In the event of a dental emergency, time is crucial. The longer it takes to see your dentist, the more at risk you are of serious complications.
How Do I Know if I Have a Dental Emergency?
When in doubt, check with your dentist if you are having concerns. You can also ask yourself the following questions to help determine if you are experiencing a dental emergency:
- Do you have any loose teeth?
- Are you in severe pain?
- Have you been hit in the mouth or face?
- Is your mouth bleeding?
- Do you have any, swelling or bulging in your gums?
If you answer 'yes' to any of these questions, you should call your dentist immediately. It is important to describe exactly what happened and how you are feeling.
How to Avoid a Dental Emergency?
Getting regular checkups with your dentist goes a long way to prevent dental emergencies. These appointments help ensure your teeth are free of decay, strong, and healthy. They can also help detect any underlying problems.
Other tips for avoiding dental emergencies include:
- Wear a mouthguard during sports activities.
- Avoid chewing on especially hard foods or ice.
- See your dentist for a check up before extended travel out of the country during which you may not have access to dental care.
- Practice good oral hygiene; brush and floss twice daily.
Being Prepared for a Dental Emergency
If you do experience a dental emergency, it is important to stay calm. It is easier to remain calm if you are prepared beforehand with a dental first aid kit including the following items:
- Your dentist’s contact information.
- A small container with a lid to place any tooth or parts of the tooth that are knocked out.
- Paracetamol (try to avoid aspirin for dental pain as they thin the blood)
How Quickly Do I Need to See a Dentist During a Dental Emergency?
The majority of mouth injuries should be treated as soon as possible. In serious cases, seeing your dentist within 30 minutes can make the difference between saving or losing a tooth.
Most dentists purposely reserve time in the event of possible dental emergencies, so it is important to let the staff know if you think you require immediate care.
What to Do Until You See a Dentist
Taking the right measures until you are able to see your dentist can make a huge difference to the outcome. Here are some quick tips for handling the minutes leading up to seeing your dentist in the event of an emergency.
Knocked-out tooth – Remain calm and see if you can locate the tooth. Handle the tooth by the top (the crown), not the root. Be careful not to scrape or rub away any tissue fragments.
If you can, rinse the tooth quickly in some saliva or milk to remove any dirt or debris. Keep the tooth moist by immersing it in saliva or milk (not water) or sealing it in plastic wrap.
Chipped, fractured or cracked Tooth – Rinse the mouth with warm water to clean the area. If you have any swelling, apply a cold compress or an ice pack wrapped in a towel.
Toothache – You can use paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce any symptoms. Try to make a note of what causes the toothache, such as biting down on particular foods, or if hot or cold foods make a difference.
Gently use dental floss to ensure no food is caught between your teeth. Avoid putting aspirin directly on your teeth or gums as this may burn the gum tissue. If the pain persists, contact your dentist.
Bitten cheek, tongue, or lip – Gently clean the area with warm, salty water. If there is any swelling or bleeding, gently apply pressure to the area with a cold compress or an ice pack wrapped in a clean cloth. If the area is still bleeding after 15 minutes or is bleeding profusely, please see a dentist or head to the emergency department.
Abscess – An abscess is a painful, localised infection, typically formed at the root of the tooth or in between the gums and teeth. Left untreated, the infection can spread and damage to surrounding teeth and tissues. Rinsing regularly with warm salt water can help minimise discomfort until you are able to see your dentist. You should arrange to see a dentist as soon as possible!
Lost filling or crown – If a cavity forms underneath a crown or filling, it can cause the crown or filing to loosen and eventually fall out. It can also be painful since the middle layer (dentine) of the tooth is exposed, making it extra sensitive to hot or cold. A new crown or filling will be necessary; this requires a dentist visit as soon as possible.