Many of us are familiar with what to do during a medical emergency. But the subject of dental emergencies isn’t discussed nearly as often, even though injuries to the mouth and other incidents are fairly common.
If you’ve never had to quickly handle a dental emergency, you might not even know where to begin. But once you know how to assess the situation, where to go for help, and what to do in the meantime,
you’ll be in control during the next dental emergency.
Is it a Dental Emergency, or a Health Emergency?
One of the most important steps to dealing with an emergency is determining if it is of the dental or health-related, which will determine where you will seek treatment.
If an injury or other emergency is causing you to have difficulty breathing or swallowing, includes serious cuts or bleeding, or severe trauma, you’ll want to dial 911 or get to an emergency room as soon as possible. Situations like these shouldn’t be put off or taken lightly.
That said, even if a dental emergency isn’t considered life-threatening, it might still need urgent care.
Common Dental Emergencies
Dental emergencies that should be examined immediately fall into two categories – broken or missing teeth, or severe pain and sensitivity.
Injuries happen – teeth can be cracked, chipped, broken, and even dislodged. But even with a lost tooth, the faster a dentist or surgeon can address it, the more likely the tooth can be saved. Severely damaged teeth can also be a source of pain, which may need to be dealt with quickly. Crowns and fillings don’t need to be addressed as urgently, but can still be painful enough to demand fast attention.
In the case of swelling or an infection, your dentist should treat the area as soon as possible. This also includes any abscesses, swelling in the soft tissues of the gums or tongue, and other signs of infection.
If your emergency is health-related, as mentioned above (trouble breathing, excessive bleeding, etc.), you need to be seen by a doctor, preferably at a hospital. However, if your emergency turns out to be dental-related and non life-threatening, a hospital emergency room may not be able to offer much more than pain relief.
In the case of a dental emergency, you should contact your dentist immediately. Even if it is after-hours, they may have instructions for emergency referral, or may be able to assess your needs over the phone and schedule a same-day emergency visit.
Saving a Dislodged Tooth
Before you make it to the dentist’s office, there are some steps you can take to mitigate pain or damage, depending on your dental issue.
For a missing tooth, rinse the tooth and socket with clean water, and apply a cold compress to the socket to stop any bleeding and reduce swelling. You can put the tooth back in the socket if it will go in easily (don’t force it), but be careful not to swallow the tooth. Otherwise, put the tooth in a cup or sealable bag of milk or your own saliva until you can get to the dentist.
If the pain is becoming difficult to manage, over-the-counter painkillers can be used, but if in pill-form, make sure they don’t touch your gums, as some can burn the delicate tissue.
Dental emergencies can be scary, but if you remain calm and act quickly, you’ll soon be feeling back to normal. If you ever find yourself in need of immediate help don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Lordo’s office at 614-885-4754.