Dealing with a dental emergency can be painful and scary. Despite this, many people might feel tempted to put off seeing a dentist, either because of the cost, the time commitment, or the simple belief that the problem will resolve itself.
However, it is always best to deal with any health emergency as soon as possible. Addressing a serious dental emergency promptly can save your smile, your health, and even your wallet.
What Constitutes a Dental Emergency?
It is important to be able to identify what actually constitutes a dental emergency and what types of dental problems can wait. A dental emergency can include any of the following situations, but if there is any doubt, seek care right away just in case.
- Severe, persistent toothache or pain
- Broken, chipped, or cracked teeth
- Loose or lost permanent tooth
- Loose or lost fillings, crowns, or dental appliances
- Trauma to the lips, cheeks, tongue, or jaw
- Swollen, infected, or abscessed gums
- Uncontrollable bleeding from the mouth
The Dangers of Ignoring a Dental Emergency
Ignoring a dental emergency can have serious consequences, not only for your oral health but also for your overall well-being.
Increased Pain and Discomfort
The pain you experience from "waiting it out" may be worse in the long run. Infections can spread, broken teeth can cause further damage to the surrounding gums and tissues, a lost filling can become infected, or a cavity can form. Conversely, getting treatment for your dental issue typically means relief from the discomfort.
Neglecting a dental emergency could lead to tooth loss. For example, if a tooth is knocked out or becomes loose due to trauma, prompt action is essential to save the tooth. Waiting too long can make it impossible to re-implant a lost tooth or could require more complex and costly procedures to restore a missing tooth.
Spread of Infection
Dental infections can spread quickly and, in severe cases, become life-threatening. If an abscess forms, the infection can spread to the jawbone, neck, or even the brain. Immediate treatment is necessary to prevent the infection from worsening and to protect your overall health.
The longer you wait to address a dental emergency, the more expensive the treatment may become. What might have been a simple filling or dental bonding could turn into a root canal or even a tooth extraction and implant, leading to higher costs and more extensive dental work.
What to Do in a Dental Emergency
When faced with a dental emergency, it's essential to take the following steps:
Dental emergencies can be stressful, but remaining calm and taking appropriate action can help ensure the best possible outcome.
Call Your Dentist
Contact your dentist immediately to explain the situation and schedule an emergency appointment. If your dentist is unavailable, consider visiting an emergency dental clinic, urgent care, or the emergency room, depending on the severity of the issue.
Manage Pain and Swelling
While waiting for your appointment, it is usually okay to take over-the-counter pain relievers to manage pain. However, avoid aspirin or ibuprofen if you are or were recently bleeding. Apply a cold compress to the affected area to reduce swelling.
Preserve a Lost Tooth
If your tooth has been knocked out, avoid touching the root. Store it in a container with milk or a saline solution. Bring the tooth with you to the dentist, as it may be possible to re-implant it if treated promptly.
Prevent Further Damage
If you have a broken or chipped tooth, avoid biting down on the area, and stick to soft foods until you see the dentist. If the damaged tooth has sharp edges, cover them with dental wax or sugar-free gum to prevent injury to the soft tissues in your mouth.
Preventing Dental Emergencies
While it's not always possible to prevent dental emergencies, there are steps you can take to minimize risk. Good oral hygiene can prevent infections and tooth decay. If you participate in contact sports, always wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth from injury. Lastly, remember that check-ups can help identify potential problems early, preventing them from escalating into emergencies.
If you experience a dental emergency, call our office right away – your smile and your overall health depend on it.