Handling A Dental Emergency
A dental emergency can arise at any time. We can limit the chance of a toothache type of dental emergency by seeking regular dental care. Most dental issues take months (and in some cases years) to develop. A dental emergency can also occur following even the slightest trauma. Being prepared with a few items in a dental emergency kit can help you to provide care in the case of a trauma or other dental emergency. What are the most common emergencies and what else can you do if a dental emergency arises?
Common Dental Emergencies
- –Broken or Fractured Tooth – This dental emergency can become quite painful very quickly. If the nerve of the tooth is exposed just the simple act of breathing will begin to hurt. This may also be a “cosmetic dental emergency”, usually if it involves damage to a front tooth without pain. Unfortunately, broken teeth cannot be fixed at home and will need immediate attention by a dentist. For a back tooth, a medicated filling may be placed until you can be seen by your dentist. A product called Dentemp can be purchased at the drug store, mixed and placed by you, to help temporarily cover the hole. Whether or not the tooth can be saved depends on how severe the break is. Until you are able to get to your dentist, rinse your mouth with warm water, apply a cold compress outside the affected area, and keep the area as clean as possible. May consider taking an anti-inflammatory medication to keep the swelling down as well as take the edge off the pain that can develop. It is not suggested to take aspirin, it will cause difficulties in clotting if the tooth needs to be removed.
- –Injury to your Jaw/TMJ – If you suspect you may have broken your jaw, apply a cold compress to the area and immediately go to the dentist or to the emergency room. If you have locked or dislocated your jaw, you will need to have the jawbone re positioned back into your TMJ. Ice immediately.
- -Painful swelling. This is a definite dental emergency and you should call your dentist immediately for care. Dental swelling is due to an infection called an abscess. This can lead to an infection that affects your entire body and in rare cases can lead to death. To relieve some of the pressure you will want to apply cold compresses to the area, rinse with saltwater, and try to keep your head elevated. Once an infection gets to this point, most over the counter medications will not do much to ease the pain. Antibiotics will be required, and drainage of the infection will require you to be seen by your dentist.
- -Biting Lip or Tongue with excessive bleeding – If you accidentally bite your lip, tongue, or part in your mouth, clean the area and apply a cold compress to help decrease swelling. If the bleeding is extensive, or will not stop in a few minutes, call your dentist or go to the emergency room.
- -Tooth That Becomes Loose – If one of your teeth is loose, see your dentist right away. Your dentist may be able to save the tooth. Until you are able to get to your dentist’s office, take tylenol or aleve and apply a cold compress to the affected area to relieve pain. If the tooth is loose due to trauma, the dentist will most likely recommend splinting the loose tooth to an adjacent tooth or two to allow for the tooth to re stabilize in the bone. a loose tooth can also be caused by periodontal disease which will develop over a period of years. In that case, you may not be able to save the tooth and it may be recommended to remove the tooth and have a dental implant placed instead. Never touch or play with a loose tooth. The more movement it receives, the less likely you will be able to save it.
- -Pericoronitis. This is an infection that can happen when your molars erupt into your mouth, a flap of gum tissue remains over the back end of the tooth, becomes irritated and swollen, and can be quite painful. If you experience symptoms of pericoronitis, which may include swollen and irritated gums, a bad taste/odor in your mouth, or you are not able to fully open your mouth, call your dentist right away.
- -Sudden Or Severe Toothache. If your tooth is aching, rinse out your mouth with warm water and gently floss around the tooth to make sure there is nothing lodged between your teeth. Call your dentist immediately. This could be a gum irritation or infection, or a tooth problem such as a crack or infection.
- -Tooth That Has Been Knocked Out (also called avulsed tooth) – The key here is to clean off the tooth immediately to remove any dirt and debris. You want to avoid scrubbing the tooth, just a gentle rinsing will be fine. If the tooth can be re implanted you should try to do so. This is not always possible if there is bleeding and swelling in the affected area. The second best option is to place the tooth in a milk solution. The milk will act as a preservative and increase the long term chances of a successful re implantation. You should call or see your dentist immediately even if you are able to re implant the tooth yourself. The tooth will probably need to be splinted to another tooth while it heals as well as have your dentist check that it is in proper alignment. The tooth will also need to be monitored over time to gauge the success of the re implantation as well as any long term affects that might happen due to the trauma.
- -Lost Dental Filling or Dental Crown – Unfortunately, this dental emergency can happen at any time even with regular dental care. If your dental crown does come off call your dentist immediately for instructions. Most drug stores do sell fixodent, or temporary cement to place it back on until you are able to be seen by your dentist. This will limit the possibility of tooth decay developing or tooth sensitivity. The same can be done for a lost filling, most drug stores sell a temporary filling material that can be applied at home. Either way, you will need to seek dental care ASAP to prevent further damage from occurring.
- -Damage To Braces – If you suspect or know that you have damaged your braces in some way, you should call your dentist or orthodontist. In some cases, they will want to see you right away (especially if the break is causing pain or discomfort) or they may recommend waiting until your next appointment.
- -Food Or Debris Lodged Between Your Teeth – If food or debris gets stuck between your teeth, try to swish aggressively, then gently remove it with dental floss. Be careful not to cause undue trauma to the area. If the object still will not come free, call your dentist for further instructions.
Simple Dental Emergency Kit:
- Dentemp – temporary medicated filling-to fill in broken tooth areas.
- Fixodent – to temporarily cement a crown back in.
- Floss – to remove lodged debris.
- Tooth Saver Container – to transport an avulsed tooth in a dental emergency.
- Pressure activated ice pack, advil, gauze.
Dental Emergency Conclusion
Since, a dental emergency can lead to life threatening infections or tooth loss, you should seek dental care immediately. The sooner you are able to seek dental treatment, the better your chances are to minimize any life threatening conditions. Regular dental care will lower the chances of most dental emergencies ever occurring but if they do occur you need to ensure you choose a dentist who will be available to you after hours and on weekends.
Many dental offices, will not re open or even take calls directly for dental emergencies after hours. This can be an important question to ask when choosing a new dentist. Be prepared, and you and those around you will be ready if or when a dental emergency occurs.