Is It A Dental Emergency?

Posted on Jul 11th 2017 by Florida Blue

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Most of us are not always certain of what constitutes a dental emergency. A dental emergency could require a visit to the emergency room, a routine visit to your dentist, or potentially after hours care or consultation. You ultimately must determine the severity of the emergency. Dental emergencies can range from a dental abscess that could potentially threaten your ability to swallow and breathe to a chipped tooth. This is why it’s always a good idea to have your dentist’s after hours contact information available to determine next steps for the minor non-life threatening dental emergencies that can occur.

Patients can develop a toothache at any time. Toothaches can be a warning sign that there is a cavity developing in a tooth invading the pulp chamber or nerve of the tooth. Toothaches can range from a minor discomfort to severe pain that may have accompanying swelling. Most toothaches can be treated symptomatically if the discomfort is minor until you can be quickly seen by your dentist. Pain accompanied by swelling or an abscess or infection in your mouth is more serious and an appointment with your dentist should be obtained as soon as possible. Swelling occurring in the mouth that is limiting your ability to breathe easily or is leading to swelling outside of the mouth should be treated as a true dental emergency and evaluated quickly. If you can’t reach your dentist in this type of emergency, you should not neglect treatment but have the problem evaluated, even if it means examination in an emergency room at a hospital. Hospital emergency rooms are not always able to treat dental problems definitively, but the problem can be evaluated as to its life threatening severity.

A little known fact about knocking out a tooth is that it can often be reinserted and may be able to be saved if handled correctly. After knocking out a tooth, it should be picked up by the top (crown) to prevent any additional decontaminants being added to the root. The tooth should be rinsed gently to help remove any debris. When rinsing, be sure to place a wash cloth or paper towel in the sink so you don’t wash the tooth down the drain. If you are an adult, you should try to put the tooth back in the socket and bite down gently to hold it in place. If you are unable to place the tooth back in the socket or if you are a child where the risk of aspirating or swallowing the tooth may be greater, put the tooth in a cup of milk and call your dentist for an emergency appointment. Time is of the essence in a situation such as this since the longer the tooth remains out of the mouth, the lower the success of the potential re-implantation. Additionally, milk is preferred to water in helping to keep the tooth hydrated (Davenport, 2017).

A chipped tooth usually isn’t considered a dental emergency unless it is also painful. It is important however to be careful when chewing to avoid further breakdown of the tooth. You should make an appointment in these situations to have the chipped tooth examined by your dentist. Cracked or fractured teeth are more serious and may result in damage inside the tooth depending on the severity. This type of damage merits an emergency appointment with your dentist. You should also clean your mouth by rinsing with warm water and consider taking a nonprescription pain reliever if necessary. Never apply pain medicine such as aspirin directly to the site as it can cause burning of the gum tissue (Davenport, 2017).

Many dental emergencies can be avoided by seeing your dentist for routine check-ups and cleanings to ensure you have a healthy mouth and identify potential problems before they occur. Regardless of how careful we are, accidents happen! So make sure you have your dentist’s after hours contact information available. An emergency visit to your dentist is likely less expensive than a trip to the emergency room followed by a trip to your dentist. Be prepared! It may save your smile. Need assistance finding a dentist? We’ve made it easy for you. Click here to find a dentist in your network that can provide you with the dental services you need.

Filed under: Prevention  

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