Dental Emergency: Quick Tips and Expert Advice
What to do in a dental emergency?
If you’re experiencing sudden tooth pain, a broken or cracked tooth, or you’ve lost a tooth, it can be hard to know what to do. When a dental emergency happens, it’s important to stay calm and call your dentist straight away. While you wait for an appointment, there are some things you can do that can help. Here’s what to do in a dental emergency.
What is a dental emergency?
Dental emergencies can happen for all sorts of reasons. A sports injury or fall may result in a tooth injury that requires immediate care. But did you know that sudden tooth pain or a cracked tooth require emergency dental care?
Anything that causes sudden pain or bleeding or needs immediate dental treatment is an emergency. If you’ve cracked a tooth after biting down on hard foods or notice swelling and a constant ache, call your dentist right away.
Experiencing these symptoms? Call your dentist right away:
- Cracked teeth
- Missing or dislodged teeth
- Damage to a crown or filling
- Sharp, sudden tooth pain
- Painful pimple-like swelling on the gums
- Facial swelling
What to do if you have a cracked tooth
Broken teeth are most common in older people, but biting hard foods, trauma to the mouth or large dental fillings can all cause a tooth to fracture. Fractures can result in a crack in the enamel or even through the dentin and pulp of the tooth.
A cracked tooth won’t always cause symptoms. If you hear a crack while biting down on hard foods or see what looks like a crack in a tooth, you should book an emergency dental appointment.
If you are experiencing symptoms, you might feel:
- Pain that comes and goes, especially when chewing
- Sensitivity to temperature and sugary food
- Swelling around one particular tooth or teeth
- Toothache when you bite down
While you wait for an appointment, you can:
- Ice the outside of your mouth to prevent swelling
- Rinse your mouth with salty, warm water
- Avoid eating or drinking while you seek treatment
- Take anti-inflammatory pain relief to reduce pain and swelling
What to do if your tooth is knocked out
If you’ve had a fall or sports injury and your tooth is knocked out, don’t panic. There’s a good chance that your natural tooth can be restored. The longer your tooth is out of the socket, the less chance it has of surviving. Book an emergency dental appointment right away. While you wait for an appointment, you should:
- Hold the tooth by the crown, not the roots. This will protect the roots and give the tooth a better chance of survival.
- Wash the tooth quickly with clean water if it’s dirty.
- Gently push the tooth back into the socket if you can, as soon as you can!
- If you can’t push the tooth into the socket, store the tooth in milk until you see your dentist.
- If you can’t store it in milk, tuck the tooth under the injured person’s lip. Only do this if the person is well enough not to risk swallowing the tooth.
Don’t scrub the tooth under water or use soap. You should also avoid wrapping the tooth in dry tissue.
What to do if a tooth is chipped
Broken or chipped teeth are a common dental emergency. A chipped tooth can be caused by biting into hard foods, using your teeth to open objects, or as a result of an accident or fall.
If your tooth is chipped but doesn’t hurt, you should still see a dentist. A chipped tooth isn’t just an aesthetic problem. Chipped teeth can have sharp edges, be sensitive to hot and cold temperatures and even lead to an infection in the tooth. While you wait for an emergency appointment, you can:
- Rinse your mouth with warm, salty water
- Take over the counter pain medication
- Avoid hot and cold food and drinks
- Apply a cold compress to the outside of your face
- If you can, take the chipped part of the tooth to your appointment
If your tooth has a jagged edge, you can apply a bit of dental wax to the tooth to prevent it from cutting your mouth or tongue. If you don’t have any dental wax or bonding material, you can use sugar-free gum as a temporary tooth cover.
What to do if you experience sharp, sudden tooth pain
Many people don’t realise that sharp, sudden tooth pain should be treated as a dental emergency. If you experience intense pain, prolonged pain that won’t go away after a day, pain when you bite or chew, or pain that feels like a dull ache, it could be a symptom of tooth decay or infection. Toothache can also be a sign of inflammation inside your tooth as our never endings are very sensitive to bacteria.
You don’t need to be experiencing any visible symptoms to see a dentist urgently. Instead, book an appointment as soon as possible so your dentist can treat you immediately. While you wait for an appointment, you can:
- Apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth
- Take anti-inflammatory pain relief
- Rinse your mouth with salt water
What to do if you experience sudden painful swelling on the gums
If your gums are relatively healthy, but you experience sudden, painful swelling on the gums, it could be a sign of a tooth abscess.
A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus formed by a bacterial infection in the jawbone. It might look like you have a red bump or pimple on your gum. Left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of your teeth and the surrounding bone.
Abscesses can happen in different parts of the tooth and gums. You may have an infection in your gums, the tip of your tooth root, or the bone tissue. More severe infections are often related to severe gum diseases like periodontitis or bacterial infections from the bacteria in decay.
A tooth abscess won’t go away on its own. You’ll need to book an emergency dentist appointment so that your dentist can drain the infection and treat your tooth or gums. While you wait for an appointment, you can:
- Take over-the-counter pain relief, such as ibuprofen
- Rinse with warm salt water every few hours
- Visit the ER if you have a fever over 39.4 degrees, facial swelling or an elevated heart rate.
Can I prevent a dental emergency?
Accidents happen, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do to prevent a dental emergency. You can reduce the risk of some common dental injuries from happening by:
Wearing a mouthguard when you play sport. This can prevent injuries to your mouth and teeth in contact and non-contact sports.
Visiting your dentist regularly. Regular dental appointments allow your dentist to monitor your teeth and stay on top of any signs of cavities or decay.
Only using your teeth for biting, chewing and eating. Chipped or fractured teeth can be a result of using your teeth to open plastic packaging, bottles and other everyday objects. This can damage and weaken our teeth over time. Use scissors or a bottle opener for these tasks.
Avoiding very hard foods. Take care when eating hard foods. Popcorn, ice, hard lollies or very sticky sweet foods can cause a tooth fracture.
Noticing when something is out of the ordinary. Don’t be afraid to visit your dentist when you see something unusual. A hairline crack may look benign but can quickly worsen over time.
If something doesn’t look or feel right, book a dental appointment with the friendly team at Gentle Dental. We have same-day appointments for emergencies and four practices to choose from.