Dealing with a dental problem? A trusted dentist should always be the first person you call when issues arise in your mouth.
But what if you can’t get a regular appointment? Or it happens on a holiday, weekend, or late at night?
You may need an emergency dental appointment.
So how do you know if you’re experiencing a dental emergency? And where should you turn to for help?
Is it really a dental emergency?
It’s essential to understand the difference between a dental problem that can wait until business hours and a real dental emergency.
True dental emergencies are extremely time-sensitive. Getting immediate care can mean the difference between saving and losing a tooth!
In some cases, not taking a dental emergency seriously could put your health at risk.
How to know if it’s a dental emergency
Any situation that requires immediate care to stop bleeding, alleviate severe pain, or save a tooth is considered an emergency.
Still not sure?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you lost a tooth?
- Do you have an infection, such as an abscess or swelling?
- Are you bleeding from the mouth?
- Do you have loose adult teeth?
- Are you in severe pain?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, it’s time to seek an emergency dental appointment.
These situations may NOT be a dental emergency
Sometimes even problems that seem critical can wait a day or so until you see the dentist.
Here are a few examples:
- A toothache with mild to moderate pain, where no swelling or abscess is present.
- A small chip or crack in a tooth that doesn’t hurt or leave a sharp fragment in your mouth.
- A lost crown or filling (unless you are in pain).
In these cases, an emergency dental appointment may not be necessary.
If possible, call your dentist ahead of time to seek their advice on the urgency of treatment.
Should I go to the emergency room?
With most dental emergencies, a trip to the emergency room should be your last resort.
According to the American Dental Association…Opens in a new window to ADA article about emergency room dental treatment, emergency rooms throughout the country have seen a dramatic increase in the number of patients seeking treatment for dental pain.
However, most of these cases weren’t urgent, and most hospitals are ill-equipped to provide comprehensive dental care.
In many cases, patients receive antibiotics or pain medication, but the underlying dental issue is not resolved.
While this “band-aid” approach may provide temporary relief, you’ll likely end up back at the hospital with the same issue (and it may be worse than before!).
The best person to turn to – your dentist!
Again, the best place to go when you’re experiencing a dental emergency is your dentist.
They have specialized training, equipment, and staff well prepared to address dental issues.
In addition to immediate pain relief, dental practices are much more likely to get you the appropriate long-term treatment.
If you’re experiencing a dental emergency based on the questions above, call your dentist immediately.
If it’s outside business hours and you can’t get a hold of your dentist, the next best place to go is an emergency dental clinic.
If neither of those choices is available, the emergency room may be your only option.
Common dental emergencies
Here’s what you need to know in these common dental emergency scenarios to care for your injury until you get to the dentist.
Cracked or chipped tooth
Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the crack. Use a cold compress on the outside of your check to reduce any swelling.
If the pain is severe, take an anti-inflammatory painkiller, such as Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin IB). Ibuprofen can also help reduce swelling.
A knocked-out tooth is a very time-sensitive situation.
If you take quick action and can get to a dentist within the hour, your dentist may be able to reinsert the tooth and save it.
Pick up the tooth by the crown (the hard white part visible from your gum line), being careful NOT to touch the root.
Gently rinse with water (don’t scrub it). If possible, insert the tooth back into the socket and hold it in place.
If you can’t get the tooth back into place, place it in a small container of milk.
Don’t delay – get to the dentist immediately!
An abscessed tooth is a swollen pocket of pus that can form around a tooth as a result of a bacterial infection.
A dental abscess usually causes moderate to severe pain that can often radiate to other parts of your head and neck.
It may also cause fever, tooth sensitivity, a persistent toothache, swollen lymph nodes in your neck, and facial swelling.
Untreated abscesses allow the infection to spread to other areas of your body, quickly turning into a serious, sometimes life-threatening condition.
You shouldn’t take abscesses lightly. While you’re on your way to the dentist or emergency room, rinse your mouth with mild saltwater.
Take Ibuprofen to alleviate pain.
How to avoid a dental emergency
The best way to avoid a dental emergency is to keep your smile healthy and strong.
Stay proactive in your oral hygiene routine and visit your dentist for routine checkups every six months at a minimum.
During your checkup appointments, your dentist can look for signs of decay, infection, gum disease, or loose fillings and crowns.
Preventative treatment can stop small issues from turning into urgent, big emergencies down the road.
With great care and a bit of luck, you may never need an emergency dental appointment!
Dental emergencies happen to the best of us
Even with diligent care, sometimes dental emergencies happen.
That’s why it’s a great idea to have a great emergency dentist on hand, and educate yourself on potential issues so you can take swift action.
At Artistic Smiles, we can often get you in for a same-day emergency dental appointment. This might even include more involved procedures, such as dental implants, if necessary.
If you’re experiencing any dental issues, give our office a call. Even better, save our number in your phone so you’ll be ready for anything.
For less urgent matters, contact us by one of these other convenient means:
We proudly serve Longmont, CO, and surrounding areas, including Niwot, Boulder, Lyons, Firestone, Frederick, Loveland, Fort Collins, Denver, Littleton, Superior, Broomfield, and Erie.