As a practicing dentist, I am contacted by patients on a somewhat frequent basis with dental emergencies. So, I thought I would write this article to highlight what to do in case you encounter any of these unfortunate events.
So, what exactly is a dental emergency? It is a broad, umbrella term that is used to describe an issue with the teeth or surrounding tissues. While some dental emergencies result in pain, not all do, such as a chipped tooth. However, a dental emergency needs to be evaluated by your dentist so that you can preserve your teeth for as long as possible.
Dental emergencies range from bacterial, fungal or viral infections to a fractured tooth or dental restoration. Each of these require a unique and individual response as well as treatment. If you have suffered dental trauma, the treatment options will vary depending on the site and extent of the trauma. Now, let’s talk about the different dental emergencies and how they can be treated…
1) Toothaches: There are many causes of a toothache the most common of which is decay that is causing pain in the nerve. This requires treatment by the dentist but you can start at home with Tylenol or Advil. It could also be from food lodged in your tooth or gums so you should rinse your mouth with warm water and then use dental floss to remove food or other debris that has lodged between your teeth. You should never put aspirin or any other painkiller on the aching tooth as it may burn your gums. You can, however, apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth and cheek. If you have a toothache, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.
2) Chipped or broken teeth: You should save the tooth and also rinse your mouth with warm water. If there is bleeding, apply a piece of gauze to the area with direct pressure for 10 minutes or till the bleeding stops. You can apply a cold compress to reduce the swelling and pain. However, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.
3) Avulsed (Knocked out) tooth: If you preserve your avulsed tooth and go to your dentist (or ER) immediately, there is a high probability that your dentist can save the tooth. Before going to your dentist you can rinse the tooth with salt water and then put the tooth in a small container of milk or a cup of water that contains a pinch of salt. Do not hold the tooth in your mouth as many times it can be swallowed.
4) Partially dislodged tooth: You should see your dentist straightaway. Before going to your dentist, apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek in the affected area. You can also take Advil or Tylenol to relieve pain.
5) Objects caught between teeth: You should very gently floss your teeth to try to get the object out. You should not use a sharp object such as a toothpick to dislodge the object, as it can cut your gums or scratch your tooth surface. If you are not able to remove the object yourself, call your dentist as soon as possible.
6) Abscessed Teeth: These are infections that occur at the root of the tooth or in the space between the tooth and gums. You may see a pimple on the gums which is a sign there is pus draining from the infection pocket. Abscesses can damage your teeth and surrounding tissues and can also spread to the rest of your body, if left untreated. You can rinse your mouth with mild salt water solution if you have an abscess. However, it is imperative that you see your dentist as soon as possible.
7) Soft tissue injuries: These are injuries to the tongue, cheeks, gums and lips and can result in mild to severe bleeding. You can either apply a piece of gauze or a teabag to the injured area to relieve pain and bleeding. You can also apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth and cheek for about 10 minutes. However, you should preferably either visit your dentist or go to the Emergency Room (ER) straightaway.
So, these are some of the dental emergencies that need immediate looking at by your dentist or if it is immediate, the ER at your local hospital. Keep in mind that your dentist is the best person to treat these emergencies, rather than treating them yourself. I encourage my patients to call me in these cases and it is the reason we put our home number on the office phone!