Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves, “today’s the day my tooth will crack.” But dental emergencies can and do happen. Knowing what counts as an emergency and what you can do if one occurs can help you protect your smile and make sure you get the treatment you need ASAP.
What Qualifies as a Dental Emergency?
Usually, what sets a dental emergency apart from non-emergency situations is how quickly you need treatment to save the tooth or alleviate your discomfort. In the case of a toothache, if the pain isn’t so bad that you can’t go about your normal activities, it’s probably not an emergency situation. You should still call your dentist to get the tooth looked at, but you probably don’t need to be seen that same day.
On the other hand, if your tooth is causing you so much pain that it hurts when you close your mouth or it hurts no matter what you do, then you might have an abscess or infection in the tooth and need emergency treatment. Draining the infection right away is crucial for treating the abscess and helping you heal.
Any type of damage to the tooth usually qualifies as an emergency situation. If your tooth breaks or chips, you’ll probably want to have it seen and treated ASAP. The same is true if your tooth is knocked out or falls out. In the case of a knocked out tooth, the sooner you are able to get to the dentist, the greater the chance that they will be able to save your tooth.
Another type of dental emergency affects the tissue inside your mouth, but not the necessarily the teeth. For example, if your tongue, inner cheeks, or gums get cut or injured, it can be considered an emergency and require treatment ASAP.
Questions You Can Ask Yourself to ID an Emergency
If you’re still not sure whether you’ve got an emergency situation on your hands or not, there are a few questions you can ask yourself. One question is “am I in severe pain?” If you can describe the pain as the worst you’ve experienced or if it’s so bad that you can’t do anything else, consider it an emergency. Another question to ask is “is there any blood, missing teeth, or pieces of teeth?” If the answer is yes, it’s an emergency.
What Should You Do In an Emergency Situation?
The first thing to do if you think you are experiencing a dental emergency is to call your dentist (or have someone else call if it’s difficult to talk). You can explain what you’re experiencing to your dentist and get their professional opinion on whether you should come in for an appointment right away or whether you can wait for treatment.
Your dentist will most likely be able to see you for evaluation and treatment the same day you call if it is an emergency situation. If you break a tooth, lose a tooth or are having another dental problem after the office has closed, you can still call and see if anyone answers or is available to help you. If not, your best bet might be to visit the nearest emergency department for care and treatment. Once the emergency is taken care of, you can return to your regular dentist for a follow-up.
Can You Avoid a Dental Emergency?
Sometimes, a dental emergency can’t be avoided. If you’re in an accident or otherwise injured, there might not be any way to avoid one. But some types of emergencies can be avoided. For example, you can reduce your chances of losing or breaking a tooth when you play sports by wearing a mouth guard. Not chewing on hard objects, such as ice, can also reduce the likelihood of a chipped or broken tooth.
In the case of abscesses or infection, seeing your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings can help keep decay from developing and becoming severe.
No one wants to find themselves in a dental emergency situation. But if you do, it helps to keep your dentist’s office number handy, so you can call right away for help and an appointment.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo, a periodontal specialist in the Miami area, does see patients on an emergency basis. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.