What Is A Dental Emergency?

What Is A Dental Emergency?

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The Difference Between Dental Emergencies & other Medical Emergencies

A dental emergency is any dental issue that is localized to just the gums, teeth, and mouth area that requires immediate attention. It should be always noted that a dental emergency is different from other medical emergencies. If an injury is life threatening or if an injury is affecting more than just the mouth, you should seek medical attention via a hospital emergency room. Either head to the ER or call 911 if the emergency is life threatening. For example, if someone is injured while playing a sport or outdoor activity and there are concerns beyond just a knocked out tooth (i.e. a serious concussion, or bleeding around other areas of the body) the patient should be brought to a hospital. 

By contrast, a dental emergency is a dental issue that is only impacting your oral health. Instead of going to an ER and waiting to be seen, you can head a dentist who is potentially better equipped to handle the dental emergency. There are a few different ways to consider dental issues. You can categorize dental issues as urgent vs non-urgent or you can categorize them by the type of damage. The most common dental emergencies occur when there is sudden damage to either a tooth or to a dental implement like a bridge, implant, or other device. In this article, we will cover the different types of dental emergencies, and how they can be handled.

How Do I Know If A Dental Emergency Is Actually An Emergency?

First and foremost if you have a dental concern you are on the fence about, you should still call a dentist. Even if you do not need to see a dentist today,  you don’t want to wait weeks or months to see a dentist if you have a concern. Like all things with our health, dental issues get progressive worse over time. If you notice something feels off or strange in your mouth but feel that it isn’t an “emergency” you should still try to see a dentist within the week if possible. There are many types of “non-urgent” dental issues that should be addressed as soon as possible. Here are a few examples: 

When a tooth is chipped or cracked it is possible for the damage to be purely cosmetic or superficial. When a tooth’s pulp or dentin is exposed after an injury, it is a dental emergency and usually this damage comes with other symptoms like severe toothaches, swelling, bleeding, etc. But if a tooth is cracked or lightly chipped near the edge, there might not be any of these other symptoms. That said you should still see a dentist within a week or so. If the tooth is sharp because of the chip or crack it could hurt your tongue, lips, or cheeks. More importantly, it is possible that a worse break or fracture could happen in the near future. 

If a toothache is severe, recurring, or doesn’t go away, that is an immediate sign that you have a dental emergency that needs to be handled right away. But if a toothache is dull, temporary, or you experience some sensitivity with hot/cold foods, that might not require immediate attention. That said, any toothache is a good reason to call a dentist. While you might not have a serious infection, toothaches are often warning signs of underlying dental issues. 

Sometimes you might notice your gums are red, tender, or bleeding after flossing and brushing. This can be a sign of gum disease, but it can also occur from brushing/flossing too hard. If your gums bleed frequently, or your gums bleed even when you aren’t flossing/brushing, or they feel swollen or tender for long periods of time, this would be cause for concern and likely a sign of gum disease. But if your gums are tender immediately after brushing/flossing, consider changing your brushing and flossing technique and see if it helps. 

What Do You Do If A Tooth Is Knocked Out?

Knocked out teeth can happen at any time, but most frequently happen due to a sports injury or other sudden impact. When a tooth is lost the most important thing to do is head to an emergency dentist as quickly as possible. 

How Do You Save A Knocked Out Tooth?

It is possible for a knocked out tooth to be saved and re-implanted into the mouth if the proper steps are taken. First and foremost, only handle a tooth from the crown (the part that is usually exposed in your mouth), never touch the tooth root (the part that is usually under the gums). If the tooth is dirty, rinse it with warm water. On the way to the dentist you should keep the tooth submerged in a liquid similar to our saliva. If possible, the person who lost a tooth should try to hold the tooth in their mouth either in the socket or against their cheek. If this is not possible the tooth can be submerged in milk or in a saline solution. Many first aid kits have a tooth saving kit that includes this solution. If the patient and the tooth get to the dentist in under an hour it is sometimes possible to re-implant the tooth. 

How Do You Take Care Of Someone Who Lost A Tooth? 

If the patient who lost a tooth is bleeding, you should use gauze or a piece of clean cloth and have them put light pressure on the area that is bleeding. An ice pack or cold compress can be used to reduce swelling and help with pain. 

What Do You Do If a Filling, Bridge, Implant, or Crown Falls Out

If you have a dental instrument in your mouth like a crown, bridge, implant, or filling that suddenly falls out, you need to see a dentist as soon as possible. The missing device needs to be replaced otherwise the remaining tooth is very susceptible to injury, infection, and decay. A missing filling, crown or bridge can expose the remainder of the tooth to bacteria and decay. You should avoid putting anything in your mouth after a filling, bride, implant, or crown falls out. 

Emergency Dentist in North Andover Massachusetts

If you live in the North Andover area and need to see an emergency dentist, please give us a call. We would be happy to help you with emergency dental services. 

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