When you’re dealing with a dental problem, your dentist should be your first call. But what if you encounter a problem on a holiday, weekend, or in the middle of the night? If you’re dealing with a severe dental problem outside normal office hours, you will likely need an emergency dentist or even an emergency room visit.
Here are some things to consider:
- How to Know if it’s a Dental Emergency
- What Isn’t a Dental Emergency
- Common Dental Emergencies
- How to Avoid Potential Emergencies
It’s important to understand the difference between a standard dental issue that can wait until morning and a real emergency that can threaten your health or cost you a tooth. Here’s what you should know about recognizing dental emergencies.
How To Know if It’s a Dental Emergency
According to American Family Physician, about 22 percent of people have experienced dental or oral pain in the last six months, showing just how common dental emergencies can be.
Still, not every dental situation should be considered an emergency. To help you determine if you can wait to be seen by your dentist or if you need to take a trip to the ER or an emergency dentist, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you in severe pain? Severe pain and bleeding are signs of an emergency.
- Have you lost a tooth? Fast treatment can potentially save a tooth.
- Do you have loose teeth? Adults should never lose teeth. A loose tooth, even without pain, is a serious problem.
- Do you have an infection? An abscess or serious infection in your mouth can be potentially life-threatening, and treatment should not wait. You may notice swelling or knots on your gums or swelling around the face.
- Are you bleeding from the mouth? This is a potential sign of an emergency.
In general, any dental problem that needs immediate treatment to stop bleeding, alleviate severe pain, or save a tooth is considered an emergency. This consideration also applies to severe infections that can be life-threatening.
If you have any of these symptoms, you may be experiencing a dental emergency. Call your dentist immediately and describe what happened. If your dentist’s office is not open, you may need to go to an emergency dentist or the ER.
What Isn’t a Dental Emergency?
If the problem can wait until your dentist can see you in the next couple of days, it isn’t a dental emergency. Sometimes problems that seem critical can actually wait for a day or so, as long as you take care of yourself.
For example, a chipped or cracked tooth is an emergency if the fracture is very painful or has left sharp fragments that cause trauma inside your mouth. If the tooth is chipped but does not hurt, you can wait to see your dentist.
A mild toothache can also wait for treatment as long as the pain is not severe and you do not have symptoms of an abscess such as swelling of the face, bumps on the gums, or a high fever.
9 Common Dental Emergencies
If you’re suffering from any of the following common dental emergencies, here’s what you need to know about caring for the problem until you can get to a dentist.
1. Unexplainable Toothache
Toothaches are not just a painful nuisance or something you should take lightly. They are a red flag and your body’s way of telling you that something is not right in your mouth. When you experience a sudden and unexplainable toothache, find a qualified emergency dentist to help diagnose and treat the issue.
Try applying a cold compress, rinsing with salt water, or using over-the-counter pain medication to help alleviate the discomfort until you can get to your dentist.
2. Swollen or Bleeding Gums
Although occasional gum irritation is not a dental emergency, gums that won’t stop bleeding, especially if accompanied by pain and swelling, can indicate an underlying dental or health issue. It is not normal to experience bleeding gums without any obvious cause. See your dentist right away if you’re experiencing these symptoms.
3. Swollen Jaw or Mouth
It’s time for an emergency dentist visit for immediate treatment if your mouth or jaw suddenly becomes swollen for no apparent reason. You may have an infection, irritation to your lymph nodes, or some other factor that should be treated right away.
4. Exposed Nerves
Exposed nerves are an excruciating experience that will only get worse if you wait to see your dentist. To prevent infections, further nerve damage, or more extensive dental treatments down the road, seek emergency dental assistance as soon as possible.
5. Knocked-Out Tooth
Having a tooth suddenly knocked out of your mouth from a heavy impact can be quite a shock! However, it’s time to take action. According to the American Association of Endodontists1, with quick action after a tooth has been knocked out, it’s possible your dentist will be able to reinsert and preserve your tooth.
Carefully pick up the tooth by the top, taking care not to touch the root, and carefully rinse it without scrubbing. If possible, reinsert the tooth in the socket. If you can’t, place the tooth in a small container of milk and get to the dentist quickly to increase the chances of saving your tooth.
6. Missing Filling
Missing a filling is another potential dental emergency because your tooth can easily break or chip without that reinforcement. It may even expose the tooth’s nerves, which can lead to a number of other dental issues that require immediate treatment.
7. Broken Crown
When a dental crown breaks or falls off completely, it leaves your tooth exposed and vulnerable to infection and damage. By scheduling an emergency dental visit to replace the crown, you may be able to avoid needing a root canal, extraction, or other dental procedure.
8. Abscessed Tooth
A dental abscess is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition in which a pocket of pus in the tooth has led to an infection. A tooth abscess may cause fever, tooth sensitivity to hot and cold, a persistent toothache, tender lymph nodes in your neck, swelling in the face, and a pimple-like bump on your gums near the infected tooth.
This condition is an emergency as the infection can spread into your jaw, surrounding tissue, and other areas of the body. Before you can see the dentist, rinse your mouth with mild salt water several times to reduce the pain and draw the pus to the surface.
9. Food/Object Lodged Between Teeth
When a piece of food or another object becomes lodged between your teeth and no amount of brushing or flossing will help, you should see your dentist right away. Without a professional to remove the object, it may cause your teeth to shift, gum irritation, tooth decay, or even an infection.
How to Avoid Potential Emergencies
The best way to prevent dental emergencies is to stay proactive in your oral hygiene and have routine check-ups with your dentist. During these visits, your dentist will check for loose fillings and crowns as well as signs of decay, infection, and gum disease. If you must have a tooth extracted due to a dental emergency, be sure to follow your dentist’s aftercare instructions carefully to avoid potential risks, such as dry socket or infection.
A custom treatment plan can be created to address these problems before they develop into an emergency. You can also pay attention to what your teeth and body tell you to watch for signs that you may be heading toward an emergency. To help, here are some tips on how to choose the best dental plan for your family.
Although a comprehensive dental hygiene routine can help keep these circumstances at bay, dental emergencies happen. If you’re dealing with a dental emergency, time is of the essence to prevent the situation from getting worse. Absolute Dental has dentist offices in Reno and Las Vegas, NV to help you if you are experiencing a dental emergency.