It is hard to tell what to do when you have fallen and chipped a tooth or have a bad toothache. You might not be in a lot of pain so you might think it is no big deal. However, it could be a dental emergency which you should take seriously!
Dental emergencies are common and it is important to recognize that a single situation does not have to be threatening your life for it to need immediate attention if possible. Let’s talk about some potential emergencies, what to do when one arises, and when going to the Emergency Room is necessary.
What is an emergency (to a dentist)?
“Emergency” is a really tricky word because depending on the context of the situation, our reaction to it may be very different. For instance, someone might describe running out of food at a restaurant as an emergency, or running out of gas on the highway as an emergency. In both of these cases, something bad has happened but not bad in the sense that something has severely harmed anyone. The restaurant could close and the person without gas could call a friend. An emergency in the medical sense just seems worse! And to complicate matters more, a dental emergency does not have to be as bad as what we might call a general medical emergency (a broken arm, a heart attack, a severe allergic reaction, etc).
A dental emergency is generally characterized as a dental issue that needs immediate attention to fix and avoid future complications. Many of them are caused by accidents. Here is a list of potential emergencies:
- A chipped tooth.
- Teeth that have been knocked out
- Damaged restorations like implants or crowns.
- A severe toothache.
- Damage to the gums, mouth, lips, tongue.
These are not emergencies in that they are always life threatening, but they are emergencies in the sense that they should be attended to immediately and that they cannot be fixed with home remedies.
Just as a quick note about what does not count as an emergency. If you happen to break a tooth and it is not causing any pain, that might not be an emergency. If your gums started to bleed but have since stopped for a few days, you might not be experiencing an emergency. Looking out for pain, severe bleeding, and rapid swelling is a good way to determine whether a situation is an emergency.
What to do if I or someone I know has a dental emergency
Many dentist offices offer emergency dental services. This often amounts to being able to get you scheduled for a last minute appointment to address the issue at hand.
If you have any issue that you think might be an emergency, call your dentist office. They will be able to assess the problem and determine if you need immediate dental care or not. Urgent care for teeth is not much different than regular care, it just occurs faster because the stakes tend to be higher for tooth loss and other problems. A good dentist will assess your situation as soon as possible and determine the best course of action.
It will not hurt to call, so play it safe when you think you might need care faster than the check up that you have scheduled in a month.
What if it is really bad? Go to the ER!
How do you know when the emergency has stopped being a dental emergency and is now a regular medical emergency? It should be pretty obvious.
If you have knocked your teeth out and the bleeding will not stop, you should go to the ER. Similarly if you have a toothache that is so painful that you can hardly stand it and over the counter pain medications are not helping, then consider going to the ER.
You should never wait to see the dentist if you are really concerned about pain or bleeding. A general doctor can help you manage the emergency symptoms and you can visit the dentist afterward.
Devaney Dental is a great stop if you are experiencing any type of dental emergency. We have many years of experience treating patients in emergency situations and we are able to develop a quick and personalized treatment plan. With emergency care at our office, you can expect to have any pain alleviated quickly and any damage assessed for treatment.