No matter how careful a person is accidents and emergencies can happen. Whenever medical emergencies arise, people instinctively know to call 911, and immediately proceed to the nearest emergency room. Some dental offices also offer emergency dental care, some even offer 24 hour service, so you get the dental care you need, when you need it.
However, knowing how to react to a dental emergency may not be as common. A dental emergency is considered any situation that causes injury or pain to the mouth, teeth or gums. In addition, some situations require immediate attention, even if they do not cause much pain such as chips and fractures.
Some of the more common dental emergencies include severe pain, partially dislodged teeth, foreign bodies wedged in the gums, fractured or broken teeth, and traumatic tongue and lip injuries.
Knowing how to prevent treat dental emergencies may save someone a tooth.
Tooth pain is a common reason people schedule emergency dental appointments. It is one of the most distressing discomforts a person can experience as it causes sensitivity to eating or drinking hot or cold food and beverages, difficulty chewing, and pain when opening one’s mouth.
Several reasons exist for tooth pain. Intense grinding or biting can cause a tooth to fracture, which results in pain while chewing or eating. Fillings and crowns often dislodge causing throbbing pain.
Sometimes food becomes trapped between the teeth and gums causing intense discomfort. At times the trapped food becomes dangerously infected, causing an abscess to develop, which can become life threatening.
It is important to understand how to treat each dental emergency. Based on the American Dental Association’s Recommendations (ADA), the following list explains how to recognize and prevent the most common dental emergencies.
Food debris often becomes lodged between the teeth and underneath the gum causing irritation to the gum’s tissue. Whenever food is stuck under the gum, vigorously rinse your mouth with warm water, and use dental floss to remove the food particles. If this method does not work, schedule an appointment with your dentist because if the food is no removed, an infection may develop around the area.
The ADA strongly urges against using sharp objects such as toothpicks because they can hurt the gum or accidently push the food deeper into the gum.
Partially Dislodged Teeth
If a tooth is partially loosened from its socket or if it is partially dislodged, in order to save the tooth, immediately see a dentist or visit the emergency room at the hospital. In the meantime take an over the counter pain reliever and apply a cold pack to lessen the pain.
Broken or Cracked Teeth
When a tooth is broken or fractured, pain may not be felt immediately and you may not even notice that the tooth has been damaged. Since it is not possible to treat a tooth fracture at home, call a dentist whenever a tooth it is painful to eat or the tooth is sensitive to temperature changes.
When a tooth completely breaks, call the dentist immediately. However, the following procedures should be followed until a dentist is available: Salvage any remaining pieces of the tooth. Rinse the fragments in warm water. Rinse the mouth with warm water. If bleeding occurs, apply gauze to the area until the bleeding stops. To reduce swelling and pain, apply a cold compress to the cheek or lips over the broken tooth. Take an over the counter pain reliever. Finally, if a dentist is unable to provide immediate care, consider covering the tooth’s surface with dental cement to protect the tooth.
Knocked Out Teeth
If a tooth has been knocked out, it is important to get to a dentist within an hour of having the tooth knocked out. The nerves, blood vessels, and supporting tissue are damaged. Although the nerves and blood vessels cannot be repaired, if a dentist is seen in time, the supporting tissue may reattach and hold the tooth in place.
Until a dentist is able to repair the tooth, The ADA suggests holding the tooth’s crown and rinsing the tooth’s root. Never scrub or remove any of the attached tissue fragments. Gently inset the tooth into its socket and hold it. If reinserting the tooth is not possible, place the tooth in a cup of milk until you reach the dentist’s office.
Lip and Tongue Injuries
When the lips or tongue are injured clean the surface with warm water and a soft cloth. If there is a cut inside the mouth of tongue, rinse with one part warm water and one part hydrogen peroxide. Do not swallow the mixture. Apply a cold compress to bruised or swollen lips. If the area is bleeding, apply pressure until the bleeding stops. If the bleeding continues, go to the emergency room.
Taking precautions such as wearing a mouth guard while playing sports can prevent many tooth injuries. In addition, do not bite card candy or other foods to prevent tooth fractures. However, if a dental emergency arises, follow the procedures above, and always contact a dentist for professional treatment.
For more information contact ADA.org.