Dental emergencies are more common than you may think. Whether you are experiencing severe pain in your mouth, accidentally chipped a tooth, or had your mouth injured during a contact sport, it is crucial to see your dentist right away. Just like health emergencies, a dental emergency requires immediate treatment.
Here, we’ll cover what qualifies as a dental emergency, what to expect at an emergency dental visit, and how to prevent dental emergencies.
What Is Considered A Dental Emergency?
Any issue involving your gums, teeth, mouth, or jaw that requires immediate evaluation and treatment is considered a dental emergency.
Here are common examples of dental emergencies:
- A large crack or chip in a tooth
- A broken tooth
- A tooth that has been knocked out
- Broken braces
- A loose adult tooth
- A severe, persistent toothache (a minor toothache does not qualify as a dental but should still be evaluated at some point – a severe toothache may indicate an infection or nerve damage and should be evaluated immediately)
- Uncontrolled bleeding in the mouth
- Swelling in the mouth or jaw
- An injury to the mouth or teeth
- A broken crown or missing filling
- Signs of infection in the mouth
When in doubt, contact your local dental provider immediately. Your dental professional can help assess the situation and determine if you need immediate treatment.
What Is Emergency Dental Care?
Emergency dental care is dentistry that addresses urgent, serious oral health concerns.
Typically, dental emergencies involve tooth breakage, injury to the mouth, or pain that cannot be treated with an over-the-counter pain killer.
By seeing your dentist immediately, severe problems can be ruled out, pain can be managed or eliminated, and further complications can be prevented.
If you do not know if you are experiencing a dental emergency, contact your local dental provider to determine if you need to be seen right away or if your dental issue can wait.
Examples of Non-Emergency Dental
Some dental situations do require care but not urgently. Here are examples of non-emergency dental situations:
- A standard check-up or general examination
- A minor or dull toothache
- A dental scale and cleaning
- Cosmetic dentistry
- Teeth whitening
- A small chip in a tooth
Advantages of Emergency Dental Services
Emergency dental services are important for a variety of reasons, including:
- Management or elimination of pain
- Minimisation of damage to the mouth, gums, or teeth
- Reduced chance of complications down the road
- Possibility to save a tooth that has been knocked out
- Reduced the risk of infection
- Helps restore oral function
- Minimises the cost of treatment (for example, if a tooth is knocked out, your dentist may be able to successfully replace it if you are seen immediately — this eliminates the need for a costly dental implant in the future)
What To Expect from an Emergency Dental Appointment
Your emergency dental appointment will vary based on your emergency and other factors. Once you call your dentist and confirm you can be seen immediately, here’s a general idea of what you can expect during the treatment:
- Upon arrival, the affected area will be rinsed, cleaned, and assessed
- If a visual inspection is not enough, x-rays may be taken
- Anaesthesia or pain medication will be given if needed
- The issue will be fixed immediately if possible (otherwise, your dentist will perform a temporary fix to safely hold you over until a more permanent solution can be completed)
- In the case of infection, antibiotics may be prescribed
- Follow-up/aftercare instructions will be provided
- A follow-up appointment will be scheduled if necessary
What to do During a Dental Emergency
If you experience a dental emergency, remain calm. It helps to be prepared with a dental first aid kit that contains:
- Contact information for your dentist
- A small container with a lid to safely store a tooth (or parts of the tooth) in the event a tooth is knocked out
- Paracetamol (it is best to avoid aspirin for dental pain as causes blood thinning)
Along with remaining calm, contact your local dentist immediately. They will be able to advise you on what to do until you can be seen and clear the schedule so you can be evaluated as soon as possible.
In certain cases, they may direct you to your hospital’s emergency department if the injury is outside the realm of dental treatment (i.e certain jaw injuries or extensive injury to the mouth).
In the event of a knocked-out tooth, follow these steps until you can be seen by your dentist:
- Pick the tooth up by the crown/eating surface (do not touch the roots as this can damage them and eliminate the chance of putting the tooth back in the socket successfully)
- Gently rinse the tooth
- Try placing the tooth back in its socket
- If you cannot get the tooth back in the socket, wrap it in clean gauze and place it in a container of milk with a tight-fitting lid (this keeps the tooth moist and prevents it from cracking if it dries out)
- Bring your tooth to your dentist – ideally, you should be seen within 30 minutes of the tooth being knocked out
How to Prevent Dental Emergencies
While you can’t prevent all dental emergencies, there are important steps you can take to keep your mouth, teeth, and gums as healthy and safe as possible.
Here are some tips for preventing dental emergencies:
- See your dentist for regular checkups (these visits allow your dentist to detect issues such as loose fillings, decay, gum
- disease, or infection early and prevent significant problems from developing)
- If travelling out of the country for an extended period, see your dentist beforehand for a checkup
- Avoid chewing on hard foods, ice, or non-food items such as pens
- Maintain good oral health by following a good oral hygiene routine
- Brush twice a day
- Floss at least once a day
- Use a toothpaste with fluoride
- Replace your toothbrush regularly
- Always wear a mouthguard during contact sports
- Limit the amount of sugar you consume
- Follow your dentist’s instructions for aftercare after any dental treatments or procedures
Are You Having a Dental Emergency?
If you are experiencing a broken tooth, jaw injury, or another dental emergency, contact your local dentist immediately. In the event of a dental emergency, immediate evaluation and treatment are necessary to prevent further complications.