What constitutes a dental emergency?

Dental emergencies can happen any time of the day or night. As stressful at these things are, it’s helpful to know that some oral injuries need immediate treatment and others can wait until our normal business hours.

Here is a list of dental emergencies that need to be addressed as soon as possible:

  • severe toothaches, facial pain combined with a high fever
  • signs of infection that may indicate an abscess or infection
  • facial trauma  
  • damaged or lost teeth  
  • fractured facial bones
  • fractured jaw
  • a very bad cavity or a rotten tooth
  • severe bleeding from the mouth

Non-dental emergencies that can wait for a dentist appointment during normal business hours:

  • a chipped tooth
  • sensitive teeth 
  • a discolored tooth 
  • a cracked filling or loss of a filling
  • a minor cavity 

Your initial treatment after a dental emergency is likely to be the first of many appointments that will address the immediate concern. Dental emergencies that involve an oral surgeon or periodontists are likely to require follow-up treatment. Patients who have suffered tooth loss may want a consultation to explore dental implant options. Any work done following a dental emergency will vary depending on the complexity and severity of the situation. Some issues may be addressed with a simple restoration but fractured jaws and certain types of tooth loss may require oral surgery.

If you experience a dental emergency during normal office hours, call our dentist office immediately to be examined as soon as possible. If an emergency occurs after business hours, contact our emergency number or head to the emergency room if you are experiencing severe pain, fever or continued bleeding.

Things to help while you wait:

  • ice packs: use ice packs to help ease the pain and swelling of facial trauma, a fractured jaw, and even a fever. 
  • gauze: in the case of major bleeding from the mouth, apply gauze to the affected area to prevent the swallowing of blood. 
  • acetaminophen or ibuprofen: this will help dull the tooth pain so you can function and get some rest.
  • salt water solution: this is the most recommended and effective way of soothing a toothache. Use a 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of salt in 8 ounces of very warm water then swish around in your mouth. This salt water solution helps the tissues of the affected area, keep the mouth clean and reduces pressure on the nerve endings.
  • numbing gel: this is to be used sparingly and only for a toothache because this gel can numb the mouth too much if overused. It’s important not to swallow it or allow the tongue to become numb.  

It’s important to have our dentist office’s contact information with you at all times and seek treatment as soon as possible when problems arise.  Even if you know the office is closed, call anyway. Use the emergency number or follow the instructions on the answering machine. If none of these options work, head to the nearest emergency room. Make sure you set up an appointment early the next day to seek treatment.