The dental office should be the first place you call if you have a dental emergency. Our office sets aside time for emergency procedures. Be sure to keep your dentist’s after hours contact information readily available at all times.
Whether at home or traveling, the following tips can help you manage a dental emergency until you can get into the dentist. It is important to remember that with some dental emergencies, seeing a dentist within 30 minutes or less can mean the difference between saving or losing your tooth/teeth.
A knocked-out tooth is a dental emergency that requires urgent attention. If the appropriate emergency steps are followed immediately after the tooth has been knocked out, the chances are very good that the tooth can be reinserted and preserved by a dentist.
- Pick up the tooth by the top (crown) of the tooth. Do not touch the root(s) of the tooth.
- Rinse the tooth off very gently to ensure that it’s clean. Do not scrub the tooth or remove any tissue attached to it. Be sure to place a towel or washcloth in the sink so that the tooth doesn’t go down the drain.
- It is always BEST to get to the dentist immediately , but if that is impossible you can try to gently place the tooth back into the socket. Hold it gently in place while trying to bite down.
- If you are able to see your dentist put the tooth in a small container or in a cup of milk.
- Call your dentist immediately, since getting to the dentist quickly with your tooth – in addition to following the steps above – is critical for saving the knocked-out tooth. The longer you wait to re-implant the tooth in its socket, the less chance you have of the tooth “taking” and remaining viable.
Loose Tooth, Tooth Out of Alignment
If you have a tooth that is loose or out of alignment, you should call your dentist for an emergency appointment right away. Your dentist may want to splint the tooth to the adjacent teeth (the teeth on each side) to keep it stabilized.
Chipped, Cracked, or Fractured Teeth
If a tooth is slightly chipped and doesn’t hurt, this may not constitute a dental emergency and you can delay treatment until you can get into the dental office. However, it is important to be careful while chewing so as not to chip it more.
A cracked or fractured tooth is a more serious issue constituting a dental emergency. Fractured or cracked teeth usually suggest that damage has occurred to the inside of the the tooth. Severe fractures are so extreme that the tooth may not be able to be saved. If you suffer a fracture, contact your dentist immediately for an emergency appointment and follow these steps.
- Clean your mouth out by gently rinsing thoroughly with warm water.
- If the fracture is caused by a facial trauma, apply cold compress to the area to minimize any swelling.
- Take acetaminophen (not aspirin) according to the packaging directions to alleviate pain.
- Never apply a painkiller to the gum as it can burn the gum tissue. This includes Oragel, which often is marketed for these types of procedures.
An x-ray may be needed in order for your dentist to properly diagnose the condition of your tooth.
If a tooth cannot be saved, your dentist will inform you of the various alternatives for replacing missing teeth, such as implant-supported restorations and bridges.
Tissue Injury and Facial Pain
Any type of injury inside the mouth, such as puncture wounds, lacerations and tears to the lips, cheeks, mouth and tongue, are considered tissue injuries and a dental emergency. If you experience any type of tissue injury, it is very important to clean the area immediately with warm water. If the bleeding is coming from the tongue, gently pull the tongue forward and place pressure on the wound using gauze or washcloth. You should get to an oral surgeon or nearby hospital emergency room as quickly as possible.
To alleviate any type of facial pain associated with tissue injury, you can take acetaminophen as directed on the packaging directions label. Never take aspirin or ibuprofen for a dental emergency involving bleeding because they are anticoagulants, which can cause excessive bleeding.
Other Dental Emergencies
Any dental problem that requires immediate treatment in order to save a tooth, stop ongoing tissue bleeding or alleviate severe pain is considered a dental emergency.
A severe infection or abscess in the mouth can spread to other facial tissues , the blood stream and even your brain and be life-threatening. Situations like this should be dealt with immediately. Your dentist might be able to perform the first stage of a root canal, or will refer you to an endodontist (root canal specialist) to relieve the infection and swelling. If your dentist can’t be reached, seek hospital emergency room care.
Problems with Temporary Restorations
Having a temporary crown come off is not a dental emergency. However, it is important to put it in place so the tooth stays in its original place. Once you are comfortable with the fit, apply a small amount of toothpaste inside and place it properly on your tooth. You should contact your dentist as soon to have it properly re-cemented.
Is It a Dental Emergency?
Smoothing a chipped tooth,, re-cementing a crown that is not causing pain and composite bonding to repair a tooth are usually not dental emergencies. Typically, such problems can be dealt with during your dentist’s regular office hours.
If you are not sure whether or not you are having a true dental emergency, answer the following questions.
- Are you bleeding from the mouth?
- Are you in severe pain?
- Do you have any loose teeth?
- Have you been hit in the face or mouth?
- Do you have any swelling in the mouth or facial areas?
- Do you have any bulges, swelling or knobs on your gums?
If you answered yes to any of the questions, you might be having a dental emergency and should call your dentist immediately. It’s important to describe exactly what has happened and how you are feeling.
If you experience extreme pain caused by hot or warm foods or beverages, try drinking ice water. It might relieve the pain. Sip on ice water and hold in your mouth until you are able to be seen by your dentist.
If you are having sensitivity to cold or if it causes pain to breathe in air, avoid cold food and beverages. Breathe through your nose and contact your dentist’s office.
If you experience pain in a tooth when biting down, it might indicate an abscess. This is an emergency and you should call your dentist’s office.
How to Avoid a Dental Emergency?
Many dental emergencies can be easily avoided by having routine check ups with your dentist to ensure that your mouth and teeth are healthy, strong and free from decay.
Wearing a mouth guard during sports activities will help to prevent teeth from being chipped, knocked-out or broken. Avoid chewing on ice and hard foods that may break or fracture your teeth. If you are planning to travel out of the country or leaving for an extended vacation, during which you may not have ready access to dental care. It is important to see your dentist for a routine check up before you leave. Your dentist can make sure that you don’t have any loose crowns or teeth, decay close to the nerve of a tooth that could cause you pain or develop into an abscess or other problems that could be easily fixed before becoming a dental emergency later.