What to Do in an Oral Health Emergency

With many of us planning Spring Break 2019 vacations, we’re addressing what to do in the event of an oral health emergency while traveling.

Your oral health should be one of your top priorities. But unlike a broken arm or intense stomach pain where you would seek out emergency care from a hospital or urgent care center, there isn’t an emergency care center for oral health needs. And hospitals typically don’t have dentists on call to treat these needs.

We understand that accidents happen and want to make sure our patients receive immediate care. If you find yourself away from your dentist and find that your emergency warrants the professional treatment, use our “Find a Dentist Near Me” search tool to find a doctor in our network that can see you immediately. Otherwise, if it can wait until you return, be sure to schedule an exam or make plans to walk in so our Tri-City Dental Care staff can see you and assess the problem.

There are some ways you can help reduce future complications while waiting to receive care from your dentist. We talked to Dr. Antonio Lopez and came up with the following list of emergencies and ways you can improve the outcome later on down the road:

1.Toothaches

For an overwhelming toothache, patients are advised to soothe the pain by applying a cold pack, rinsing the mouth with salt water to alleviate inflammation and kill bacteria, flossing around the area, or applying numbing gel. If these remedies fall short call an emergency dentist.

2. Knocked-Out Teeth

If this happens, remain calm and concentrate on the tooth. Pick up the tooth by the crown to avoid soiling the root with dirt, pathogens or bacteria, then push the tooth back into the socket and biting down to secure it in place. Call an emergency dentist immediately. If seen within the hour, they will be able to put the tooth back in its socket. 

Use only water to gently rinse off any dirt. Do not use soap or chemicals. Don’t scrub or dry the tooth, and don’t wrap the tooth in a tissue or cloth.

The tooth must stay moist at all times, either in your mouth or, if it can’t be replaced in the socket, put it in milk, in your mouth next to your cheek, or in an emergency tooth preservation kit (such as Save-a-Tooth®). Don’t use regular tap water; root surface cells can’t tolerate that for extended periods of time.

3. Cracked/Broken Teeth

Whether your tooth cracks from an injury or general wear and tear, you can experience a variety of symptoms ranging from erratic pain when you chew your food to sudden pain when your tooth is exposed to very hot or cold temperatures. In many cases, the pain may come and go and your dentist may have difficulty locating the tooth causing the discomfort. If you experience these symptoms or suspect a cracked tooth, it’s best to see a dentist as soon as possible.

4. Lost Filling or Crown

Fillings and crowns sometimes loosen and fall out. This is rarely an emergency, but it can be painful because the exposed tooth tissue is often sensitive to pressure, air or hot and cold temperatures. In some cases, a filling or crown may come loose because decay has developed underneath it. The decay can cause the tooth to change shape and as a result, the crown of filling no longer fits the tooth properly.

You may be eating, or biting on something hard when you discover that a filling or a crown has become loose or fallen out. You may feel the lost filling or crown in your mouth.

If it’s a crown, put it in a safe place and make an appointment to see Dr. Lopez as soon as you can. You don’t want to wait too long because the tooth will be weak and may be damaged more if it is not protected by the crown. Also, when a crown is missing for a long time, your teeth may move. If this happens your crown may no longer fit.

5. Dental Abscess

A dental abscess, or tooth abscess, is a buildup of pus that forms inside the teeth or gums. The abscess typically comes from a bacterial infection, often one that has accumulated in the soft pulp of the tooth.

Any person with symptoms linked to a dental abscess should see a dentist immediately. The abscess will be drained and the periodontal pocket will be cleaned. The surfaces of the root of the tooth will then be smoothed out by scaling and planing below the gum line. This helps the tooth heal and prevents further infections from occurring.

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