Nobody ever wants to have a dental emergency but the truth is it can happen to anyone at any time. While it may be a scary thing to have a tooth knocked out or to get a toothache, the good news is all dental emergencies can be painlessly treated.
Here's your guide to what actually defines a dental emergency and the most common emergency procedures a dentist performs to save your tooth and ease any pain that you have.
What is a Dental Emergency?
Dental-related visits to the ER have been on the rise in recent years. The problem is not all visits are a true emergency. Hospitals are also actually not equipped to administer dental care other than providing pain relief and prescribing antibiotics.
This is why it's important to visit your dentist for any dental problems and to know the difference between an actual emergency and something that can wait to be dealt with in a few days or weeks.
Here are some conditions that qualify as true dental emergencies:
Any kind of persistent pain whether it's a toothache or other pain in the mouth justifies an emergency dental visit. If it's accompanied by an abscess, swelling, fever, or loss of appetite, it can especially be considered serious.
A toothache should always be examined by a dentist right away.
Injury to the Mouth
Any kind of injury whether it's an impact or laceration to the mouth should be looked at by a dentist right away.
Bleeding in the mouth that doesn't stop on its own can be considered a dental emergency.
A Knocked Out or Loose Tooth
Time is of the essence if a mouth injury results in a knocked out or loose tooth. The longer you wait to get to the dentist after having a tooth knocked out, the less likely it may be to save it. This is definitely considered an emergency.
Conditions That Are Not Emergencies
So what's not an emergency? If you get a small chip and you're not experiencing any pain from it, you can simply schedule an appointment within the next few days or weeks. If a cap or crown falls off and it's not causing you pain, you can place it back on your tooth yourself and call your dentist.
If you're experiencing pain or sensitivity when you bite down or eat or drink hot or cold foods, schedule an appointment with your dentist. Try not to put it off. You may have decay that hasn't reached the nerve yet but very close, or a fracture in the tooth.
If you see a cavity or cavities, schedule an appointment to see a dentist right away, even if it doesn't hurt.
Here are some of the common emergency dental care procedures dentists typically perform.
Root Canal Therapy
If you have a toothache--whether due to a cavity or fracture--your dentist may be able to treat it right away with a root canal. This involves removing the decayed part of the tooth along with the nerves and blood supply found in the tooth's inner chamber and roots. The procedure essentially removes the entire infection and eliminates the pain, allowing you to keep your tooth.
Toothaches accompanied by an abscess can be particularly serious because such an infection can quickly spread to other parts of the body. Whether the tooth can be saved by a root canal depends upon how badly it is decayed or broken. If your dentist does not perform root canals you'll be referred to an endodontist which is a root canal specialist.
Sometimes teeth need a crown after root canal treatment to further restore and strengthen the tooth. In that case, you'll need to return to the dentist for a fitting and crown placement.
If your tooth is too far decayed or damaged, your dentist's only course of action will be to extract the tooth. Extractions are very common emergency dental procedures, although you should strongly consider receiving a root canal if it's an option. Having teeth extracted can lead to costly dental implants, later on, to prevent remaining teeth from shifting out of place.
Fillings are also another common emergency dental procedure, particularly if a tooth loses an old filling. Losing a filling doesn't always hurt, but it's always a good idea to let your dentist know right away when it happens.
If you have a tooth knocked out, your dentist will attempt to reattach it by placing it back in its socket. Ideally, this is something you can get started yourself before arriving at the dentist's office.
Gently rinse the tooth's roots with water and place back in the socket, taking care not to bite down on it or move it. Then head to the dentist!
Preventing Dental Emergencies
While you can't prevent every dental emergency, there are quite a few steps you can take on your own to decrease your chances of having one:
- First, visit your dentist every six months for a cleaning and exam. Your dentist will carefully check your teeth and dental work to make sure your smile stays strong and healthy. Regular checkups will ensure any problems that do arise can be caught and treated right away.
- Practice good oral care. Brush twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste for at least two minutes each time, and floss every day. Limit your intake of sweet and sticky foods and strive to eat a healthy balanced diet.
- Avoid biting down on hard foods such as ice cubes and hard candy. They can lead to tooth fractures. Take care when eating foods such as nuts and popcorn.
- If you play a sport, always wear your protective mouth guard to help prevent injuries to the mouth and teeth from getting knocked out.
We Can Keep Your Smile Healthy
Whether you're a new patient or need to see a dentist right away in the Plano area for a dental emergency, we can help you keep your smile healthy. We perform a variety of restorative and cosmetic dental procedures to help your teeth be their healthiest.
Check out our extensive list of procedures and contact us to make an appointment for an exam.