Is it a Dental Emergency?
Smoothing a chipped tooth, re-cementing a crown that is not causing pain are not dental emergencies. Typically, such problems can be dealt with during your dentist’s regular office hours. If you are not sure whether or not you are having a true dental emergency, answer the following questions:
- Are you bleeding from the mouth?
- Are you in severe pain?
- Do you have any loose teeth?
- Have you been hit in the face or mouth?
- Do you have any swelling in the mouth or facial area?
- Do you have any bulges, swelling or knots on your gums?
- Do you experience pain caused by hot/cold or when biting down?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, you might be having a dental emergency and should call us immediately. It’s important to describe exactly what has happened and what you are feeling. Toothache – Chipped, Cracked or Fractured Teeth – Problems with a Restoration – Tissue Injury or Facial Pain – Knocked-out Tooth – Loose Tooth, Out of Alignment – Other Emergencies
An aching tooth is a very common dental emergency. A toothache is often a sign of infection in or around a tooth. Advil can sometimes be effective in comforting pain. If there is a hole in the tooth, you may place Oil of Cloves on a small cotton pellet and place it in the site to relieve pain. An antibiotic is generally prescribed and the patient would be asked to call the office to schedule an appointment at the first available time in office.
Chipped, Cracked or Fractured Teeth
If a tooth is chipped and doesn’t hurt, this usually does not constitute a dental emergency and you can wait a few days to see a dentist. However, it is important to be careful while chewing so as not to chip it more. We may simply be able to smooth the chip out, or add some composite filling material to repair the tooth. A cracked or fractured tooth is a serious issue constituting a dental emergency. Fractured or cracked teeth usually suggest that damage has occurred to the inside of the tooth as well as to the outside. Severe fractures can be so extreme that the tooth cannot be saved. If you suffer a fractured tooth, call immediately for an emergency appointment and follow these steps:
- Clean your mouth out by gently rinsing thoroughly with warm water.
- If the fracture is caused by facial trauma, apply a cold compress to the area to minimize any swelling.
- Take acetaminophen (not aspirin) according to the package directions to alleviate pain.
- Never apply a painkiller to the gum because it can burn the gum tissue. This includes Orajel, which often is marketed for these types of procedures.
An x-ray will be necessary in order for our dentist to properly diagnose the condition of your tooth. If the soft tissue inside of the tooth (the tooth pulp) is damaged, your tooth may need a root canal. If the pulp is not damaged, the tooth might only require a crown.
Problems with Temporary Restoration
Having a temporary crown come off is not a dental emergency. However, it is important to put it back in place so that the tooth stays in its original position until you can see your dentist. A temporary crown can easily be put back onto your tooth by placing Vaseline, toothpaste, or even a very small amount of denture adhesive into the temporary crown and placing it onto your tooth. Try putting your crown in first and note how it fits into place. Once you are comfortable with the fit, apply adhesive into the temporary and place it properly on your tooth. Bite down firmly onto a dry washcloth, applying even pressure to the temporary. After a few minutes, clean off any excess adhesive you can see. You should schedule an appointment with us within the next few days to have it properly re-cemented.
Tissue Injury and Facial Pain
Any type of injury inside the mouth, such as puncture wounds, lacerations and tears to the lips, cheeks, mouth and tongue, are considered tissue injuries and a dental emergency. If you experience any type of tissue injury, it is important to clean the area immediately with warm water. If the bleeding is coming from the tongue, gently pull the tongue forward and place pressure on the wound using gauze. You should get to a nearby hospital emergency room as quickly as possible. To alleviate any type of facial pain associated with tissue injury, you can take acetaminophen as directed on the package label. Never take aspirin or ibuprofen for a dental emergency because they are anticoagulants, which could cause excessive bleeding.
A knocked-out tooth is a dental emergency that requires urgent attention. If the appropriate emergency steps are followed immediately after the tooth has been knocked out, the chances are very good that the tooth can be reinserted and preserved.
- Pick up the tooth by the top (crown) of the tooth. Do not touch the root(s) of the tooth.
- Rinse the tooth off very gently to ensure that it’s clean. Do not scrub the tooth or remove any tissue attached to it. Be sure to place a towel or washcloth in the sink so that the tooth does not go down the drain.
- If you can, gently place the tooth back into the socket. Hold it gently in place while trying to bite down.
- If you can’t place the tooth back in the socket, put the tooth in a small container or in a cup of milk. Note that the latter is preferable.
- Call us immediately, since getting to the dentist quickly with your tooth – in addition to following the steps above – is crucial for saving the knocked-out tooth. The longer you wait to re-implant the tooth in its socket, the less chance you have of the tooth “taking” and remaining viable.
Loose Tooth, Tooth Out of Alignment
If you have a tooth that is loose or out of alignment, you should call for an emergency appointment right away. In the meantime, you can try to put the tooth back in its original position using your finger with very light pressure. Do not try and force it. You can bite down to keep the tooth from moving. We may want to splint the tooth to the adjacent teeth (the teeth on each side) to keep it stabilized.
Other Dental Emergencies
Basically, any dental problem that requires immediate treatment in order to save a tooth, stop ongoing tissue bleeding or alleviate severe pain is a dental emergency. A severe infection or abscess in the mouth can be life-threatening and should be dealt with immediately. We will prescribe an antibiotic and schedule an appointment at the next available date in office.
How to Avoid a Dental Emergency
Many dental emergencies can be easily avoided by having routine checkups to ensure that your mouth and teeth are healthy, strong and free from decay. Wearing a mouth guard during sports activities will help to prevent teeth from being chipped, knocked out or broken. Avoid chewing on ice and hard foods that may break or fracture your teeth. If you are planning to travel out of the country or leaving for an extended vacation, during which you may not have ready access to dental care, it is important to see us for a routine check up before you leave. We can ensure that you don’t have any loose crowns or teeth, decay close to the nerve of a tooth that could cause you pain or develop into an abscess or other problems that could be easily fixed before becoming a dental emergency later.