If you have a dental emergency, the first person you should call should be your dentist. Make sure to keep your dentist’s after hours information handy just in case of emergencies.
In this post, we are going to provide you some tips to help you manage your dental emergency until you can see your dentist. It is important to note that seeing a dentist in a timely manner during an emergency can mean the difference between losing or saving your tooth.
Is it a dental emergency?
Not every dental situation is considered an emergency. To help you determine if you can wait to be seen, ask yourself the following questions:
Did you lose a tooth?
Are your teeth loose?
Even without pain, a loose tooth is a serious problem.
Did your tooth crack, break, chip, or fracture?
Are you in severe pain?
Bleeding and severe pain are clear signs of a dental emergency.
Do you think you have an infection?
A serious infection or an abscess in your mouth should not wait because it can be potentially life-threatening. Typically, you’ll notice knots on your gums, swelling, or even swelling around your face.
If you are experiencing these problems, you should NOT go to the ER. Instead, you need to schedule an emergency exam immediately. Make sure you describe exactly what you are feeling and what has happened to your dentist.
If you become sensitive to hot/warm foods and beverages, you can try consuming ice water. It might help relieve some of the pain if you sip on the ice water and hold it in your mouth until you are able to see your dentist.
It is suggested to breathe through your nose if you are having pain caused by breathing through your mouth. If you are having issues with cold food and beverages, just avoid drinking and eating cold food and beverages until you get to the dentist.
If you are experiencing pain when you bite down, it might indicate an infection or an abscess and you should call your dentist office immediately – this is an emergency!
According to American Association of Endodontists, if you act quickly after a tooth has been knocked out, your dentist may be able to preserve and reinsert your tooth. Your chances of preserving your tooth rely on following these few steps:
Carefully pick up the tooth without touching the root. It’s better to pick the tooth up by the crown (top) of the tooth.
Rinse the tooth without scrubbing it to ensure it is clean. (Make sure the tooth does not go down the drain by placing a washcloth or towel in the sink).
Reinsert the tooth back in it’s socket by gently holding it in place while trying to bite down.
If you are not able to do this, place the tooth in a container (i.e. a pill bottle, advil bottle, tylenol bottle, etc), with milk and contact the dentist.
Contacting your dentist immediately is critical for saving a knocked-out tooth. The longer you wait, the less chance you have of saving the tooth.
Tooth Out of Alignment or Loose Teeth
Are your teeth loose? Adults’ teeth should never be loose. Even without pain, a loose tooth is a serious problem and you should call your dentist for an emergency appointment right away. Chewing, eating, or even the slightest touch can cause further loosening, so be careful! Here’s what you can do while you wait for your appointment.
Using very light pressure with your finger, you can try to put the tooth back in its original position.
DO NOT force it.
You can try to bite down to avoid the tooth from moving around.
Treatment for Loose Teeth
First, your dentist has to identify the cause of the loose tooth. Special cleaning procedures may be required if you have gum disease to remove any plaque underneath your gums and teeth. Your dentist may also write a script for antibiotics to help kill any infection. During a process called scaling and root planing – the dentist removes bacteria and tartar then smooths the surface of the root to help the gums reattach to the loose tooth.
You might be a surgery candidate depending on your gum disease severity. Options include:
Your dentist may be able to save the tooth with a splint if the tooth has not detached from the gums. A piece of metal is used to bond two adjacent teeth to the loose tooth giving the tooth extra support.
This surgical procedure is done in cases of bone deterioration. It uses transplanted bone from another area of your body to repair the diseased tooth in your mouth. Dentist’s can also use special bone grafting material to rebuild the diseased or damaged bones.
Sometimes the cause of loose teeth is from grinding while an individual is asleep. Grinder’s have the option to wear a night guard while sleeping since it creates a protective barrier between the upper and lower teeth.
Your dentist pulls back the gum tissue by making incisions in your gums. This is done to perform a root and scaling procedure. After the procedure, the gum tissue is reattached.
This option is typically for patients who grind their teeth. By removing some tooth enamel, this procedure helps reshape the bite surface of your tooth. This allows the tooth to heal by reducing the pressure on your tooth.
Broken, Chipped, or Cracked Teeth
You can wait a few days to see a dentist if the tooth is chipped and does not hurt. You need to be very careful chewing and eating to prevent the tooth from chipping more until you see your dentist. Your dentist may decide to repair the damage by either filling or bonding the tooth. A filling is used if a small piece of tooth enamel has been chipped off. Bonding is typically done for front teeth or teeth that are shown when you smile.
