What really constitutes a dental emergency

This is a question that people ask us on a regular basis. Most patients do not want to call something an emergency when it really is not. Partially because life is busy and they do not want to take time off work or school unless they really need to. Secondly, emergencies tend to make people feel anxious and worried.

Knowing what is serious and what is not can help to calm down fears and eliminate concerns. We seek to educate patients on a regular basis and recommend asking questions during a regular dental appointment. In the meantime, here are some ways to tell if something is considered a “true” dental emergency.

What is considered a dental emergency service?

  1. Knocked-Out Adult Teeth: A knocked-out tooth could lead to extensive bleeding, which can be controlled by applying direct pressure on the site with a cold compress. Recover the dislodged tooth, rinse it to remove dirt, and then gently restore it in its socket, making sure that you don’t touch the root section.

Alternatively, you can place the tooth in a cup of milk or wrapped in a cool, wet cloth and go to the dentist. The tooth can be successfully re-implanted within 30 minutes of falling out, so you should seek immediate assistance at the closest dental practice.

  1. Tooth Crack or Chip: If a tooth cracks or chips while eating or through everyday activities, it is still important to have an emergency dentist restore the tooth. Bacteria can enter the tooth through these cracks and chips, which can lead to an infection and the need for a root canal. Restoring the tooth prevents this from happening and also eliminates any pain associated with the damage.
  2. Loose Adult Tooth: Adults are not supposed to lose their teeth. When this happens, it is typically due to an accident or an infection. Adult tooth loss requires immediate care since we can sometimes reattach the tooth. In any case, it needs to be replaced right away.
  3. Severe Tooth Ache: A severe toothache is typically a sign of an infection or dental decay. By the time that a tooth begins throbbing, the decay has probably spread and it is necessary to have the tooth treated immediately. We recommend doing so by scheduling an appointment with our office or asking for an emergency appointment. The pain can be minimized using ibuprofen, but not aspirin.
  4. Pus: If there is any pus in the mouth it is a sign of an infection and warrants making an emergency call to the dentist.
  5. Abscesses: An infection around the tooth’s root or gum line can be very painful. It can also cause swelling in the soft tissues. An abscess should be treated immediately to stop the infection from spreading to other parts of the body.
  6. Facial Fracture: Injuries to the face that result in broken bones and teeth should be treated as medical emergencies. The help of a dentist can be sought after the patient is out of danger.
  7. Broken Dental Appliance: Broken braces and wires can injure the soft tissues in your mouth, cause bleeding, and make it difficult to speak and eat. Damaged appliances should be fixed immediately to avoid injuries and to restore your quality of life.

What is NOT a dental emergency service?

  1. General teeth cleaning
  2. Bad breath after eating certain foods
  3. Teeth that are sensitive to hot or cold
  4. Gums that are temporarily irritated, but go back to normal

Tips for common dental emergencies:

  • If your tooth has been knocked out try to keep it moist. Try placing it back into the socket until dental treatment can be made. If it cannot be placed back in the socket place it between your gums and cheek to keep it moist. Another alternative is placing it in milk. Come visit our office right away!
  • If you crack your tooth immediately rinse the mouth with warm water to clean the area and put something cold on your mouth to keep the swelling down.
  • If you have a toothache, rinse your mouth with warm water to clean it out. Gently use dental floss to remove any food caught between the teeth. Do not put aspirin on the aching tooth or gum tissues.
  • If an object gets stuck in your mouth, try to gently remove with floss but do not try to remove it with sharp or pointed instruments.

Dr. Jay Elbrecht and his team at Advanced Dental Care of Anderson reserve time in their daily schedule for emergency patients!

Request and appointment online, or call (765) 622-7000 to speak to a member of the dental team.

Photo by Ella Vickerman on Unsplash