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What is a Dental Emergency? Recognize Signs & Act Fast

A close-up image of a dental mirror

A dental emergency is a critical issue that requires immediate medical attention from a qualified emergency dentist. Delay in seeking medical help might worsen the condition and invite severe pain and more dental issues. Neglecting your teeth can lead to infections, periodontal diseases and even loss of teeth.

For most people, visits to the dentist happen only twice per year for preventive services and dental cleanings, so when an unexpected dental emergency strikes, they are unsure how to react or what to do next. Proper diagnosis is essential because if an injury or infection worsens due to negligence, it could cause additional oral health issues.

Types of Dental Emergencies

Dental emergencies can be anything from a severe toothache caused by an overlooked cavity to facial injuries after an accident. Your dentist can diagnose the problem and offer emergency care as soon as possible, which could save you from additional suffering.

Some common dental emergencies that require an urgent dentist appointment include lost or broken fillings, chipped or cracked teeth, infected gums, and impacted wisdom teeth. Treatment may include deep cleanings, antibiotics, root canal treatment, crowns or bridge placement, or extraction of the affected tooth.

Some common examples of dental emergencies include:

  • Toothache: Severe pain or sensitivity in a tooth that can be a sign of an infection or abscess.
  • Knocked-out tooth: A tooth that has been completely dislodged from its socket due to injury.
  • Fractured or broken tooth: A crack or break in a tooth that can expose the inner pulp and cause pain.
  • Soft tissue injuries: Cuts or lacerations to the lips, tongue, or gums that bleed excessively.
  • Loose crowns or fillings: A filling or dental crown that has fallen out, causing pain or sensitivity.
  • Object stuck between teeth: An object, such as food or a piece of floss, that is stuck between teeth, causing pain or discomfort.
  • Facial Swelling: Localised swelling in the face or mouth can be a sign of an infection or a tooth abscess.
  • Orthodontic issues: Broken brackets or wires that can cause cuts or irritation in the mouth.

If you are unsure if your situation needs emergency dental treatment, err on the side of caution and contact our office. Our dentist will let you know if you need a same-day dental appointment to address the issue.

Dangers of Ignoring a Dental Emergency

Neglecting a dental emergency can lead to a number of serious consequences, including:

  • Dental pain: Ignoring a dental problem can result in excessive pain and discomfort, making it difficult to eat, sleep, and carry out daily activities.
  • Dental infection: If a tooth is cracked or broken, it can expose the inner pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels, to bacteria and other harmful substances. This can result in a severe bacterial infection that spreads to other parts of the body.
  • Tooth extraction: An infected tooth that goes untreated can become damaged beyond the point of repair and may need to be extracted.
  • Tooth loss: A dental emergency that is left untreated can lead to the loss of one or more teeth, which can cause a shift in the alignment of the remaining teeth, leading to bite and jaw problems.
  • Bone loss or gum loss: When a tooth is lost, the gum tissue and jawbone will eventually begin to shrink, leading to bone deterioration and gum loss.
  • Costly and extensive treatments: Neglecting a dental emergency can result in the need for more extensive and expensive treatments, such as bone grafting, dental implants, or gum surgery.

Common Treatments for Different Types of Dental Emergencies

The treatment for a dental emergency will depend on the specific types of dental emergencies and the extent of the damage. Some common treatments for dental emergencies include:

  • Toothache: A dentist may clean the affected tooth, remove any decay, and place a filling or crown. In cases of severe infection, a root canal may be necessary to remove the infected pulp and save the tooth.
  • Knocked-out tooth: If a tooth has been completely dislodged and can’t be saved, you will need
  • Fractured or broken tooth: A dentist may remove any broken pieces, clean the affected area, and place a filling or crown. In some cases, a root canal may be necessary to remove the damaged pulp.
  • Soft tissue injuries: A dentist may clean and suture any cuts or lacerations to the lips, tongue, or gums.
  • Loose crowns or fillings: A dentist may use temporary measures like a temporary filling or crown until a permanent one can be made.
  • Object stuck between teeth: A dentist may use special instruments to remove the object and relieve any discomfort.
  • Facial swelling: A dentist may prescribe antibiotics to treat any underlying infection, and may drain any abscesses that have formed.
  • Orthodontic issues: They can usually repair your orthodontic appliances in-office.

What To Do in a Dental Emergency

The first thing you should do when faced with a dental emergency is to contact our dental office as soon as possible and explain the situation. Until you can get an appointment, there are several ways you can manage the discomfort, such as using a cold compress to reduce inflammatory swelling or taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen if necessary.

Here are some tips for what to do if you have a dental injury:

  • If you have a knocked out tooth, rinse off the tooth root with warm water and either place it back in its socket or soak it in a cup of milk. Your dentist may be able to save the tooth and avoid the need for a dental restoration.
  • If you have a cracked or broken tooth or a broken orthodontic appliance, rinse your mouth with water and then cover any sharp edges with dental wax or sugarless gum to avoid cutting your mouth.
  • If you have facial swelling or a toothache that is causing intense pain, use a cold compress and take over-the-counter pain medication to reduce pain.

Contact Southeastern Dental Center for Emergency Dental Care

If you are in need of emergency services, contact Southeastern Dental Center for prompt and reliable dental services. Our team is dedicated to providing quality care for a variety of dental issues and can provide same-day appointments, allowing you to receive the prompt treatment you need.