A third molar.

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What Constitutes a Dental Emergency?


We all know that when our mouth hurts it hurts badly and we want help.

But what really constitutes a dental emergency?  Reviewing many websites and calling to different dentist offices this is the consensus of what was said.  If it hurts or there is swelling, it’s an emergency. This is because even injuries that seem small or superficial can affect the living tissues inside the teeth. Quick treatment improves the odds of saving injured or damaged teeth.

If there is no pain but a steady amount of bleeding that will not stop, then that is an emergency.  If you are in very little pain but the structure of the tooth is damaged say you got hit in the mouth with a soccer ball, you should consider this an emergency.  If you go when the injury happens and not wait then the dentist might be able to prevent things from getting worse.

If you lose a crown or a filling this can generally wait until morning and is not considered an emergency.  However even if you do not have any symptoms the next day you should remember that the tooth has lost its support and will become weak.  More pieces could break off and thus you would end up needing more work than if you had gone in earlier.

Real dental emergencies that should be seen day or night or things such as having your teeth knocked out, broken teeth, or teeth forced out of the sockets.  If you have a lot of facial injury, cheeks and gums bleeding and cut then you should see a dentist right away.

Swellings inside the mouth have the potential to be dangerous and thus are considered dental emergencies. The other name for internal swellings in the mouth is intraorally and they can be caused by cysts, infections, cancer, injuries and salivary glands that get blocked.  Most of these swellings can wait a day or two unless there is bleeding, fever, or difficulty breathing or swallowing.  If those are present then it is a true emergency and you should call for help or go to your nearest emergency room.

If you’ve had a tooth recently knocked out, the first thing you should do is find that tooth.  If teeth are re-implanted within 30 minutes there is a good chance the tooth will be alright.  When you’ve found the tooth do not rub it to clean it.  Instead rinse the tooth gently with salt water, the persons own saliva, milk or water.  Once you have cleaned it, you should place it back in their mouth between the cheek and gums or if possible and for a higher implantation rate place it into the tooth socket and ask the person to gently hold it there.

If you think you have a dental emergency then you should not hesitate to call your dentist immediately.  He will be able to evaluate and guide you.  If he does not think you need to be seen right away he can offer advice and assist you in at least stopping the pain until you can be seen.  Since dental emergencies can happen at any time make sure you have your dentist’s number available so you are not scrambling for help when you are in a crisis situation.  Tooth pain can be harsh and excruciating so you will want the problem taken care of.  Do not think because you were up all night in pain that just because the pain is gone in the morning that it will not come back.  Be prepared.

Filed under: General Issues

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