Struggling with debilitating tooth pain? Or perhaps you’ve had an accident that affected your teeth and mouth? In this case, consider emergency dental care. Nowadays, most dentists provide this service. Early intervention can help relieve pain and prevent complications.
Dental emergency visits are on the rise in the U.S. Their number increased from 1.1 million to 2.1 million between 2000 and 2010. Surprisingly, most cases could have been prevented. Furthermore, research shows that most patients who use this service could instead be seen in a regular dental office.
Considering these facts, you might wonder: what constitutes a dental emergency? Are there any signs and symptoms you should look for – other than pain? Let’s see what dental emergencies are and how to prevent them!
What Is a Dental Emergency?
Without a doubt, some dental issues require immediate care. Since most dentists set aside time for emergencies, it should be easy to receive treatment when you need it the most. However, it doesn’t mean you should abuse this service. Not every toothache is an emergency. According to health experts, about 79 percent of dental ED visits are not necessary.
Severe injuries to the teeth, gums, or face, serious infections or abscesses, and loss of a crown or filling are considered dental emergencies. This category also includes:
- Debilitating pain or bleeding that occurs soon after dental treatment
- Wounds to the cheeks, tongue, or lips
- Accidents that cause severe tooth pain
- Tooth fractures
- Loss of a tooth
- Loose teeth
- Chipped or cracked teeth
- Facial pain
- Missing crowns
For instance, biting on a piece of food that is too hard may result in broken, cracked, or knocked out teeth. Car accidents, sports injuries, and falls are common culprits behind tooth loss. If you occur any of these issues, contact a dentist immediately.
In the meantime, there are a couple of things you can do to reduce the damage and prevent complications. Let’s say your tooth becomes loose or breaks. Leave it inside your mouth until you are able to see a dentist.
In case of a knocked out tooth, pick it up by the crown without touching its root. Rinse it gently and place it back into its socket. If you can’t do that, place it in a small container. The dentist might be able to reinsert it and preserve its function.
If one or more teeth become loose due to an injury or crash, try to put it back into its original position. Apply light pressure with your fingers. Go the dentist the same day.
Biting your lips or tongue does not constitute a dental emergency. Simply rinse well and apply a cold compress or ice.
What to Expect during a Dental Emergency Visit?
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may want to contact a dentist right away. Ideally, keep his contact information at hand. If you don’t know a dentist or he’s unavailable, go online and search for dental emergency offices in your area. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Tooth abscesses, for instance, may cause serious complications if left untreated. Besides pain, you may experience swelling in the face or cheeks, fever, or swollen lymph nodes in the neck. If the fluid doesn’t drain, the infection can spread to the surrounding tissues. In the worst case scenario, you may develop sepsis, a condition that may require surgical drainage.
In case of a dental emergency, see a dentist the same day or no later than the next day. After a careful examination, he will prescribe the most appropriate treatment.
For example, in case of an abscess, the dentist may not be able to treat the tooth right away. But he can recommend painkillers, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and eliminate the infection. Later, you will get your tooth treated.
Dental emergencies are difficult to handle and may result in life-threatening complications. The sooner you receive treatment, the better.
How to Relieve Dental Pain at Home?
If your dentist isn’t available on spot, try to ease the pain at home. Over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, offer temporary relief. Aspirin and ibuprofen should be avoided as they can make bleeding worse.
Eventually, you can use natural remedies to relieve pain and stop the infection from spreading. For instance, limes and lemons are rich in citric acid, a natural compound that kills bacteria. Apply a few drops of lemon juice on the affected areas after brushing your teeth. Another option is to make a paste from salt and crushed garlic, or chew fresh ginger.
However, beware that home remedies only work on short term. You still need to see a dentist as soon as possible. Otherwise, the infection can spread and cause further damage.
Simple Ways to Prevent Dental Emergencies
Most dental emergencies can be prevented with good hygiene. Simple things, such as brushing and flossing your teeth after each meal, will keep your mouth healthy. If you’re engaged in contact sports, wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth. Avoid hard candy, popcorn kernels, and other foods that may crack a tooth.
Don’t use your teeth to break objects, open a bottle, or cut things. Limit sugar between meals. Get a new toothbrush every three months or so, and use mouthwash on a daily basis. Ideally, choose toothpaste that contains fluoride. Chew sugar-free gum to keep your teeth clean between meals.
In case of tooth pain, don’t take prescription drugs without consulting a doctor. Certain medications can worsen your symptoms and cause complications.
Book an appointment with the dentist at least twice a year. Regular checkups can help identify any potential issues that affect tooth health.
For instance, your dentist may find cavities and treat them before they damage your teeth and gums. If left untreated, cavities may lead to infections, difficulty chewing, broken teeth, tooth abscesses, and even tooth loss.
Now that you know how important dental care is, contact your dentist. Don’t wait until you experience a dental emergency. Remember that prevention is better than treatment.