A dental emergency typically happens when you least expect it. A salted nut bar cracks your tooth. The park swing knocks out your child’s tooth. You wake one day with a swollen face and excruciating pain. When these things happen, how do you know if you have a dental emergency and what do you do?
Here’s a guide for the most common dental emergencies.
Common Dental Emergencies and Plans of Action
A Cracked, Chipped, or Broken Tooth
Often a tooth will chip, crack, or break and be painless, but sensitive to heat and cold. If you don’t have major pain, see your dentist in the next couple of days. However, if the tooth has a jagged edge that could injure your tongue or mouth, call an emergency dentist. You may take over-the-counter pain relievers, just don’t use gum numbing ointment.
A Tooth Knocked Out
If a tooth gets knocked out and you can find it, try to put it back in the socket. Your dentist may be able to reinsert it instead of using an implant. If you can’t put the tooth back in, rinse the root but don’t touch it. Keep it moist while you get to an emergency dentist. You can put it in your cheek or in a small container of milk while heading to the dentist. The same goes for a crowned tooth. You need to see an emergency dentist within the hour to save it.
Bleeding in the Mouth
Bleeding in the mouth can be caused by trauma, gum disease, or recent dental work. If you’ve been in an accident and you’re bleeding, head to the emergency room and call your dentist on the way — see if they can meet you at the ER. You may have a fractured jaw or laceration.
Bleeding that won’t stop after you have a tooth removed is an emergency. Call the emergency number your dentist provided. Keep your head elevated. If for some reason you can’t reach your dentist, call an emergency dentist.
Minor bleeding in the mouth is usually not an emergency, but a sign of gum disease, gingivitis, or a small cut. Blood in your saliva is a major concern, however, and warrants a call to the ER or emergency dentist.
A Tooth or Gum Abscess
An abscess is one of the most dangerous dental emergencies because it can cause a blood infection. You will probably need antibiotics to prevent infection. A gum abscess looks like a white, yellow, red or clear pimple on the gum. Don’t pop it! You may brush and floss as normal but make an immediate appointment to see your dentist.
An abscess inside the tooth is big trouble. You can’t necessarily see it, but you will have pain and sensitivity to hot and cold. You may have headaches, a fever, sore lymph nodes or swelling in your face. See a dentist as soon as possible. If your face is swollen, consider it an emergency. Over the counter anti-inflammatory medicine, salt-water rinse, and ice packs on your jaw and face will help the pain and swelling.