Benefits of Having an Emergency Dentist
An emergency dentist can give you vital short-term relief from acute pain in the event of a dental crisis such as an oral infection or injury.
A further major benefit of having an emergency dentist in place is that prompt professional treatment can avoid the risk of irreversible damage – maximizing your chances of a full recovery with the comprehensive, longer-term treatment you’re likely to need later.
Having an emergency dentist can take a lot of the stress out of a dental crisis. You’ll know exactly where to go rather than having to frantically search around for an emergency dental service at the last minute.
The American Dental Association (ADA) says the best professional to deal with a dental emergency is your regular dentist, so it’s advisable to check whether your current dental practice can take care of you in an urgent situation.
You can help to safeguard yourself against a dental emergency by making sure your teeth and gums stay in good condition. This entails maintaining a regular routine of brushing and flossing and getting a dental check-up and professional teeth cleaning every six months.
However, you can never guarantee you won’t have a dental crisis. Accidents happen and other unforeseen circumstances may leave you in need of urgent dental care.
What Is a Dental Emergency?
A genuine dental emergency results from situations that require immediate treatment to:
- Alleviate severe pain.
- Staunch heavy bleeding.
- Save a tooth.
- Halt the progress of a severe infection such as a dental abscess.
In the case of pain and bleeding from a knocked-out tooth, fast treatment will give you the best chance of successful reinsertion of the tooth. A loose tooth, even pain-free, can also be a serious issue in adults.
Facial swelling or a lump on your gums combined with a high temperature can be a sign of an abscess or other serious infection in your mouth that could be potentially life-threatening.
Dangers of a Dental Abscess
A dental abscess – an infection in the gums or a tooth – can be highly dangerous without prompt treatment, and the pain it causes can be debilitating to the extent of making daily activities impossible.
Serious issues that can result from a dental abscess include:
- Septicemia. Blood poisoning from a dental abscess occurs when infection circulates throughout the body. This is a life-threatening condition that often requires long-term hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics.
- Infection of surrounding bone. If infection spreads to facial bones – particularly in the lower jaw (mandible) or upper jaw (maxilla) – surgical removal of the diseased bone may be necessary.
- Infection of sinuses and soft tissue. An abscess in one of your upper teeth can lead to a painful sinus infection. Soft tissues of the mouth and surrounding areas are also prone to the spread of infection.
- Tooth loss. If left untreated, an abscessed tooth will require extraction.
Symptoms of a dental abscess include:
- Severe toothache.
- Pain in the ear, neck or jaw.
- Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.
- Pain when eating.
- Swelling of the face.
What Does an Emergency Dentist Do?
Emergency dentists provide initial treatment in urgent cases involving:
- Severe infection.
- Oral injury.
- Acute pain.
Emergency dental care often entails:
- Dressing or extracting a damaged tooth.
- Prescribing painkillers and antibiotics.
- Referral to a specialist healthcare service.
An emergency dentist may also be able to advise you on measures you can take yourself to ease discomfort ahead of your emergency visit. Whatever your dental emergency, you’ll most likely need follow-up appointments.
What Should I Do in a Dental Emergency?
Depending on the nature of your dental emergency, there may be certain steps you can take to help yourself while waiting to see the dentist.
It’s important to try to keep calm. Bear in mind that although you may be in pain, most dental emergencies don’t pose a serious health risk, and prompt professional treatment will avoid long-term damage.
Measures you can take to lessen discomfort and ease the stress of a dental emergency include:
- Knocked-out tooth. Keep the tooth in a cup of milk or lightly-salted water and take it with you to your emergency dentist. The best chance of a successful reinsertion of the tooth is within one hour. Meanwhile, hold an icepack to your face and take over-the-counter pain medication.
- Facial swelling. Severe swelling of your face can indicate a serious infection in your mouth. Drink plenty of water and avoid lying down ahead of your emergency treatment.
- Tongue injury. Your tongue can sometimes bleed profusely if you accidentally bite it. Apply gauze to the area and put pressure on it.
If you’ve injured your neck or head as well as sustaining dental trauma, ER should be your first port of call.
What Isn’t a Dental Emergency?
It’s not always clear to patients whether they’re having a real dental emergency. Issues that may seem to warrant urgent treatment can sometimes wait a day or two, provided you know how you take care of yourself in the meantime.
For example, a chipped tooth that doesn’t hurt isn’t considered an urgent situation, but a cracked tooth is an emergency if it’s very painful or has resulted in sharp fragments that could damage your mouth.
Mild toothache can usually wait for treatment as long as you don’t have symptoms of an abscess. Losing a crown or filling isn’t a dental emergency, either.
Making a Dental Emergency Less of an Ordeal
Genuine dental crises are rare but failing to get prompt treatment in a dental emergency increases the risk of permanent damage.
Having an emergency dentist is essential for your peace of mind. It means you won’t have to waste time searching for an emergency dental service or asking other people for recommendations while your condition gets worse.
If your regular dentist doesn’t provide an emergency service, ask them to recommend one that does.
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