Know Your Teeth – What To Do In a Dental Emergency

Few things in life are certain; however, about as certain as death and taxes are the prevalence of medical and dental emergencies in the middle of the night.  The late hour and diminished ability to reach a medical professional also heighten the sense of how urgent the situation is.  First, if it is a serious emergency, you should never hesitate to call 911.  However, for less serious dental matters most dentists have an answering service that can triage late night issues and best direct your call. Knowing the most common dental emergencies and how to handle them at home will also put your mind at ease should you ever experience one.  Below are several common accidents that occur as well as at quick actions that can be taken in order to lessen the severity of the incident.

Toothache. Frustrated young man touching his cheek and keeping eyes closed while sitting on the couch at home

Knocked Out Teeth

First, know you are not alone.  Every year five million adults and children accidentally knock their tooth out.  If quick action is taken, it is possible to replant the tooth.  After a tooth is knocked out it can be somewhat of a chaotic situation.  Before leaving the scene of the accident, locate the tooth and carefully pick it up by the crown protecting to root to minimize injury to the tooth.  If the tooth is dirty gently rinse it with only water.  Do not use any soaps or chemicals a it could permanently damage the tooth.  If possible, reposition the tooth back in the mouth.  Gently push the tooth into the socket and hold it in place with your finger or by biting down softly.  If that is not possible, it is impossible to keep the tooth moist at all times in an emergency tooth preservation kit, milk, or in the mouth next to the cheek.  Finally, quickly get to the dentist.  In order to save the tooth, it is advised you receive help within the first 30 minutes.  

Cracked Tooth

A cracked tooth is not nearly as dramatic as losing a tooth, and sometimes it could be hard to identify as pain can vary from day to day.  A cracked tooth can result in a variety of symptoms ranging from erratic pain while chewing or pain when your tooth is exposed to temperature extremes.    The treatment and outcome of a cracked tooth result from the type, location, and extent of the crack.  Minor cracks that only affect the enamel may not need any treatment.  These cracks, know was craze lines, can be polished out by your dentist.  For more significant cracks, such as on the molars, a dentist may recommend a crown, root canal, or extraction.  The goal is to prevent a deeper fracture and subsequent infection.      For the best outcome it is important to see the dentist right away.  

Broken Crown or Lost Filling

Don’t panic if you swallow your crown or filling.  After losing the crown or filing your tooth will be sensitive to anything in your mouth.  While you may be in pain, this is not an emergency situation.  First, examine the area to see if the crown is broken or dislodged.  If the crown is very loose, you can carefully attempt to remove it to prevent swallowing it.  While it is important to call your dentist right away to schedule an appointment, don’t be afraid if you have to wait a day to get in.  Over the counter pain relievers should mitigate any pain you are experiencing.   

Sudden Swelling in the Mouth

Sudden swelling can be a scary situation and potentially dangerous.  While swelling could occur due to numerous reasons, an abscessed tooth is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  An infection associated with an abscessed tooth can spread quickly and become dangerous.  Since it is impossible to self-diagnose random swelling it is imperative you get to the dentist quickly.  Your dentist will be able to assess the situation and monitor you for potential infections.  

With any emergency it is important to assess the situation and take deliberate action to mitigate the situation quickly.  Always use your dentist as a resource, and never be afraid to call to ask questions.  The health of your mouth is directly linked to the health of your body and should never be taken for granted.   

About Mark C. Marchbanks, D.D.S.

Dr. Mark Marchbanks has practiced dentistry in Arlington Texas since 1983. He enjoys caring for patients young and old. You can find Dr. Marchbanks on
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