Broken teeth, damaged fillings, severe toothaches, and other dental emergencies aren’t uncommon. Do you know what to do or who to call? In today’s article, we’ll talk more about the most common dental emergencies and what you should do.
First things first: When to go to the emergency room or dial 911
During an emergency situation that’s affecting your health, your first call shouldn’t be to your dentist. Call 911 or go to the emergency room.
A good rule of thumb is to seek immediate medical attention if you:
- Hurt your head or lost consciousness for any reason
- Were in a car crash (a surprisingly common cause of dental injuries that we’ll talk more about soon)
- Feel the worst pain you’ve ever felt or pain that you’d describe as an 8 or 9 out of 10
- Have had a high fever and chills that won’t stop
- Have a deep cut or wound on your tongue or cheek. These parts of your body are full of nerves and muscles required for eating and talking. A doctor can best assess your condition and help prevent lifelong damage.
- Are also getting treatment for cancer or other health issues that might be causing pain or affecting your health.
Trust yourself. If you feel like you need emergency help from a doctor, get it.
Shattered, broken, or lost teeth
Your teeth are amazingly strong and durable. However, traumatic accidents and injuries can easily shatter a tooth or even knock it right out of your mouth. Call your emergency dentist if:
- You’ve broken off a big piece of your tooth
- A broken tooth is causing you pain
- Your tooth is feeling loose
- Your tooth is missing
Common causes of tooth damage
Take care to protect your teeth and be aware of the most common causes of tooth damage, including:
- Biting on hard bits of food like bone, nut shells, or cherry pits
- Any kind of fall, even just tripping while walking
- Sports injuries like getting elbowed in a pickup basketball game or hit by a baseball
- Car accidents
- On-the-job injuries, especially if you work near heavy machinery
Was a tooth knocked out? Here’s what to do:
- Recover the tooth but try not to touch the root
- Clean it with water but don’t use soap or rub it dry
- Gently replace the tooth into its socket
- Get to your dentist ASAP — if you can be seen within a few hours of the injury, you have the best chance of saving your tooth
Severe pain in your mouth
You know your body. If something feels off, don’t ignore it. The thing about toothaches is that they really don’t get better on their own. In fact, it’s much more likely to get a lot worse. The best thing to do is to see your dentist as soon as possible and get checked out. You’ll be glad you did.
If you can’t see your dentist immediately, ice packs, anti-inflammatory medications, or a warm saltwater rinse may provide some relief.
Infections and abscesses
Abscessed teeth and infections in the gum are potentially very serious. You need to see an emergency dentist immediately if:
- Fluids are draining from your mouth
- Your mouth is very swollen, painful, or inflamed
- You’ve got a fever
- There’s noticeable redness on your gums in the affected area
- You develop facial swelling
In the short term, infections can usually be resolved with a course of antibiotics. However, additional treatment may be needed to fight the infection at its source and prevent recurrence.
If you brush too hard or floss aggressively to remove a stubborn bit of food, you might see a bit of blood in the sink. That’s not what we’re talking about when it comes to emergency dentistry.
Heavier bleeding from an injury or chronically bleeding gums need the attention of an emergency dentist.
DID YOU KNOW: Bags of black tea can help your blood to form clots. This can work in a pinch but isn’t something to rely on. If you’re bleeding see a dentist!
When DON’T you need an emergency dentist?
Remember to trust your gut and if there’s any doubt, call you dentist. But there are some situations that generally don’t require immediate attention:
- Tiny chips or cracks that don’t hurt and aren’t affecting your ability to eat or talk
- Toothaches caused by chewing or from very hot/cold foods and drinks that go away in a few seconds
- Gums that bleed a little after brushing or flossing
- Clicking sounds or pain in your jaw
- Crowns or fillings that fall out without painful outcomes
However, each of these situations will require dental treatment. You may have a cavity, gum disease, or other problem that could become a dental emergency.
Yes there is such a thing! While not emergent in the life-threatening sense, if you have a problem with how your smile looks, it can cause you unneeded stress and anguish. Broken teeth that show in your smile or other cosmetic concerns can be fixed by your dentist and shouldn’t be put off.
Emergency dentistry for kids
Kids are really good at hiding when they’re in pain. They might be nervous about seeing the dentist or worried about what they’re feeling. They may compensate for dental pain by chewing on the opposite side of the mouth, for example.
The best thing you can do as a parent is to keep an eye on your kids and watch out when they:
- Fall from their bike or get hurt playing sports
- Show pain when eating or drinking
- Have a sudden loss of appetite
- Aren’t their normal chatterbox selves
- Are especially tired in the morning — pain may be affecting their sleep
- Develop a sudden oral fixation and start fidgeting with their teeth or touching their tongue/gums
If you see any of these signs, contact your dentist for more info.
Same-day treatment at Union Dental Center in Havre de Grace, MD
If your teeth and mouth are causing you pain or discomfort, call us immediately at (410) 939-3950! We offer same-day emergency appointments to help when you are experiencing pain, bleeding, or swelling.
Get the help you need fast at Union Dental Center in Havre de Grace!
Dr. Friedman earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Maryland, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1996. For over 20 years, Dr. Friedman has been creating the smiles of his patients’ dreams. He believes that nothing should stand between you and a healthier smile.