Dental emergencies occur all the time, perhaps you chip or break a tooth, or lose a tooth completely due to a bad fall or sports injury. But, how does a person know what an actual dental emergency is, and what is a mishap that can wait until a regularly scheduled dentist appointment? Read further as we explain what is considered a dental emergency.
Dental Emergencies Explained
A dental emergency is potentially life threatening, which means you should seek treatment immediately. If you lost a tooth and your mouth is bleeding and the bleeding is hard to stop, you need to see a professional as soon as possible. If you have developed cellulitis or a soft tissue bacterial infection and are suffering from intraoral or extraoral swelling that is considered life threatening because it could affect your airway. Trauma involving your facial bones could also compromise your airway. But, when considering what a dental emergency is, the most common one dentists see are abscesses. In fact, an abscessed tooth develops when a pocket of pus inside the tooth causes an infection. The infection is very serious and should be considered life threatening. Symptoms include high fever, tooth sensitivity to cold or hot, a consistent headache, swollen face, lymph nodes in your neck that are tender to the touch, and bumps on the gums by the abscessed tooth. A dental abscess is considered a dental emergency because the infection in your mouth could spread to your jaw, and other surrounding areas. If you have time before going to see your dentist, you can try to rinse with salt water. This draws the pus to the surface and can help manage your pain.
Missing, Loose, or Chipped Teeth
What does that mean for a missing, loose or chipped tooth? Are these ailments considered a dental emergency? If a tooth comes completely loose or has been knocked out, it is not considered a dental emergency unless there is uncontrollable bleeding. To try to save the tooth, handle it only by the crown (top) part, and avoid touching the root. Gently rinse the tooth with water, but do not scrub it. Place the tooth in saline solution or milk until you can see your dentist. Even though it may not be an emergency, you will still want to receive dental assistance promptly, the sooner you do, the better chance the dentist will have to save the tooth.
A cracked or chipped tooth is also not considered a dental emergency, especially if there is no pain involved. There are times when a fractured tooth causes damage to the inside or outside of the mouth. Or times when a broken tooth is so damaged it can’t be saved. If you are suffering from a fracture that is causing pain, you will need to call your dentist right away. It could be a sign that something more serious is happening. While waiting for your appointment, rinse your mouth with warm water. Apply a cold compress to your face to reduce swelling, and manage pain with an over the counter pain reliever. Avoid numbing gels to manage the pain, they could damage your gums.