When dealing with a dental problem, the first instinct for most people is to give the dentist a call. However, that can be easier said than done, especially if you’re having a dental problem at an inconvenient time or place (e.g. when you’re on holiday or in the middle of the night). Dealing with serious problems outside regular dental office hours may require the help of an emergency dentist (or a trip to the emergency room).
What Is A Dental Emergency?
It’s important to note that there are differences between a standard problem that can wait until morning and a real emergency that can prove a serious threat to your overall health or that of your tooth.
Statistics from American Family Physician states that roughly 22% of people have suffered some amount of dental pain recently. However, not all those examples constitute dental emergencies. For example, a cracked tooth can be a dental emergency if the fracture is painful or if there are sharp fragments in the mouth. However, if there is no pain or bleeding, it can generally wait until the next day. A few quick rules of thumb to identify if your problem is a dental emergency include:
- Is there severe pain and/or bleeding? These symptoms can indicate a serious injury or infection.
- Have you lost a tooth? Losing a tooth is automatically an emergency, requiring immediate action and treatment to save it.
- Are there loose teeth? Adult teeth are permanent and should never be loose. Even without pain, loose teeth are always a serious problem.
In general, any problem that needs immediate treatment to stop bleeding, relieve severe pain, and save teeth counts as a dental emergency.
What To Do In An Emergency
Dental emergencies can come in many different forms, and some are more urgent than others. In general, it pays to be timely and get emergency care quickly to minimize the damage. Immediate action can be key to saving a tooth if you’ve lost one.
Here a list of possible dental emergencies and what you can do to deal with them until you can see your dentist.
- Knocked-out tooth – Teeth can become knocked out of their sockets by a strong impact (e.g. a heavy fall or a hit to the face). In the case of a dislodged tooth, quick action can increase the chances of saving and reinserting the tooth later.
Pick up the tooth carefully, and hold it only by the crown. Refrain from touching the root; that’s where the tooth attaches to the socket. If the tooth has dirt on it, wash it gently to clean it. Use water only. Ideally, insert the tooth back in its socket until you can see the dentist. If not, place the tooth in a container of milk to preserve it from damage or infection.
- Cracked or chipped tooth – It’s possible to damage teeth by biting into hard foods like ice and hard candy. When it happens, save the tooth fragments; they may be able to be reattached to your teeth after treatment. In case of bleeding, apply gauze to the area for around 10 minutes to staunch the blood flow. Apply a cold compress near the affected area to keep the swelling down and relieve pain. Take acetaminophen to help fight off the infection and relieve pain; refrain from using painkillers or numbing gels, they can cause further damage to the gums.
- Abscessed tooth – An abscessed tooth is a serious infection that occurs around the root of a tooth or in the space between the tooth and gums. It’s a serious condition that can cause damage to the surrounding tissues and can spread to other parts of the body. Some common symptoms include fever, sensitivity to hot and cold, and a small pimple-like bump near the infected tooth. An abscess is a dangerous, complicated condition requiring a visit to the dentist immediately. Until then, rinse your mouth with a mild salt water solution several times to ease the pain and draw the pus to the surface.
- Severe toothache – Tooth pain can become an emergency when it causes enough pain to get in the way of normal activities (e.g. eating). The pain is usually most apparent when eating hot or cold foods. Toothaches can have a variety of causes (for example, due to tooth decay or a sports injury).
In case of a toothache, rinse your mouth thoroughly with warm water, then carefully remove any leftover food with dental floss. The trick to managing toothaches is managing swelling. Use a cold compress to reduce the swelling and help ease the pain. After all that, give your dentist a visit to find the root cause of the ache.
- Lost filling – It’s important to be careful in case a tooth filling gets dislodged. The filling helps keep the tooth sealed (e.g. after a root canal treatment) to avoid exposing the interior to infection. As a stopgap solution, put a piece of sugar-free gum over the cavity (sugary gum can cause pain). That helps keep the tooth sealed until you can see the dentist and get a more permanent solution.
- Lost crown – When you lose a crown, it’s vital you make an appointment to get it replaced right away. If the tooth is causing you pain, use a cotton swab to apply some clove oil to the affected area. You can find clove oil from a drugstore or the spice aisle at the nearest supermarket. Ideally, you should slip the crown back into place to protect the tooth. Coat the inner surface with an over-the-counter dental cement (not super glue) to keep the crown in place.
- Broken braces – Sometimes, your braces can break or come loose, leaving the end of the wire free to poke around in the mouth. Try using the eraser end of a pencil to push the wire into a more comfortable position. Otherwise, cover the broken wire with orthodontic wax or a piece of gauze to keep it from hurting your mouth. Refrain from cutting the wire to avoid it getting loose.
Whenever an emergency occurs, the most important thing is to stay calm. It may be painful and scary dealing with an emergency, especially if it happens unexpectedly. However, keep calm and don’t lose your head; it’s much easier to take the right steps as long as you avoid panicking. Keep these steps in mind to help deal with the problem until you can get professional medical help.
When you need emergency dentistry, it’s vital you get it immediately. At London City Dental, we specialize in emergency care to help you whenever emergencies rear their ugly heads. We offer a wide range of services to treat your problem, whatever it may be.
Give us a call at (519) 657-6767 or visit our contact page to make an appointment. We’re ready to help.