Dental emergencies are a common part of modern life. The fact is, the more life you’re living the more likely you may be to encounter a dental emergency in yourself or someone close to you. Modern dentistry has made it possible to restore oral trauma using modern technique and skill. Examples of this are seen in dental implant technology, oral prosthetics and veneers. We tell our patients to take every precaution they can reasonably take to avoid oral infections and injuries, of course! But when trouble strikes, emergency dentistry is here to intervene.
Your best defense is a preventative attitude where looking to decrease the risk of any health issue, so doing practical things, like ensuring that you have an emergency kit in the car and a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, allow you to relax knowing you have done your diligence. In the same way, dental traumas are common in many sports, but wearing the right personal protective equipment including a sports guard mitigates the likelihood so you can focus on the game. For those times that a dental emergency does occur, here’s what you need to know.
What is a Dental Emergency?
A dental emergency occurs when there is a traumatic impact to the teeth and tissues of the mouth, there are signs of infection present, or you are in severe pain that is not managed with over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil.
Things to Watch For - Infection
If you are in severe pain, you likely have a dental emergency on your hands. Don’t be mislead if it disappears quickly – you could be experiencing the death of a nerve due to infection. This means the infection is still present, despite your not feeling it. Call your dentist if you are within travelling distance, but don’t put it off if you’re not. It is important to see an emergency dentist to treat your infection as soon as possible to prevent it spreading to other areas.
If you think you may have an infection you may find it difficult to open or close your mouth, have swollen tissues, have bad tasting bitter fluid leaking from the infected tooth and, sometimes, you may have a pustule present on the gums. If this is the case, do not rupture the pustule – if it has ruptured already, rinse your mouth and call your dental clinic for an emergency appointment, being sure to describe your symptoms. You may find it helpful to put an icepack on the outside of the cheek for 10-15 minutes at a time, but never apply heat to an infection.
Infected Tongue Piercings and Allergic Attack
Body piercings and other body modifications are gaining in popularity, but infections that may occur in the tissues can be dangerous, given the high number of bacteria in the mouth. If you are experiencing swelling of the tongue that risks impairing your breathing, as a result of an allergic reaction or an infection, call 9-1-1.
If you suspect that you have an infection and have pain, drainage or redness around the piercing, it’s important to get to an emergency dental appointment. Your tongue is highly vascular (contains a lot of blood vessels), so the risk of spreading infection to the blood is a real concern.
If you have sustained a blow to the face and have broken, loose or knocked-out teeth, you should act calmly but briskly to prepare to see your dentist for an emergency appointment. In the case of knocked-out teeth, you should act quickly to get to a dentist within 30 minutes in order to have the best chance of saving your tooth. If, however, you have knocked out a tooth in a motor vehicle accident or other incident in which there is a probability of a head injury or the potential of a broken jaw, proceed to your nearest emergency room. It is your first priority to address all head injuries before addressing dental injuries. If required, your dentist can offer restorative treatments once your physical health is stabilized.
If you’ve lost a tooth or have broken one, stay calm and find the tooth or fragment and rinse it under a clear water source. Handle teeth by their enamel and never the root. Pieces of tissue clinging to the tooth should not be handled or removed – this is likely the ligament, an important component in re-establishing the tooth in the socket. Once the tooth is clean, rinse your mouth and reinsert it if you can. If the tooth slips easily back into the socket, close the jaw gently to hold it in place. If not, tuck the tooth deep in your cheek, bite softly on a rolled piece of clean gauze to manage bleeding and proceed to the dentist. Tooth fragments should also be collected, cleansed and stored in the cheek or cold milk. If you have questions about these or other services offered by our general dentist, contact our office today!