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Preparing for Dental Emergencies

Jul 8 • 4 minute read

Dental emergencies can come up out of nowhere, causing pain, damage, and financial headaches. The best way to prepare for a dental emergency is to plan ahead so that if something happens, you can act immediately. Having a plan will reduce stress and could mean the difference between saving or losing a tooth. Here are some most common dental emergencies, as well as tips for how to handle them.

Common Dental Emergencies

Knocked-Out Tooth: Various types of trauma can cause you to lose a tooth when you least expect it. If an accident knocks one of your teeth loose, find the tooth, rinse it under lukewarm water, and gently set it back in the socket and hold it in place with gauze. Hold the tooth by the crown, so as not to damage the root nerves and soft tissue. If you can’t put it back in your mouth, keep it in a cup of milk until you can get to your dentist. The sooner you get treated, the better the chances of saving the tooth.

Cracked, Chipped, or Fractured Tooth: If you discover that your tooth is cracked, chipped, or fractured, see your dentist as soon as possible. Rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater can help wash out bacteria and reduce the risk of infection. Use a cold compress on your cheek or jaw to limit swelling and slow any bleeding.

You can take acetaminophen for pain, and if your tooth is jagged or sharp, you can temporarily cover it with a piece of dental wax. The good news is that there are many techniques for repairing your tooth, including bonding, caps or crowns, and veneers.

Loose Crown: Crowns are durable solutions to many dental problems, but they don’t last forever. If you lose or break your crown, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as you can. If you can, clean the inside of the crown thoroughly with warm water (not with soap). If possible, get some dental adhesive from the local pharmacy and apply it to the inside of the crown and place it back on your tooth. Leave it in place until you can see the dentist.

Painful Tooth Decay: For many, chronic toothaches and temperature sensitivity are signs of tooth decay. This can develop into a dental emergency, especially if ignored for an extended period. Without treatment, bacteria can spread into your tooth’s inner tissue or throughout the gums. The procedures to restore teeth after decay can be extensive, extending to root canal therapy and sometimes tooth extraction.

Gum Abscess: A gum abscess is caused by infection between the teeth and the gums. If you are experiencing gum pain, inflammation, or tenderness, call your dentist immediately. Treatment involves draining the abscess, a deep cleaning, and often antibiotics to treat the infection.

Severe Tooth or Jaw Pain: Multiple factors can cause jaw pain, from infection to teeth grinding. Some sinus infections can present tooth pain even if there is nothing actually wrong with your teeth. If you are experiencing severe tooth pain, especially pain accompanied by swelling or bleeding, call the dental office and describe your symptoms.

To deal with the pain until your appointment, use an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as aspirin or ibuprofen. You may briefly apply a cold compress to the cheek area; do not apply ice directly to your teeth or gums.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

One of the best ways to prepare for a dental emergency is to take preventive measures before an emergency occurs. Visit your dentist every six months so that you and your dentist are ready for any emergency.

A dental appliance can also help protect against the need for emergency care. Here are two conventional oral devices and their uses.

  • A night guard is used to protect teeth from night grinding. It provides a barrier between your top and bottom teeth and keeps them from being worn down.
  • Mouthguards that are specially designed for athletes can reduce the risk of sports-related dental injuries. The American Dental Association recommends a professionally made custom mouthguard for all contact and collision sports.

Always Seek Professional Treatment

If you have a dental emergency, take care of it right away. A fast response can make the difference between a simple repair or a more complicated treatment. Before you get to your appointment, here are some things you can do to improve the success of your treatment.

  • Document your symptoms
  • Preserve your teeth or any lost dental work
  • Address pain the right way
  • Disclose all medication

Dental emergencies can happen at any time, and when they do, trying to figure out the best course of action at the moment can feel overwhelming. Hopefully, these tips will help, and if you have any additional steps for handling a dental emergency, please share!

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