Anytime you have a toothache or a case of bleeding gums, it’s always best to consult your dentist ASAP. We often tend to write off minor dental problems, thinking they’ll go away on their own. This is quite an unsafe practice and can grow into severe issues somewhere down the road.
However, people are often left clueless on what to do if they experience heightened dental pain when their dentist isn’t available. It could be over a long weekend, holiday, or even in the middle of the night. Perhaps your dentist is away on vacation, and you are unsure of what to do?
In any case, dental emergencies require immediate care by an expert. Waiting out in hopes of the pain dissipating or planning to visit the dental practice in the morning isn’t always a good idea. Remember, pain is a signal from your body that something is seriously wrong and requires urgent care. Ignoring or delaying it will only worsen the severity of your dental problem.
In this blog, we will go over all the indications and symptoms of a dental emergency. We’ll also clarify the differences between an emergency that brings severe risks and a common dental issue. Lastly, we offer advice from professionals on how to avoid such emergencies and how you can prepare for one.
What Qualifies as a Dental Emergency
The American Dental Association reports that, on average, someone with a dental condition visits the hospital emergency department every 14 seconds. That is quite a lot of dental emergencies occurring all over the United States.
It is essential to know what exactly qualifies as a dental emergency, as not all dental problems are high-risk and require ER attention. To determine whether you’re experiencing a dental emergency or an issue that can be handled in the morning, dentists recommend that you ask yourself the following questions.
1. Have You Lost a Tooth?
By acting quickly and heading to the hospital straight away, you might be able to save your tooth.
2. Do You Have a Dental Infection?
Swollen gums, knotting, or redness in your mouth are all significant symptoms of a dental infection. If the infection is allowed to spread, it can form a painful abscess in your mouth and even grow to become life-threatening. Always be sure to rush to the hospital immediately in case of a dental infection.
3. Are Your Gums Bleeding?
Bleeding gums can be an indication of severe underlying diseases and thus require immediate care.
4. Do You Have Severe Dental Pain?
If the pain is too severe, your body is trying to warn you of a painful dental problem that needs to be treated as soon as possible. Try not to delay it or manage the pain with painkillers. It would be best if you visited an emergency dentist.
5. Can You Feel Loose Teeth?
Sports injuries or even minor accidents can knock our teeth loose. It may even occur without any significant problem. However, loose teeth are a sign of substantial dental pain and need to be treated soon, or you could end up losing your teeth.
In general, any situation in which you experience sharp pain, bleeding, or a knocked-out tooth is considered a dental emergency.
Are Things Different Due to COVID-19?
With the pandemic still with us, as of this writing, people worldwide have been refraining from going to hospitals until necessary. This is a rather smart decision since hospitals tend to be harboring sites for various nosocomial infections and diseases that can temper your body’s natural immunity.
However, refraining from going to a hospital when you’re suffering from a dental emergency can do more harm than good. You may end up with severe, life-threatening illnesses, the spread of bacteria in your dental cavities, or even losing a tooth or more.
Fortunately, our frontline workers are being managed quite well, with doctors and nurses taking exceptional measures to ensure the containment of the COVID-19 virus. This has allowed for dental practices across the country to be open to different levels of face-to-face care. Moreover, dentists prioritize individual patients with emergency symptoms to accommodate people who require immediate care first.
If you’re facing any of the following specified symptoms, you should head off to your dentist or any dental care facility nearby right away.
- Swollen gums with the swelling spreading down your neck or towards your temples.
- Excruciating dental pain causing loss of sleep.
- Mouth ulcers that have exceeded two weeks.
- Bleeding of more than 20 minutes after recent tooth extraction.
- A broken tooth is causing pain or damage to your tongue or inner cheeks.
- Controlled bleeding as a result of dental trauma.
5 Signs You Need Emergency Care
We have briefly gone over some of the signs and symptoms that qualify as a dental emergency. Here is a more detailed look to help you understand whether you require immediate care or not. Remember that dental pain comes in varying degrees of pain and severity. Knowing when to act immediately can not only save your teeth, it can help you save money too.
1. You Have a Wiggly Tooth
Adults often experience loose or wiggly teeth. This results from years of wear and tear and using your teeth as sturdy tools to help you eat and even speak. If you notice your teeth have started feeling loose, firstly, it could be an indication of a dental injury. Secondly, it could be due to nerve damage in your gums or caused by a jaw injury too. Another possible diagnosis of loosening teeth is a localized infection.
All of these possibilities can be disastrous for your teeth if left untreated. So, even if you aren’t experiencing any pain if your tooth doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as before, it is best to get them treated before their condition worsens.
2. You Have a Severe Toothache
While people often get minor toothaches due to heightened teeth sensitivity, if your toothache is severe, it is a sure sign that you need dental care immediately. Toothache is a symptom of a myriad of different infections, diseases, and other health issues. Leaving it untreated or using painkillers to make it go away will only make matters worse for you and result in a bigger dental problem. You might even end up needing to get a tooth extraction, root canal, or undergo surgery.
