There’s no time to panic during a dental emergency.
Every 15 seconds, a person visits the emergency room because they’re suffering from dental pain. Issues like minor toothaches can quickly turn into a full-blown emergency without medical treatment.
Dental pain can be scary and stressful, especially when you don’t know where to turn for help.
You might wonder how to determine if your symptoms are warning signs of a serious dental emergency or if it’s something that can wait. Should you go to the ER or call your dentist?
Luckily, we’re here to ease your mind and help you get the right care. Read on to learn what to do when you or a loved one is facing a dental health issue.
When a Dental Emergency Requires a Trip to the ER
Some dental issues are serious enough to need emergency medical care first. If you have any of these issues when your dentist’s office is closed, call 911 or have someone drive you to the emergency room.
- Heavy bleeding from the mouth
- Intense or unbearable dental pain
- Fever along with oral pain (may indicate infection)
- Injury to the jaw or face
- Lost consciousness
During normal office hours, you can call your dentist if you’re not sure what to do. That said, they may still send you to the ER. Once the immediate issue has improved, you’ll need to see a dentist for follow-up care.
When to See a Dentist Immediately
There are some dental emergencies that require you to head to the dentist right away. If you’re dealing with any of these issues, call your dentist immediately. Even if it’s outside of office hours, your dentist’s answering service will offer instructions on how to see an on-call dentist.
- A knocked-out tooth
- Cracked, broken, or severely chipped tooth or crown with pain
- A damaged dental filling that’s painful
- Loosened or damaged stitches after surgery
- An abscessed or infected tooth (with heat, swelling, or pain)
- A loose dental implant
Your dentist will fit you into their schedule to give you same-day care. If you have a crown that came loose, save it and take it with you to the dentist. They may be able to re-cement it in place.
Knocked-out teeth require immediate emergency care from a dentist.
While most of the above issues need to be dealt with the same day, the dental emergency where time is of the essence is a knocked-out tooth. If your tooth gets knocked out, you have the best chance of saving it if you can get to a dentist within 30 minutes to an hour.
You should take the tooth with you to the dentist, and in the meantime, only handle it by the crown (the part you chew on). If it’s dirty, gently rinse it with water to remove the dirt. If possible, try to gently put the tooth back in its socket.
If you can’t put the tooth back in the socket, keep the tooth moist by keeping it in a container of saliva, milk, or saline. You can even hold the tooth inside your cheek. Just don’t put the tooth in tap water, as it can damage the root cells.
When Your Dental Issue Is Urgent, but Not an Emergency
Some dental issues need care, but you don’t need to drop everything and head to the dentist.
- Mild toothache
- A missing crown or filling with no pain
- A chipped tooth with no pain
If you notice a tinge of a toothache, call your dentist to make an appointment. They’ll evaluate the tooth to figure out what’s causing your pain. It’s best to deal with a toothache before it leads to severe pain.
If you’ve chipped a tooth or broken a crown or filling and you don’t have pain, it’s urgent but not an emergency. Call your dentist for further instructions and keep the broken tooth or crown, if possible.
OTC Coping Measures While You Wait for an Appointment
If you’re in pain, take over-the-counter pain medication, like Tylenol or Motrin. This can give you some relief and ease swelling. You can also use a cold compress for a toothache. Use an ice pack or a cloth with cold water to get some relief. Avoid eating or chewing until you get further instructions from your dentist.
If your mouth is bleeding, rinse your mouth with some warm water. Apply pressure with a piece of gauze to try and stop the bleeding. Try to relax and stay calm by distracting yourself with a funny video or a good book.
Tips for Preventing Dental Issues
Dental issues can be painful and scary and can fill you with uncertainty. That’s why the best thing to do is to prevent these issues with a home health plan. Brush your teeth twice a day with toothpaste and floss at least once a day. Try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and avoid sugary foods and beverages when you can. Visit the dentist for a teeth cleaning twice a year. They’ll check your overall oral health, remove plaque and tartar, and complete X-rays to check for cavities.
You should also avoid crunching on ice and hard candy. Try not to use your teeth to open bottles and packages. If you play sports, always wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth and mouth.
Still not sure what to do? Reach out today!
A toothache or a broken filling can be a painful and scary situation. The worst thing is not knowing what to do. Hopefully having a clear understanding of what counts as a dental emergency and which dental issues can wait will put your mind at ease.
If you’re unsure, reach out, and remember that any time you’re in too much pain to wait, you’re most likely having a dental emergency. If you’re looking for a family dentist in Anchorage, AK, Advanced Family Dentistry can help. Contact us today to book an appointment, and you’ll get compassionate, comfortable care, no matter what dental plan you have.