Injuries to your gums or teeth, oral disease and other dental emergencies are something you shouldn’t ignore. They’re potentially serious and may require emergency dental care. If you ignore an oral problem, you could increase your risk of permanent damage, which may result in the need for more extensive and costly treatment later on.
Dental emergencies can happen so quickly that you’re not sure what just happened. One minute you’re having fun riding your bicycle, and the next minute you’re holding your tooth in your hand after it’s just been knocked out from a spill. Now you’re left wondering what you need to do next.
You already know what you need to do in a medical emergency. If someone’s choking, you give them the Heimlich, or you call an ambulance if you or someone else is having a heart attack. But, what to do in a dental emergency?
Typically, you have two options:
- Go to the emergency room.
- Care for the injury yourself until you can get in to see the dentist.
For severe dental emergencies, you won’t want to wait — you’ll want to get to the ER as quickly as you can.
A lot of dental practices provide an emergency number where you can call to receive urgent dental care after hours.
If it’s not too serious, like a cracked tooth or lost filling, you can often wait until the dental office opens. Just remember, however, the longer you wait to have the problem repaired, the more damage can occur, and the more costly the treatment can get.
Types of Dental Emergencies
There are numerous types of dental emergencies, and you’ll want to know what to do in case of one. Here are some of the most common dental emergencies:
If you’re experiencing a toothache, you’ll first want to use warm water to rinse your mouth. If your tooth is causing swelling, press a cold compress against the outside of your cheek or mouth. You can take some ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help with the pain, but chances are you’ll need a stronger pain reliever that only your dentist can prescribe. Toothaches can become extremely painful, so you don’t want to wait too long to get in to see the dentist.
2. Cracked Tooth
Again, use warm water to rinse out your mouth and clean the area. You can use a cold compress pressed up against your face in this situation as well to bring down any swelling. Get in to see the dentist as soon as possible since a cracked tooth can quickly become a bigger problem.
3. Broken Teeth
Cracked teeth can easily turn into broken teeth, or an injury can cause a broken tooth. If you notice a lump of dental pulp — or reddish flesh — sticking out or if there’s a broken line going up your tooth, get in to see your dentist right away.
Call your dentist if your tooth is pushed up into your gum or has shifted a little but isn’t bleeding or broken off. They’ll advise you on what to do next, which most likely will be to come into their office right away to repair the tooth.
Save any pieces of your broken tooth. Rinse your mouth and any broken pieces with water. Apply gauze to any bleeding area for several minutes until it stops. If the broken tooth has caused swelling, press a cold compress against your cheek, mouth or lip near the area of the broken tooth to relieve pain and bring the swelling down. Don’t wait to see your dentist.
4. Loss of Permanent Tooth
If you have an injury leading to a loss of one of your permanent teeth, you’ll require immediate treatment. If possible, find the tooth.
The Alberta Dental Association & College advises you to rinse the knocked-out tooth in water and refrain from scrubbing it. You should try to place the tooth back in place, holding it at the crown versus the roots. Place it next to the lost tooth opening between the cheek, if you’re unable to put it in its original location.
If you can’t put your tooth back in its socket or if you have a danger of swallowing it, preserve it by placing it into a cup of fresh milk. Then, call your dentist right away.
5. Bleeding From Your Mouth
If you’re experiencing mouth bleeding, it could indicate an acute or chronic condition. If you notice blood on your dental floss, it typically means you have gingivitis or gum disease. However, if you notice it in your saliva, this could be something more serious like advanced gum disease or even cancer.
It’s not normal to bleed from your mouth. Your mouth is extremely good at preventing bleeding. Therefore, it’s rare to experience gum bleeding from cuts or abrasions. If you’ve just had a tooth extraction and the bleeding isn’t stopping, you’ll need immediate help.
See your dentist for gum disease treatment if you spot blood on your floss. Blood on your floss or toothbrush isn’t normal and requires prompt treatment.
If you start to bleed after a dental procedure, immediately go back to your dentist. Some bleeding is normal after a dental procedure, but if it continues for several hours, it’s not normal. You’ll want to keep your head elevated and contact your dentist. If it’s after hours, go to the ER. After a dental procedure, keep your mouth elevated and above your heart, particularly while sleeping.
6. Oral Disease
You probably already know exercise and diet play a big role in keeping you healthy. Good oral health is just as important and has a lot to do with a healthy body.
When you have poor oral health, it can affect your quality of life. Oral infections, pain or missing teeth can change how you eat, speak and socialize. It can affect your mental, social and physical well-being, reducing the quality of your life. Often overlooked, however, are tender and bleeding gums. It might seem minor, but this is a subtle sign of oral disease.
You need to treat oral disease. A chronic mouth problem is serious and you shouldn’t ignore it. There’s a link between oral disease and other health concerns like:
- Heart disease
- Respiratory illness in older adults
- Low birth weight in babies
- Preterm birth in babies
While researchers are only now starting to realize this association, many think oral disease can worsen other health ailments. Therefore, maintaining good oral hygiene and a healthy mouth is vital and a significant part of wellness living.
7. Partially Dislodged or Extruded Tooth
If this occurs, get immediate treatment from your dentist. You can use a cold compress to relieve your pain until you get to your dentist’s office. Just apply it to the outside of your cheek or mouth at the area affected. You may also take an OTC pain reliever in the form of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help relieve the pain.
8. Something’s Stuck Between Your Teeth
Try dental floss at first to remove the object gently. If the object won’t dislodge, go to your dentist and have them remove it. Don’t ever use a sharp object — like a pin — to poke the object since these types of things can scratch the surface of your tooth or cut your gums.