3. Your Gums are Bleeding
Dental patients often write off bleeding gums after flossing as ‘normal.’ However, this symptom is far from ordinary and requires urgent care from a professional.
Bleeding gums can be early signs of gingivitis disease. Moreover, if the bleeding is excessive (for more than 20 minutes) or recurring and doesn’t stop after you press on it with a cloth, then you have a major dental emergency in-hand.
Catching gum diseases early on and getting a proper diagnosis can help you take the right measures to prevent its spread and even cure it. Untreated symptoms, particularly of periodontal gum disease, will quickly take your dental health to the point of no return, and you won’t be able to restore your teeth regardless of any expensive treatments or surgeries.
4. Your Canker Sore Isn’t Healing
This accounts for any lesions or sores in your mouth that aren’t healing or going away. Canker sores are quite normal and happen to everyone, no matter how well you take care of your dental hygiene. Although they usually aren’t a source of concern, if your canker sore has lasted for over a week and feels like it’s getting worse, you will need emergency dental care.
Canker sore usually lingers if they get infected; therefore, proper dental treatment is the only solution.
5. Your Mouth Tastes Metallic
If you’ve recently had a metal filling done on your teeth and your mouth starts tasting like metal, you need to rush to a dental facility immediately. The metallic taste is a sign that your filling has either come loose or cracked.
Free or loose fillings leave your teeth vulnerable to new cavity formation or even developing infections. If this is left untreated, you will probably end up with a terrible toothache, new cavities and require a dreadful root canal.
All the Things that Aren’t Dental Emergencies
You are now well-versed in everything that qualifies as a dental emergency; here is a list of all the instances that don’t require urgent dental care.
- Broken tooth (it is only an emergency if the fracture has left behind sharp fragments that are rubbing against the inside of your mouth).
- Mild toothache without an abscess.
- Dental crown falling out (can be restuck using an over-the-counter dental cement paste or adhesive).
- Objects stuck between your teeth.
- Broken braces or wires.
- Loose brackets.
- Soft tissue injuries (the bleeding can be handled at home by rinsing with saline solution. If it doesn’t stop, head to the emergency room.)
What To Do If You Need Urgent Dental Care
If you’re in the middle of a dental emergency, follow these first-aid tips before heading out to the ER or a nearby dental facility.
Chipped or Cracked Teeth
The difference between chipped or cracked teeth being considered an emergency or not depends on whether it is causing rupturing your inner cheeks or hurting as you chew.
If you have a severe tooth fracture, try to visit your dentist as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, you should rinse your mouth with warm water and apply a cold compress to your cheek to reduce any swelling. If the pain is unbearable, consider taking acetaminophen but under no circumstances should you reach for pain killers or a numbing gel.
Tooth Knocked Out
If a tooth has been knocked out, carefully pick it up by the crown (the top part) and rinse it without scrubbing. Be sure to avoid touching the root and reinsert the tooth into its socket if possible (don’t force it).
If your tooth can be reinserted, place it in a glass of milk and head off to your dentist with it.
Can You Go to the ER With a Dental Emergency?
In general, people seem to think the emergency room doesn’t tend to dental problems, so they need to wait for their dentist appointment. That is a misconception, though!
According to stats retrieved from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, almost 2% of all ER visits are related to dental health. So, if you’re facing a dental emergency, you should head straight to the ER.
They will carefully analyze your condition and offer painkillers or antibiotics in case of an infection. ER, the staff is also trained to handle cases of broken teeth, dislodged, or fractured tooth and can help make your pain more manageable until you can visit your regular dentist.
How to Avoid Dental Emergencies
Dealing with dental emergencies can be quite stressful. Moreover, it comes with hefty medical bills and pain that can last for days. Here are a few tips on how you can avoid dental emergencies.
- When participating in sports or recreational activities, wear a mouthguard.
- Don’t use your teeth to rip things (tape, clothe, wrappers); always reach for a pair of scissors.
- Avoid chewing unpopped popcorn kernels, ice, or hard candy. All of these can crack your teeth.
- Brush your teeth twice daily for at least 2 minutes each, and floss after each meal.
The Bottom Line
In the end, it is essential to remember that reaching a dental expert in case of an emergency within 30 minutes could make the difference between saving or losing a tooth. While maintaining proper dental hygiene will help prevent dental emergencies, they can’t be eliminated, so you should be prepared in case of one.
Having an effective diagnosis with a customized treatment plan to handle your dental emergency can save you a lot of pain, discomfort, and even money. So, be vigilant with the signs and signals your body is sending you and act immediately in case of emergencies.
If you have questions regarding dental emergencies, contact Dr. Owyoung at Soft Touch, and our experienced staff will assist you in the Sacramento area.