Typically if your tooth is fractured or cracked – this is considered a dental emergency and you need to contact your dentist as soon as possible. This type of damage is usually correlated with damage inside and outside the tooth. Some extreme fractures can cause the patient to lose the tooth so it is extremely important to contact your dentist immediately. While waiting for your appointment, you should follow these simple steps:
Clean out your mouth by gently rinsing with warm water.
You can apply a cold compress to the area of the fracture that was caused by trauma to help minimize swelling.
If you are experiencing pain you can take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen. Do not take aspirin or ibuprofen because they can cause excessive bleeding.
You should refrain from using a topical painkiller (like Orajel) to the gums because it can burn the gum tissue.
Treatment for broken, chipped, or cracked teeth
Your dentist will need to do an X-ray in order to diagnose the condition of your tooth. If the pulp is damaged (the soft tissue inside your tooth), you may need root canal therapy. However, you may just need a crown if the pulp is not damaged.
Some dentists, including us at East Orlando Dental, make permanent crowns and place them the same day in-office. Other dentists require impressions to be made and sent to an outside laboratory to create the crown. In the latter case, you will be required to wear a temporary crown while your permanent crown is being made by the laboratory.
If the tooth is past the point of being saved, there are various alternatives your dentist can do to replace your missing teeth including bridges and implant supported restorations.
Visit our blog on Treatment and Repair of Broken or Chipped Teeth to learn more!
Facial Pain and Tissue Injuries
Injuries inside the mouth such as tears, lacerations, and puncture wounds to your cheeks, lips, tongue, and mouth are considered a dental emergency. It is important to disinfect the area immediately with warm water if you have experienced any type of tissue injury.
If bleeding occurs – apply pressure to the wound with gauze and make sure you contact your dentist immediately. You may use acetaminophen to help alleviate the facial pain, but do not take ibuprofen or aspirin because it can cause excessive bleeding.
Other Dental Emergencies
Treatment in order to alleviate severe pain, saving a tooth, or stop ongoing bleeding is considered a dental emergency. Infections and abscesses in your mouth should also be dealt with immediately because it can be life-threatening. IF your dentist is unavailable or unreachable, you should make a trip to the hospital emergency room.
Temporary Restoration Problems
If a temporary crown has come off, this is not considered a dental emergency. You should put the crown back in place to ensure the tooth remains in its original position until you see your dentist. Using vaseline, chapstick, toothpaste, or a VERY small amount of denture adhesive, you can easily place your temporary crown back onto your tooth. You should first take note of how the crown fits into place prior to readhering it. Once you properly place the temporary crown back on, bite down applying even pressure onto a dry washcloth for a few minutes. Finish off by cleaning any excess adhesive. Make sure you visit your dentist within a few days to have it properly cemented.
Avoiding a Dental Emergency
Routine check-ups with your dentist can help ensure your teeth and mouth are healthy and free of decay. These check-ups can help you avoid a dental emergency all together.
If you are playing sports, a mouth guard can help prevent your teeth from being knocked out, chipped, or broken. Try to avoid eating hard foods and chewing on ice because they may cause breaks or fractures to your teeth. You should also always avoid opening things with your teeth or mouth.
If you are planning an extended vacation, or traveling for work for an extended amount of time – it is suggested to see your dentist for a check up prior to leaving. This routine check up can ensure you do not have any loose teeth or crowns. Your dentist can also identify problems such as decay that could potentially develop into a dental emergency later on.
How to be Prepared for a Dental Emergency
Dental emergencies can happen anytime and anywhere. You should always be prepared by packing a small dental first aid kit to keep with you, in your car, and/or in your home. The kit should include the following:
A small container with a lid (i.e. a pill bottle, advil bottle, tylenol bottle, etc)
Your dentist contact information. You should have their name and phone number.
Acetaminophen. DO NOT use aspirin or ibuprofen. They can act as a blood thinner which can cause excessive bleeding in a dental emergency.
Contacting Your Dentist
Dental emergencies are potentially life threatening and require immediate treatment. Rather than visit the ER you should contact your Dentist immediately to schedule an emergency exam. We understand emergencies happen and that is why at East Orlando Dental, we do everything we can to see you as soon as possible. If you are experiencing a dental emergency, please visit our website at www.eastorlandodental.com or call us today at 407-282-2101 to make an appointment.