Emergencies happen. And while some may not consider a dislodged tooth motivation enough to rush to the dentist, the speed with which one reacts may be the difference between saving a tooth or losing it, and consequently spending hundreds of dollars in further restorative treatment.
So, what constitutes a dental emergency? And what should you do if you find yourself experiencing one?
Below are all the dental emergencies you might face and a simple guide for handling each one.
Toothache – Tooth pain is not normal, so any amount of discomfort must be acknowledged and treated. First, thoroughly rinse your mouth out with warm water. If there is any lodged food in between teeth, remove gently with floss. Apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth or cheek to relieve swelling and pain. Never put aspirin against the gums, as this may burn the gum tissue. If pain reliever is necessary, take ibuprofen or acetaminophen. See your dentist as soon as possible.
Food lodged in between teeth – Rinse your mouth out with warm water. Gently floss the area to remove the food or stuck item. If unable to remove with floss, do not use any hard or pointed objects. See your dentist immediately for removal.
Fractured Tooth (Chipped or Broken) – With a chipped or broken tooth, first, save any pieces that you are able. Rinse mouth with warm water and rinse off any broken pieces. Apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth near the fractured tooth to alleviate swelling and relieve pain. Schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist will determine the course of action based upon the severity of the fracture –
Extruded Tooth (partially dislodged) – This can be a painful experience, but thankfully has a greater chance of recovery, as some of the roots may still be attached, keeping the tooth in better condition. See your dentist immediately if you experience a dental emergency that involves a dislodged tooth. In the meantime, keep a cold compress against the outside of the mouth. You may take pain reliever, such as Tylenol or Advil.
Avulsed Tooth (knocked out) – Always retrieve the tooth and handle with care immediately. Hold it by the crown and rinse the tooth off gently with water. Do not scrub the tooth or remove any attached tissue fragments. Never touch the root of the tooth with your hands as this can damage cells necessary for bone reattachment. If able, put the tooth back in its original place, but never use force to fit it into the socket. If the tooth will not fit easily into the socket, store the tooth in a small sterile container in milk or in a tooth preservation product, found in most drugstores. The knocked out tooth must be kept moist at all times. Get to your dentist right away, as time is a critical matter here. There is a much greater likelihood of the tooth being saved if it is properly re-inserted within 30-60 minutes.
Lost Filling or Crown – If a filling or crown falls off, make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible. If you are able to save the crown, do so. If the exposed tooth is causing pain, an over-the-counter dental cement can provide temporary relief until you are able to get to your dentist. This dental cement can also help hold the lost dental crown temporarily in place. Never use superglue to replace a dental crown.
Soft-tissue Injury – If you have received a laceration to the soft tissue in your mouth, including the tongue, cheeks, gums or lips, you may experience bleeding. First rinse your mouth out with a mild salt water solution. If the bleeding continues, apply a moist piece of gauze to the cut area for 10-15 minutes. If the bleeding is excessive and does not stop after this time, see your dentist right away or go to an emergency room.
Broken Braces and Wires – While this is not exactly a dental emergency, if can certainly produce a good bit of discomfort and pain. If a wire breaks and is poking your cheek or gum, first try pushing the wire to a more comfortable position by using the end of an eraser to manipulate the location. If this does not work, cover the end of the wire with a piece of orthodontic wax until you are able to reach your orthodontist’s office. Always see your orthodontist for fixing any brace and wire issues.
While there isn’t a completely fool-proof way to avoid dental emergencies, there are a few things you can do to give yourself a better chance.
For all dental emergencies, it’s important to see your dentist as soon as possible. Most dentists actually arrange their daily schedule for the possibility of handling a dental emergency. If the accident occurs during non-office hours and it is something time-sensitive such as a dislodged or knocked out tooth, visit your local emergency room for treatment. And as always, if it is a life-threatening emergency that involves a serious head injury or excessive blood loss, get emergency medical help immediately by calling 911.
If you have experienced a dental emergency today, call our office to schedule a same-day appointment with our skilled dentists and orthodontists. Penn Dental Family Practice is equipped with over 35 dentists to handle any of your dental emergency needs.