Accidents happen, even to the best of us.
When it comes to dental emergencies, knowing what to do and acting fast can mean the difference between saving or losing your tooth.
So what steps should you take? And how do you know when dental emergency consultations are necessary?
We’ve got you covered.
In this post, we’ll go over:
- What constitutes a dental emergency (and what doesn’t).
- What to do in common dental emergency scenarios.
- Who to turn to for dental emergency consultations.
Let’s dive in.
What’s considered a dental emergency?
Dental emergencies can be extremely time-sensitive situations.
It’s critical to recognize a dental emergency when it happens and take proper action immediately.
Here are a few quick questions to ask yourself:
- Are you in severe pain?
- Did you knock out or lose a tooth?
- Do you have a cracked or chipped tooth?
- Are there any signs of infection, such as swelling and abscess?
- Are you bleeding from the mouth?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be experiencing a serious emergency. Seek an emergency dental consultation right away.
In the meantime, here’s what to do in a few common dental emergency scenarios while you’re on your way to the dentist.
If you’ve knocked out or lost a tooth, you must act fast.
If you can get to the dentist within 30 minutes, they could save the tooth.
Here are the steps to take:
- Pick up the tooth by the crown: Locate the tooth. Pick it up carefully by the crown (the chewing surface). Never touch the bottom root part where the nerves are.
- Rinse the tooth: While holding the crown, gently rinse the tooth with water to remove any debris.
- Reinsert the tooth: If possible, reinsert the tooth back into the socket. Hold it in place with your fingers or gently bite down.
- Alternatively, put the tooth in a container of milk: If you can’t reinsert the tooth, it must remain moist at all times. This will give it a fighting chance to be saved. Put it in a small container of milk while you travel to the dentist. If milk is unavailable, use water.
- Call your dentist ASAP!
Cracked or chipped tooth
If you’ve broken, chipped, fractured, or damaged your tooth in any way, seeing a dentist as soon as possible is important.
Otherwise, the fracture could get worse or become infected, threatening the health of your tooth.
Here are the steps to take:
- Rinse your mouth with saltwater: A mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of table salt with 1/2 cup of warm water will do the trick.
- Cover any sharp edges: If there is a sharp or jagged edge, cover it with a piece of paraffin wax or sugarless chewing gum. This will help prevent it from cutting your tongue, lip, or cheek.
- Relieve the pain: If the tooth is painful, you may take an over-the-counter pain killer, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Get to the dentist immediately.
An abscessed tooth is a pocket of pus formed around a tooth due to a bacterial infection. This infection usually causes moderate to severe pain.
Never ignore abscessed teeth. Without treatment, the infection could spread to other parts of your body, even threatening your life.
In some cases, the abscess may rupture. While this may relieve the pain from the pressure, it’s still important to seek treatment immediately.
There isn’t anything you can do on your own in this situation.
Tooth abscesses won’t go away without treatment, so your only step here is to see a dentist for a dental emergency consultation.
You can try at-home remedies to help relieve the pain while you wait, but don’t be fooled into thinking they’ll cure the infection on their own.
Here are a few mixtures to try for temporary pain relief:
- Saltwater rinse: Mix 1/2 teaspoon of table salt with 1/2 cup of warm water.
- Baking soda rinse: Mix 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda with 1/2 cup of water and a pinch of salt.
- Oregano essential oil: Mix a few drops of oregano essential oil to 1 ounce of a carrier oil, such as coconut, avocado, or olive oil.
- Hydrogen peroxide: Mix equal parts 3 percent hydrogen peroxide with water. Be careful not to swallow any solution while you rinse.
You may all take over-the-counter pain medication or apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek.
What’s NOT considered a dental emergency?
Some dental issues can seem serious, but actually don’t require immediate attention.
This is especially true if the emergency happens outside business hours or on a weekend or holiday.
Here are a few examples:
- A mild toothache, with no swelling or abscess.
- A small chip or crack in the tooth that doesn’t cause any pain or leave a sharp edge in your mouth.
- A lost crown or filling with no pain.
In these cases, dental emergency consultations may not be necessary.
Of course, if you’re in any doubt about the situation, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If your dentist is open, you can at least call to get her opinion on the urgency of the situation.
Where should I go for treatment?
The best choice for dental emergency treatment is always a trusted dentist.
If you can’t get a hold of your dentist, try another one nearby.
If it’s outside business hours for dental offices, the next best place is an emergency dental clinic.
If all else fails and you can’t get help from a dentist, the general emergency room should be your last resort.
Most hospitals and emergency rooms aren’t properly equipped or trained to provide dental care.
They may be able to provide “band-aid” solutions, such as antibiotics or painkillers, but are unlikely to deliver care that’ll treat the underlying dental issue.
If you do have to go to an emergency room, you should always follow-up with your dental office afterward so they can address the problem thoroughly and prevent any further issues.
How do you prevent dental emergencies?
The best way to prevent dental emergencies is by keeping your smile healthy and strong.
At a minimum, that means:
- Practice diligent at-home oral care. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day.
- Visit the dentist every six months for a check-up and cleaning.
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Avoid excessive sugar, which weakens your teeth and makes you prone to decay and disease…Opens in a new window to article about why sugar is harmful for oral health….
By choosing a dentist who focuses on preventative care, she’ll be able to watch for any warning signs and manage smaller issues as they come up.
Great communication with your dentist is also key.
Don’t be afraid to bring up that nagging toothache or sensitivity in your gums – even if the pain is mild or temporary, it could be a sign of a deeper issue.
Unfortunately, even with a strong and healthy smile, dental emergencies still happen. That’s why it’s a great idea to have an emergency dentist in your corner.
We do dental emergency consultations!
As a patient of Dr. Nicky Hakimi, you have priority access to dental emergency consultations.
We will do everything possible to see you for a same-day appointment. We’ll also advise you over the phone on what to do in your specific situation.
Dr. Hakimi is a Periodontist, a dental professional who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum disease. This makes her exceptionally skilled at treating dental emergencies that stem from severe infections and degradation of the underlying bone structure.
If you think you’re experiencing a dental emergency, give us a call ASAP!
In a non-urgent situation, you can also contact us via one of these other convenient means:
We proudly serve Auburn, CA, and surrounding communities in Roseville and Sacramento.