Knocking out a tooth in an accident, cracking a molar on some hard food, or experiencing a sudden, unexplained toothache can lead to a dental emergency, which requires quick, professional diagnosis and treatment. Keep reading to learn more about emergency dental care and what you need to do if you experience dental trauma.
What is a Dental Emergency?
A dental emergency is an oral health condition that requires timely attention from your dentist. In some cases, the nature of the emergency is obvious, such as a tooth that has been knocked out or severely cracked. In other situations, you may have pain or bleeding but may be unsure of Its primary cause. As with any medical emergency, it is important to get professional advice and treatment right away. Ignoring bleeding, severe pain, or a loosened or broken tooth can create complications that will require more extensive and expensive treatment later on.
How Do I Know If I’m Having A Dental Emergency?
In general, you don’t require emergency dental care unless you need immediate care. Broken crowns, lost fillings, a mild toothache, or a lost or broken dental appliance (such as a mouthguard or retainer) can be aggravating, but are not cause for an immediate dental visit. While these dental issues will require care, you can wait to schedule a regular appointment with your dentist.
Symptoms of a Dental Emergency
Emergencies typically involve severe pain, uncontrolled bleeding, or a tooth that has been knocked out, severely loosened, broken, or cracked. In the event of a dental emergency, it is important to seek professional care without delay to improve your chances of saving your tooth. The following seven symptoms are indications of a dental emergency:
- Loose tooth or sudden tooth loss
- Severe or persistent toothache
- Bleeding and swollen gums
- Swollen jaw
- Dental abscess
- Tooth numbness
- Metallic taste in mouth
Can You Go to the Emergency Room for Tooth Pain?
In general, you should only go to the Emergency Room if you believe that you have a life-threatening oral condition. Examples of life-threatening oral conditions include breaking your jaw in an accident, having trouble breathing or swallowing, or severe pain that can not be controlled. While tooth pain is very uncomfortable, it is rarely dangerous or life-threatening. For mild to moderate tooth pain, simply visit your dentist and have them examine your problem area.
What Do I Do if I Believe I Need Emergency Dental Care?
It can be confusing to decide on where to go for a dental emergency. When possible, call your dentist first. If your emergency happens outside of regular business hours, such as Saturdays, after hours, or during holidays, check the office’s website or any paperwork from a previous visit to see if an emergency number is listed. If you can’t find one, call the office anyway. You may be able to speak to an answering service and have your dentist call you back. Otherwise, the office voicemail may give you instructions for seeking emergency care. If you are unable to find emergency dental care in your area, you may need to seek care from your local emergency room.
5 Common Types of Dental Emergencies
Dental emergencies require immediate dental care to save your tooth or relieve your pain. Here are some examples of dental emergencies that require an emergency trip to your dentist.
- Severe toothache
- Chips or cracks
- Loose or knocked out teeth
- Soft tissue injury
- Missing or loose dental restoration
What If I Have a Dental Emergency When Out Of Town?
If you are out of town, you may need to get a referral to a local dentist. If you have a dental plan or participate in a dental discount program, call the customer service number to see if they can recommend an in-network dentist in your area. If you can’t reach your dentist and have lost a tooth, are in danger of losing a tooth, have uncontrolled bleeding, or are in serious, unbearable pain, please go to the emergency room. If you do go to the emergency room, be sure to notify your dentist about what happened as soon as possible. Your dentist will be able to provide follow-up care.
If you have a child with a timely issue, it’s generally best to seek out a children’s emergency dentist. If one isn’t available, contact another dentist or, if all else fails, visit the ER.
What Should I Do While Waiting for a Callback or Care?
Waiting for a call from a doctor or dentist can be frustrating and nerve-wracking. While you wait for emergency care or word back from your dentist, it is important to stay calm. There are a few things you can do to help keep calm, protect your tooth, and to stay comfortable:
- If your tooth has been severely loosened or knocked out, do what you can to keep it in its socket. Try putting some moistened gauze over it to help hold it in place, but be sure to take care that you don’t swallow it. Remember to avoid touching the root of the tooth as to not introduce any new bacteria.
- Rinse your mouth with warm salt water to alleviate pain and help keep you comfortable while you wait. You can also use a cold compress on your cheek near the tooth to help reduce pain and swelling.
- If your tooth or pieces of it have been dislodged or lost, gather up pieces.
- If your tooth is completely knocked out, put the tooth back in the socket of the mouth if possible.
If you do get in touch with your dentist and have to wait for your emergency appointment, ask him or her what you can do to take care of yourself. In some cases, your dentist may instruct you to take an over-the-counter pain reliever or even prescribe a painkiller that can help you manage your discomfort until you can receive treatment. You should also familiarize yourself with the ADA’s best practices for addressing common dental emergencies.
Can I Receive Emergency Dental Care Without Insurance?
2 in 5 Americans do not have dental insurance. If you happen to have a dental emergency and do not have insurance, there are several paths you can take to get the care you need:
- Make sure that you are not covered by a spouse’s or parent’s policy.
- Ask about payment plans or dental plans, which provide financing options and savings on dental care.
- Look for low-cost dental care options, including dental schools, government dental clinics, and charity dental clinics, that provide dental treatment to those in need.
The Gentle Dental Approach to Emergency Dentistry
At Gentle Dental, we understand that dental emergencies can be uncomfortable and upsetting. If you are a patient of record, you can call our office at any time, and we will endeavor to get you in for an appointment within 24 hours. You may also be able to speak with one of our dentists over the phone so that you can explain your symptoms, get your questions answered, and learn what next steps you need to take.
Having a relationship with a dentist can simplify things if you need emergency care. If you don’t have a dentist, make an appointment for a cleaning and checkup at one of our neighborhood dental offices. This gives you a chance to get to know our dental professionals and become a patient of record so that we can better assist you if you have an urgent need for care. We offer weekend and evening appointments for your convenience, and accept most insurance plans, major credit cards, and also provide financing options.