receive a temporary fix, you may be taking action that will save your tooth.
Is a Broken, Cracked, or Lost Tooth Always an Emergency?
There are a number of ways that you can damage or lose a tooth, including a fall, trauma from some type of blow to the face, biting down on something hard, or from normal wear and tear on a tooth that is weakened by decay or older fillings. The severity of the damage, however, determines the extent to whether it is or is not an emergency. For instance, any time you lose an adult tooth, it is an emergency. If this occurs, you should try to rinse off the tooth and reinsert it into your mouth, being careful not to swallow it. If this isn’t possible, rinse it and keep it submerged in a container of milk. If milk is not available, then keep it in a clean container. At this point, it is very important to get to the dentist as soon as possible because the longer it takes to get treatment, the less likely your tooth will be saved.
Sometimes you will experience pain with a cracked, split, or broken teeth, and sometimes you won’t. However, you might feel a sharp or jagged edge on your tongue. When you injure a tooth, there are a few things you should know. First, you should rinse your mouth out with warm water. Then you should apply pressure with gauze or a cloth for about 10 minutes if you are bleeding. You should see your dentists as soon as possible, but this may not be an actual emergency. Sometimes the chip will only be minor, requiring only cosmetic repair. However, other times the damage may expose the nerve, creating more pain and a more serious situation. It is a good rule of thumb to expect that the worse the pain, the worse the damage. As with any other dental problem, if you are experiencing severe pain, you should see the dentist right away.
Pain, Abscesses and Infections
Decay may often create pain, however it may be just an ache, or cold/heat sensitivity. These sensations should be investigated, however they do not necessarily constitute an emergency. On the other hand, if your tooth or gum becomes infected, it is a much more serious matter. In fact, if ignored, this could be life threatening. Signs of infection include local swelling, anything that looks like a pimple on your gums, severe pain, thick or foul smelling drainage, or a fever. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should see your dentist right away. If you can’t get in touch with your dentist, you should go to the emergency room.
How Can I Prevent a Dental Emergency?
Obviously, injuries caused by accident or trauma are often unpreventable. However, the best way to avoid a dental emergency is by practicing good oral hygiene and prevention of dental disease. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends exams and cleanings every 6 months, beginning at 1 year of age. Additionally, brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, and flossing twice daily will help to keep your gums healthy and your teeth strong.
If you get a toothache, you can rinse your mouth out and floss to make sure there is nothing stuck in your teeth causing the pain. In fact, if you ever see anything stuck, always use floss; never use a pin or sharp object to remove it. If you chip or break any tooth, save the pieces and rinse your mouth with warm water.
If you lose a filling, you can use over the counter dental cement to reapply it, but see your dentist as soon as possible. This is also true with a lost crown. You can coat the inner surface of the crown with dental cement, dental adhesive, or toothpaste before inserting back into your mouth, but be sure to see your dentist right away. If you wear braces and a wire breaks, use a pencil eraser to move it into a more comfortable position or put orthodontic wax on the end to protect the tissue inside your mouth. Never cut the wire, but again, be sure to see your dentist as soon as possible.
Remember that dental health is a significant part of your overall health. It is as important to follow up with your dentist regularly as is it with your medical doctor. If you have any more questions regarding dental emergencies or any other aspects of dental care, or if you would like to schedule a visit, please call Dedicated Dental today at (702) 566-5509, or request your appointment online.