It’s important to know when a dental issue warrants immediate treatment so that urgent matters are addressed in a timely matter, and when unnecessary visits to the emergency room can be avoided. Accidents can happen at all times of the day or night. Some oral injuries may need immediate treatment, while others can wait until our normal business hours.
When are we really dealing with true dental emergency? When is it worth making time to visit us and inconvenience your likely very busy schedule?
Here are some examples of some emergencies we consider urgent:
- Swelling of the gums or face
- An unbearable toothache
- A loose tooth that can been knocked out (partially/entirely) of place by a fall or accident
- Broken tooth after a fall/accident
- Jaw injury
With any of the above, or any situation you worry requires immediate attentions, please contact us so we can assist you. If we are not available, we advise our patients to go to the ER or call 9-1-1 for immediate attention. Any dental emergency, like an injury to the teeth or gums, can be potentially serious and should not be ignored. Ignoring a dental problem can increase the risk of permanent damage as well as the need for more extensive and expensive treatment down the road.
Common Dental Emergencies
Some common types of mouth injuries include cracked, broken, or knocked out teeth, which can be a result of biting on a piece of food that is too hard, a sports-related injury, a fall, or any other type of accident.
Knock out a tooth?
A blow to the face can cause a tooth to be knocked out, which is definitely considered a dental emergency. It is important that you contact our office as soon as possible, as there is a much higher chance of the tooth being saved if it is treated within an hour of being knocked out.
- Avoid touching the root of the tooth when handling it.
- Rinse it in milk if the tooth is dirty, but plug the sink first to prevent it from disappearing down the drain.
- Don't scrub the tooth or remove any pieces of tissue.
- Gently replace the tooth in its socket, or if that isn't possible, put it in a clean container of milk, saltwater or saliva.
- Don't wrap the tooth in a napkin or allow it to dry because this reduces the chance that it will reattach.
- To control the bleeding, place a piece of sterile gauze over the socket and ask your child to bite down on it or hold it in place.
BABY TEETH: When it comes to children, losing baby teeth is a normal part of growing up, but losing them too early through accident or injury can cause problems. Baby teeth forced into the gum can damage the permanent teeth beneath them. Additionally, losing a tooth before it's ready to come out can lead to other teeth crowding into the vacant spot. The teeth might not leave enough room for the permanent tooth to emerge, which can cause crooked teeth and eating problems. We can prevent this from happening by inserting a space maintainer. This will hold the space until it's the right time for the permanent tooth to emerge.
ADULT TEETH: Knocked out permanent teeth are a different story and the outcome is variable. Sometimes, the tooth will reattach. We can increase the our chance of success is if the tooth is held in place for several weeks with a splint. . Over time, the ligaments that join the tooth to the bone can regrow.
The nerve tissue can also be affected by trauma and result in damage. Depending on the severity, a root canal may be warranted.
Despite these attempts, there is always a chance of failure, especially with severe trauma. There is no definitive time frame and no way of assuring success. The involved tooth/teeth may eventually require extraction and replacement. Follow up appointments are a necessity so we can check whether the tooth has reattached and if it's safe to remove the splint. Regular check-ups will help us keep track of any changes in the long term.
A tooth moved out of place?
Another emergency that warrants immediate treatment! If you have a tooth that moves out of position, contact our office as soon as possible. On your way to our office, try to reposition the tooth to its original position, but do not force it. Our main goal is to stabilize your tooth and increase its possibility of being healing in the proper position.
Like a tooth that has been knocked out, the consequences can be the same….root canal or extraction. Splinting is our recourse in this case as well.
Got a severe toothache and/or swelling?
Severe tooth pain may require immediate care, so we recommend that you contact us as soon as possible. If you notice any swelling may be caused by an infection, that may lead to serious complications.
We typically recommend taking 800mg of Ibuprofen every 8 hours with food to help mediate any discomfort. This can also be taken with 500 mg of Tylenol. The tylenol can be taken along side with Ibuprofen (every 8hrs) for ease of dose or it can be staggered every 6hrs. Depending on the symptoms, we can call in antibiotics to your pharmacy.
Issues that may not require immediate attention:
Cracks can be a tricky thing- they vary in size, level of symptoms, and the need for treatment. Typically symptoms ie PAIN is an indicator of urgency when it comes to fractures. But of course, regular scheduled visits are imperative to assure fractures or any issues do not get worse.
Chipped tooth or teeth
View the video below to understand the varying severities of tooth fractures:
if the crack is severe and there is a large piece of the tooth missing, you should seek immediate medical attention.
A tooth that has been chipped (while less than ideal), if not an esthetic issue, small in size, and asymptomatic, may not require an emergency visit. In the meantime, leading up to your appointment be sure to avoid chewing on anything that is hard or sticky.
Lost crowns or fillings
If you lose a crown or a filling, don’t panic; this is not considered a dental emergency. Contact our office as soon as you can and schedule an appointment for treatment. In the meantime, there are over-the-counter temporary solutions to minimize any issues . There are temporary cements and filling material that fill the space of a missing filling. In the interim, please avoid chewing on the affected side.
For issues that require the attention of a surgeon or endodontist, we have a lot of trusted colleagues in New York that we refer business to - check out our recommendations page!
We always want our patients to reach out to us as soon as possible so we may come to a resolution as fast as possible. Do not hesitate!