Dental problems can occur at any time and can vary significantly in their severity. But how do you know when you should treat the situation as a dental emergency and seek immediate help from your dentist or if you should wait for the next regular appointment? Determining what constitutes an actual dental emergency isn’t as easy as it might seem. Visiting an out-of-hours dentist when you don’t need to can be costly and inconvenient and prevent someone who really needs the appointment from being seen, while not attending when really should cause you to suffer unnecessarily or put your tooth at risk.
So, what is a dental emergency? In short, any dental problem that requires immediate treatment in order to stop persistent bleeding, alleviate severe dental pain or save a tooth so that it doesn’t fall out or require extraction can be considered a dental emergency.
Common dental emergencies
While there are lots of situations that could be defined as a dental emergency, there are some which are more commonly seen than others. These include, but are not limited to the following:
A knocked-out tooth
A knocked-out tooth is easily one of the most common dental emergencies, particularly amongst children, and can occur when there is any degree of trauma to the face. This can cause the tooth to pull out by the root. However, if the root and tooth remain intact and can be found, it may be possible to reinsert the tooth back into the socket. Be sure not to handle the tooth too much and never to touch the root. If you can place it back into the socket yourself then you should do this. If not, place the tooth into a small container of milk until you can see your emergency dentist.
Chipped or cracked tooth
If you have a very painful or serious break in your tooth, you will need to be seen by an emergency dentist as soon as possible. This could happen for many reasons, from a trauma to the face to eating something particularly hard or chewy. Use a cold compress against the area to help numb it until you can be seen by your dentist.
A dental abscess may not sound too serious, but it has the potential to be a severe and even life-threatening situation. Symptoms of a dental abscess include fever, tooth sensitivity to hot/cold, persistent dental pain, tender lymph nodes in your neck, swelling in the gum, and a foul taste in your mouth. If the infection isn’t dealt with quickly, it could spread into your jaw and soft tissues of your mouth before reaching the main part of your body. If you suspect that you have an abscessed tooth, don’t delay in seeking an emergency appointment with your dentist.
If you have ever experienced toothache before, you will know just how debilitating it can be. If you are suffering from dental pain that isn’t being alleviated using pain medication or cold compresses, it may be that you need to see an emergency dentist. Not only can they provide much stronger pain relief that can ease your discomfort, but they may be able to get to the root cause of the problem to treat that rather than just the symptom.
Our teeth are served by a network of blood vessels. If we suffer damage to the tooth, these blood vessels can break and cause bleeding. Sometimes, this bleeding may be significant enough for us to need to see an emergency dentist who will stop the blood flow and treat the underlying cause.
If you would like more information about the most common dental emergencies or have further questions about emergency dental care, please contact our expert team.