What Constitutes a Dental Emergency?
Dental emergencies can happen at any time, so when a dental problem comes up in between your regularly scheduled checkups, you need to determine whether it can wait until your dentist’s normal business hours or if you require emergency dental services. By understanding what is a serious dental emergency, you can make sure your teeth are taken care of and avoid taking unnecessary trips to your dentist or the emergency room.
Some of the most common dental emergencies include the following:
- Loose or knocked-out tooth
- Broken or cracked tooth
- Facial trauma
- Severe toothache
- Dental abscess
Loose or Knocked-Out Tooth
Adults are not supposed to lose their teeth, so when a tooth is loose, it is typically due to an infection or facial trauma, and you should see a dentist as soon as possible. A knocked-out tooth is also a dental emergency that requires immediate attention. Getting to the dentist quickly with your tooth is critical to save the knocked-out tooth and prevent the need for an implant or bridge.
Broken or Cracked Tooth
A broken or cracked tooth is a serious issue that you need to address as soon as possible. If a tooth cracks, bacteria can enter the tooth and lead to an infection, so repairing the tooth may prevent this from occurring and reduce or eliminate any pain from the damage.
An injury inside your mouth may seem like something you should go to the emergency room for, but this type of injury is considered a dental emergency. If your teeth, gums, or jawbone are involved with a wound, going to the dentist as soon as possible may be the best option.
If your tooth starts hurting suddenly and you are unable to manage the pain with over-the-counter painkillers or a cold compress, it may require immediate attention. A severe toothache could result from a break or crack in your tooth, or it could be a sign of an infection, which may indicate an abscess.
An abscess is a serious dental infection that needs to be immediately addressed. An abscess is an infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth. When you have an abscess, pus and bacteria builds up and often causes substantial and persistent pain. If you do not treat this infection, it can spread from your tooth into other parts of your body.
What Does NOT Constitute a Dental Emergency
Sometimes the problem will not be as clear-cut as a knocked out or broken tooth. It is generally not a dental emergency if your tooth has a small chip or if a crown comes off, but you should schedule an appointment within a few days to address the issue. If you are unsure if you are having a dental emergency, call your dentist and provide as much detail as possible about your condition
Other issues that are not considered dental emergencies, and should be addressed during a regularly scheduled appointment, include the following:
- Teeth cleaning
- Gums that are temporarily irritated
- Teeth that are sensitive to hot and cold
What to do in a Dental Emergency
If you experience a dental emergency during normal office hours, call your dentist and see if you can be examined as soon as possible. Most dentists reserve time in their daily schedules for emergency patients.
If your dental emergency occurs after business hours, call the office’s on-call or emergency dentist. If a dentist cannot be reached, go to the emergency room. The staff there can help you determine whether the issue can wait for your dentist and may provide medication to help alleviate symptoms in the interim.
Your overall well-being and your oral health are closely tied together, so it is important to treat dental emergencies seriously and to seek treatment as soon as possible to maximize your chances of a positive outcome in the long-term.