9. Injured Gums, Tongue or Lips
If you cut your tongue, it might look like it’s bleeding a lot. Stay calm since the injury might appear worse than it is. Unless it’s a large cut, your tongue will likely heal itself.
If you’ve bruised or cut your gums or lips, but your teeth are still intact, you can use cold pressure like a bag of ice, a cold compress or a frozen veggie bag to relieve the swelling and pain. See your dentist if the cut goes across your lip border or is more than a quarter-inch long to receive treatment and ensure it heals correctly.
10. Mouth Injury
You may require immediate dental attention for other mouth injuries. For instance, if you have an injury to your jaw or you have a distorted-looking jawline, you’ll want immediate emergency treatment. You’ll need to keep your face as still as possible until you get medical attention. If you bite your tongue, cheek or lip and you can’t get the bleeding to stop, seek emergency help.
An abscess is an infection occurring around your tooth root or in the space between your gums and teeth. This infection is severe and can damage your surrounding tissue and teeth. An abscess can also potentially spread to other areas of your body if you don’t have it treated.
Since an abscess can cause serious general and oral health problems, see your dentist right away if you notice a pimple-like and painful swelling on your gums. Until you see your dentist, you can rinse your mouth with a solution of mild salt water. This will help draw the pus to the surface and relieve your pain. Rinse several times each day until you get to your dentist’s office.
12. Soft-Tissue Injuries
Injuries can lead to bleeding of your soft tissues like your:
There are some things you can do to control the bleeding, including:
- Rinse out your mouth with a solution of mild salt water.
- Use a tea bag or moistened gauze to put pressure on the area bleeding. Hold it in place until the bleeding stops.
- Apply a cold compress to the affected area on the outside of your cheek or mouth for several minutes to relieve pain and control bleeding.
- See your dentist immediately if you can’t get the bleeding to stop. If you can’t see your dentist right away, go to the ER. Continue applying pressure to the bleeding with gauze until you receive treatment.
13. Lost Filling
Place a piece of sugarless gum temporarily into the cavity or use over-the-counter dental cement. Call for an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. If you leave your tooth untreated, you could start experiencing pain and it could become infected.
14. Lost Crown
If you have a crown fall off, schedule an appointment with the dentist right away. Make sure you bring your crown to your appointment. If the tooth is painful and you can’t get to your dentist immediately, apply some clove oil on a cotton swab to the sensitive area.
You can buy clove oil at your grocery store in the spice aisle or at the local drug store. If you can, use some denture adhesive or over-the-counter dental cement to place the crown back over your tooth and hold it in place temporarily until you can see your dentist. Don’t use super glue.
15. Loose Bands and Brackets
Reattach loose braces temporarily with some orthodontic wax. Or, place the wax over your braces to create a cushion. See your orthodontist as soon as possible.
If you have a loose band, schedule an appointment with your orthodontist and save the band. They’ll recement or replace it at your appointment.
16. Broken Wires and Braces
If you have a wire break or it’s sticking out of a band or bracket, and it’s poking your tongue, gum or cheek, gently push the wire back into a more comfortable position using a pencil’s eraser end. Use orthodontic wax to cover the end if you aren’t able to reposition the wire.
You can also use a piece of gauze or a cotton ball until you can get treated. Don’t cut the wire since you could swallow it or breathe it into your lungs.
Dental Emergency Tips
Dental emergencies are common. And, if you have one, you’ll need to know what to do in that situation. From cracks to a complete knockout, you have some time to control the situation until you can reach your dentist’s office. If you experience a dental emergency, here are some steps you can follow during the time you’re waiting for treatment.
- Breathe in deeply: Before you take any action, get control of the situation and calm yourself. Taking a deep breath is a great way to do this. Then you’ll be calm and can evaluate the case to determine how to proceed.
- Access the situation: If you can see your tooth or mouth, try to access the problem to see what it is. Did your tooth fall out or is there a crack in it? If your tooth is not intact, follow the next step.
- Store your tooth safely: If you knocked out your tooth and you can salvage it, store it somewhere safe so you can bring it with you to your dental appointment you’re going to make.
- Call your dentist: Once you figure out what the problem is, give your dentist office a call and set up an appointment to come in for an exam and treatment. Try to explain as thoroughly as possible what happened and what you think the damage is. The dental staff can guide you on your next steps. Following their instructions can help them better prepare for your visit and know which dental emergency procedures they’ll need to perform.
Tooth Injury Prevention
There are things you can do to prevent certain injuries to your teeth. These prevention measures are:
- Don’t chew ice, hard candy or popcorn kernels. These can crack your teeth.
- Wear a mouthguard when you participate in recreational or sports activities.
- Don’t use your teeth to rip something open — use scissors.
You can make a significant difference in your dental health and your dental budget with good daily practices. Brush and floss your teeth and gums regularly. Schedule a dental visit twice a year for a thorough oral exam and a cleaning. Don’t wait until you have a problem with your teeth or mouth to see a dentist.
To ensure overall good oral and general health, you can also limit sweets and use a fluoride toothpaste or rinse.
Fluoride can help prevent tooth decay which can lead to more serious oral problems. Fluoride helps to:
- Lower the amount of mouth acid you have
- Strengthen your tooth enamel
- Make your teeth stronger by rebuilding minerals
Ask your dentist ways to improve your oral health and how to prevent dental emergencies. No matter what measures you take to prevent a dental emergency, they can still occur at any time, and you’ll want to be prepared. Your dentist should have information on preventative measures and what to do during a dental emergency.
Find a Dental Choice Location Close to You
If you are in need of dental care right away, you can find a Dental Choice location nearest you and request an appointment. We strive to handle most dental emergencies compassionately and quickly at any of our locations.
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