Dental emergencies constitute over 2 million emergency department visits. Most result in discharges and instruction to patients to seek dental treatment. However, some result in hospitalization and more serious complications. Knowing what to do at the time of a dental emergency would save you money, and time that would otherwise be spent at a hospitals’ emergency department. Preparedness for dental emergencies that may occur to anyone would eliminate unnecessary hospital visits.

Below is a list of some of the more common dental emergencies

Broken tooth

This condition occurred because of blunt trauma to natural teeth. Broken teeth may become sensitive to pain and may result in bleeding from the fracture portion of the tooth or from the gingiva surrounding the tooth. In most cases of broken teeth, you must report to the nearest dentist as soon as possible.

What to do: Anti-inflammatory drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen help alleviate pain associated with broken teeth, avoid eating, too hot or too cold of food, and avoid chewing with the broken tooth as much as possible until emergency dental treatment is performed.

Avulsed tooth (knocked out)

As a result of trauma to teeth, especially to the front teeth, the entire body of the tooth may come off its socket, a condition known as avulsion. In these conditions, it is critical to keep the tooth alive so it can be replanted by a dental or medical professional.

What to do: Clean the avulsed tooth by rinsing it thoroughly with water, keep the tooth in a medium that supports a living tooth such as saliva, under the tongue, or in a glass of cold milk. Avulsed teeth can survive up to an hour outside of the mouth and it is critical they be replanted as soon as possible. Partially avulsed teeth must be replanted by a dental professional to prevent malposition. Taking anti-inflammatory drugs help reduce associated pain and sensitivity.

Lost filling or crown

The pain associated with lost filling or crown may have delayed onset, however the underlying condition that had resulted in loss of the filling or crown remains active and must be treated asap. The most common cause of lost filling or crown is recurrence (reformation) of dental caries around and under fillings and crowns. If left untreated, the caries can spread and cause more destruction and ultimately render the tooth unrepairable.

What to do: seek dental treatment as soon as possible. Avoid using unknown over the counter and so-called temporary filling material as most are from unreliable sources and not recognized by the American Dental Association as restorative material. Avoid eating and drinking cold and hot food and drinks, and avoid chewing on the affected area.

Dental Abscess

Dental infection of chronic nature leads to dental abscess and facial swelling. This is a serious condition that must be treated very urgently. If you notice toothache, along with facial swelling in the affected area, you must seek immediate and urgent dental and or medical treatment, Report to nearest Emergency department if you notice facial swelling and pain. Most cases of dental abscess and facial swelling are resolved by dental treatment, however in a few rare cases, hospitalization becomes necessary to treat the potentially life threatening large facial swellings.

What to do: At the onset of pain from teeth, jaw and face, report to nearest dentist and seek immediate dental treatment. If overnight, report to the nearest urgent care or emergency department of a hospital. Avoid self-medicating especially with antibiotics as every antibiotic available on the market is designed and targeted for a specific infection. Dental and maxillo-facial infections require specific antibiotic treatment depending on size, location and nature of the infection, and can only be diagnosed by a healthcare professional.

Bleeding and pain from extraction site or after oral surgery

At the onset of pain report the condition to the treating provider. All dental practices including Dental Atelier have an after hour emergency phone line. Slight bleeding is normal and expected, but monitor the amount of bleeding, and if it is excessive to the point that bleeding is visible, emergency medical treatment would become necessary.

What to do: If bleeding occurred after dental extraction or oral surgery such as dental implant placement, and bleeding does not seem to be stopping, immediately report this matter to the treating provider. If unable to reach your dentist or physician, report to the nearest emergency department as excessive bleeding can become a life threatening problem. Most emergency departments can help patients limit or stop bleeding from an extraction site or site of oral surgery.

What to do: Apply pressure over the site of oral surgery, using clean gauze or a clean napkin. Biting on a clean unused tea bag sometimes helps reduce bleeding. In most cases your dental provider would be able to predict the chance of bleeding and would provide patient specific instructions after the surgery. Follow these instructions exactly.