Dental emergencies may not be life threatening, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious. Our dental and oral health plays a huge role in our overall wellbeing, so a dental emergency isn’t something you should take lightly.
What Constitutes a Dental Emergency?
Basically, any type of dental or oral trauma or issue that requires immediate emergency dental care constitutes a dental emergency. Common examples include:
- Chipped or Broken Teeth: A chipped or broken tooth requires immediate attention. The sooner you visit your dentist, the more likely it is that they will be able to save your tooth or restore it to its normal structure.
- Lost Fillings: If you lose a filling you should visit your dentist quickly particularly if your tooth is sensitive. Fillings protect your teeth so you don’t want to leave your teeth and gums open to damage without the protection of fillings.
- Toothaches: Toothaches can come on very suddenly and the pain can be excruciating. The pain is the main reason you will require emergency dental care. However, it’s also important that you don’t ignore pain because it is often a sign of something more serious.
- Dental Trauma: Any type of dental trauma, such as a blow to the face or mouth, needs to be treated as quickly as possible. Even if you don’t lose or chip any teeth, your teeth may have moved, or your gums may have been impacted and both will need attention assess possible future problems.
What to Do In a Dental Emergency
The procedure for dealing with a dental emergency depends on the type of emergency:
Chipped, Broken or Lost Tooth
When it comes to chipped, broken or lost teeth the action you take depends on if you are dealing with a baby tooth or a permanent tooth.
If a baby tooth is fractured or chipped you should see your dentist as soon as possible. Depending on how close the second tooth is to erupting your dentist will decide to either remove the remaining section of the damaged tooth or to try and repair the fracture.
If the tooth comes out completely you should do nothing at all. Don’t try and put the tooth back in the socket just contact your dentist to make an appointment. Your dentist will assess if any soft tissue damage has taken place but in most cases, it’s just a matter of waiting until the new tooth erupts.
In the case of a fracture to an adult tooth you need to find the section of tooth and place it in milk. If you can’t find any milk the person who has fractured the tooth can spit into a glass and store the tooth in their saliva. If you get to the dentist quick enough there’s a good chance that they will be able to re-bond the fractured tooth or repair the tooth using crowns, veneers or fillings.
In the case of a lost tooth time is of the essence. You need to try and get the tooth back into the socket right away or use milk or saliva as an alternative storage vessel. Never handle the root of the tooth, the root is made up of delicate cells and if you handle them you will disrupt these cells and make it harder for the tooth to re-bond with the bone. If the tooth is dirty you can wash it quickly with running water but don’t wash it for too long, just a quick rinse is enough to clean it without ruining the cell structure of the tooth.
The worst part about losing a filling is the pain that is caused by having previously unexposed areas of your tooth exposed to temperature, air and pressure. To alleviate this pain, you can head to your local supermarket and get some clove oil. Dabbing a little on the exposed area will help to prevent the pain until you can see your dentist.
Over-the-counter pain relief is your best temporary relief of a toothache. Just make sure you get along to your dentist as soon as possible because a toothache, especially if it isn’t related to trauma, is usually a sign of a cavity, an infected root canal or several other dental problems.
We’ve already discussed dealing with a lost tooth but you don’t have to lose a tooth to suffer from serious dental trauma. If you suffer trauma to your teeth and something doesn’t feel right – loose teeth, numb teeth, bleeding gums or a feeling that your teeth have moved – you should get along to the dentist right away.
One of the big dangers of trauma without tooth loss is nerve damage, which occurs when the nerve endings inside the tooth have died and the tooth starts to become painful. If you visit your dentist, they will be able to assess the status of the tooth nerve and institute treatment if necessary.
The most important thing when dealing with a dental emergency is to visit a dentist as soon as you possibly can. Seemingly minor problems can worsen very quickly and make it difficult for your dental health to recover.
Remember, dentists are there to help so never feel as though your problem is too minor to warrant a call. Every dentist would rather see a patient and tell them nothing is wrong than have a patient let a problem get worse because they didn’t want to be nuisance.
Dr George Olstein’s dental surgery is open from Monday to Friday in normal business hours. We understand that some problems are too severe to wait so we have a dedicated dental emergency service on Saturdays and Sundays. Don’t hesitate to contact one of our devoted team if you feel as though you have a dental emergency that requires attention.