What To Do in a Dental Emergency

Life doesn’t stop after your dentist closes, and sometimes dental emergencies happen. Whether you’re in unbearable mouth pain or knocked out a front tooth, some concerns just can’t wait — so, what do you do? It’s important to consider the symptoms you’re experiencing and understand what’s considered a dental emergency to determine the best course of action.

What is a Dental Emergency?

Generally, a dental emergency is considered to be any mouth or tooth concern in which the damage and pain are so severe that they need to be treated immediately. Dental emergencies can often become increasingly serious and painful the longer they go without treatment. Emergency care for serious dental conditions typically involve dental fillings, extractions, re-implantation, antibiotics, and more — depending on the concern.

How to Know if You Have a Dental Emergency

Dental emergencies can look different depending on the issue you’re experiencing, but emergency dental care is typically required for the following conditions:

  • Severe toothaches
  • A lost filling or crown
  • A cracked or fractured tooth
  • A chipped or broken tooth
  • A lost or knocked-out tooth
  • Abscesses or swelling inside/around your mouth and jaw
  • Discharge inside or around your mouth
  • Severe damage to your tongue, cheeks, lips, or gums
  • A loose adult tooth

Concerns like minor tooth or jaw aches, partially chipped teeth, and minimal tongue, cheek, lip, or gum damage can likely wait to be treated until your dentist’s typical business hours resume.

How to Handle a Dental Emergency

In the event of a dental emergency, avoid visiting the emergency room if possible. Hospitals typically do not have the equipment to treat tooth injuries and are often already overwhelmed with patients. Many dentists have an emergency phone number to call for urgent help, as well as on-call staff who can treat your concerns outside of business hours.

For those without dental insurance, finances can be a major deterrent in getting treatment for dental emergencies. Seek out a dentist who offers a variety of payment plans, so you can choose a financial arrangement that works for your budget. Avoiding care will only rack up treatment prices in the long run, and problems can worsen if not treated immediately.

In the time before you receive professional treatment, there are a few actions you can take at home. For cracked and broken teeth or a soft tissue injury, rinse the area gently with warm water and apply a cold compress to help with swelling or bleeding. In the case of a knocked out tooth, avoid touching the root. You’ll want to keep the tooth moist so it stays “alive” — the best ways to do this are by trying to put the tooth back in its socket, placing it in between your cheek and gum, or soaking it in a container of milk.

How to Prevent Dental Emergencies in the Future

While accidents happen, some dental emergencies can be prevented. Being cautious when possible and treating your teeth with care are the best ways to limit incidents that require immediate attention. If you participate in sports, wear a mouthguard when playing to avoid knocking out or damaging your teeth. To protect your teeth from chipping or breaking, do not use them to open items, rip off clothing tags, or chew on popcorn kernels and ice.

Dental emergencies can be scary, but what’s important is knowing when you’re experiencing an emergency and to get it treated immediately. Your dentist is here to help you, so don’t be afraid to reach out and get an appointment scheduled. You won’t regret getting a concern treated sooner rather than later! If in doubt, it is better to get your dental emergency checked out rather than let it be.

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