Deciding if emergency dental care is necessary can be complicated. Sometimes issues that seem minor are in actuality very serious. Many dental issues are also time-sensitive, meaning that patients have a matter of hours, not days, to get them fixed.
What constitutes emergency dental care?
When in doubt, seek emergency care. At the very least, call the dentist and ask if an emergency appointment is necessary. It may be tempting to visit the E.R., but with most dental emergencies, this is not necessary or helpful. Instead go straight to an emergency dentist to save both time and money.
Ask the following questions to assess whether the situation is a dental emergency.
Is the pain getting worse?
Sometimes toothaches are nothing more than minor annoyances. Mouth pain can be treated with simple home remedies and then mentioned to a dentist on the next business day. However, if home remedies or over-the-counter medicines for toothache do not work, that is a sign that the situation may be serious.
A toothache can signal anything from an infection to a severely damaged tooth. Once pain has become noticeable, it is usually a sign that damage has progressed to the inner layers of the tooth. A dentist should assess the situation immediately.
For painful dental emergencies, ibuprofen can be taken. Avoid aspirin as it may increase bleeding.
Is the bleeding or swelling getting worse?
Bleeding should be easily stopped with light pressure and some gauze. If bleeding from a mouth injury persists or worsens, it may be an emergency situation. Severe bleeding of the mouth usually signals a deep injury or infection. Bleeding that is unexplained should always be addressed by a dentist.
Swelling is another symptom that should not be ignored. Swelling after trauma to the mouth may persist if an infection has developed. Inflammation around the face and mouth can be dangerous as it may hinder breathing. Do not wait for swelling to get too severe; seek treatment immediately.
Has a tooth suffered trauma?
If a tooth has been loosened or knocked out, it is never advisable to wait. Trauma to the mouth is almost always an emergency. Loose or missing teeth have a window of just hours before saving the tooth becomes unlikely or even impossible.
Rinsing the mouth out with warm water is generally advised. If a tooth has been knocked out, rinse it carefully (avoiding touching the root) and place it in a glass of milk for transportation to the dentist
If a tooth cracks or chips, it may be an emergency. Small chips can usually wait until the next business day to treat, but true cracks or large chips need immediate attention as the integrity of the tooth has likely been weakened.
Act fast during a dental emergency
If there is a serious issue with mouth health, seeking emergency dental care can be crucial. Remember, acting fast can be the difference between losing and saving a tooth or avoiding other health issues.
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