Most people go to the dentist for scheduled treatments or routine checkups. However, some people go to the dentist without having planned for it. If you visit the dentist without planning, it could be because you have a dental emergency. Dental emergencies, such as sudden toothache and dental trauma, are serious matters that require the intervention of a dentist specializing in emergency dentistry, which entails treating patients with dental problems who need urgent care.
At Washington Dental, we boast expert dentists who specialize in emergency dentistry. Our primary goal is to help you make the most of your smile, so we offer a wide range of dental emergency services. If you seek dental emergency services in Lomita, do not hesitate to consult us for a consultation. We will review your situation and provide help within the shortest time possible.
Emergency Dentistry Overview
Emergency dentistry refers to a field of dentistry concerned with dental emergencies. Dental emergencies are dental issues requiring immediate attention. Not every dental problem is an emergency, but particular injuries to the gums and teeth can become severe, resulting in more damage.
For example, imagine you are involved in an accident or fight that leaves you with several teeth knocked out. Or perhaps you suddenly start experiencing severe tooth pain that does not wait for your routine dental appointment or improve with medication, broken or fractured facial bones, or bleeding that will not stop. If you are in any of these situations, you need emergency dental care.
The earlier you seek medical assistance, the quicker your issue can be resolved, potentially preventing even more harm to your oral health. That is why you want to familiarize yourself with dental clinics and centers in your area that are dedicated to handling emergency dental cases.
A dental healthcare professional who deals with dental emergencies is called an emergency dentist. Some emergency dental professionals will attend to the patient's emergency within twenty-four hours to protect their gums, jaw, and teeth and ensure good oral health.
Types of Dental Emergencies
Dental emergencies fall into different categories, including:
- Teeth emergencies.
- Emergencies related to soft tissues and gums.
- Orthodontic emergencies.
- Teeth-Related Emergencies
Examples of dental emergencies that are teeth-related include the following:
Sudden, Severe Toothache
An unexpected, severe toothache is a reason to see a dentist immediately. The problem with your tooth may have begun with a small cavity, which enlarged to the point of causing severe pain that may occur suddenly. This pain can make it difficult for you to drink or eat. It can also make you feel physically ill.
If you experience an unexpected, severe toothache, try relieving the pain at home before reaching a dentist. Firstly, take the necessary actions to ensure your mouth is clean. Thoroughly rinse the mouth using warm water and floss to remove any food particles stuck underneath the gum line or between teeth.
If your mouth is swollen, apply an ice pack to the outside of the cheek or mouth. Take over-the-counter painkillers like naproxen, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen to ease the pain. Do not place pain relievers against the affected tooth or gums, as they might burn the gum tissue. Visit your dental professional as quickly as possible.
Lost Crown or Filling
A lost dental filling may cause pain because the dental nerves or dentinal tubules are exposed and have come into contact with air. To ease the pain, apply some clove oil on the sensitive site. Putting an ice pack against the painful region may also assist. In the meantime, if you can find the lost filling, keep it safe and carry it to the dentist. To reduce discomfort, use over-the-counter dental cement or wax to fill up the hole in the tooth.
If your case involves a dislodged dental crown, try slipping the crown back into place until your dentist can attend to you. Begin by cleaning the inside part of the dental crown and extracting any debris found there. Then, coat the dental crown's inside using dental cement and slip it into place. Instead of dental cement, you can also use toothpaste or denture adhesive. Do not apply glue or other household adhesives. These products are unsafe to place in the mouth and might damage the dental crown or tooth.
When your tooth becomes extruded, avulsed, dislodged, or luxated, it has been pushed out of or into its socket. This push can occur due to a force like a fall or a severe accident. A dislodged tooth requires emergency dental care.
Before you reach the dentist's office, place an ice-cold compress outside the cheek or mouth at the affected site. Take over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen if necessary.
When you arrive at the dentist's office, they will anesthetize and clean the affected area. If the tooth is partially intact, the dentist will reposition and stabilize it. They will conduct an x-ray to ensure the blood vessels and nerves of the tooth root have not been fractured or damaged.
You may require follow-up dental care with further X-rays. If the follow-up tests reveal nerve, root, or blood vessel damage, you may have to undergo the root canal procedure to prevent the tooth from developing a severe infection or an abscess.
Chipped teeth are rarely dental emergencies. You may choose to see the dentist some days after you develop a chipped tooth. But taking precautions, especially being more careful when eating or chewing, is crucial to prevent damaging the tooth even more.
Whereas chipped teeth do not lead to tooth displacement or gum bleeding, they may cause cheek or tongue irritation because of the chipped ends. To rectify the problem, the dentist may restore the original contour and safeguard the tooth pulp by attaching a dental filling or crown.
Broken and Cracked Tooth
Situations that involve broken or cracked teeth differ from those involving chipped teeth because they are always considered emergencies. If a tooth breaks or cracks, its nerves become exposed. A break or crack can occur unexpectedly from activities like chewing candy or other hard foods or from an accident-related trauma.
When tooth nerves are exposed, bacteria can attack and damage them. Damaged tooth nerves result in pain that will impact your daily activities. That is why you need to see your dentist as quickly as possible.
In the meantime, try managing the situation before reaching your dentist. The first step is to contain gum bleeding by using warm water to rinse your mouth and pressing on the site using sterile gauze. And if the tooth is broken or cracked due to facial trauma, place an ice pack on the affected site to reduce any swelling. You may also take pain relievers like acetaminophen to relieve the pain.
For a broken tooth, find the broken pieces, rinse them, and quickly place them in a cup of water or milk. Go to the dentist immediately. Note, in this situation, delaying your appointment with your dentist is unwise, particularly if you feel pain or sensitivity.
Often, sensitivity is a sign of an exposed tooth root. If not treated, this can lead to root damage. A damaged tooth root would need a root canal procedure.
When you reach the dentist's office, they will conduct an x-ray to correctly diagnose the tooth condition and determine suitable procedures to repair it. Cracked teeth mainly occur at the back of the mouth since that is where most of the chewing happens.
Various reasons can result in knocked-out teeth. Injuries during an accident may result in your teeth being knocked out. You might also suffer knocked-out teeth if you sustain an injury during sports. Regardless of how your teeth are knocked out, it is an emergency.
The chances of reinserting an entirely knocked-out tooth are low for baby teeth. The ideal thing to do here is to wait until a permanent tooth grows.
You should visit your dentist immediately for a knocked-out permanent tooth since delays lower the odds of reattaching the tooth. Generally, the procedure to successfully reinsert the tooth is conducted in one or two hours. However, before reaching the dentist, you must take various steps to ensure the dental procedure to reinsert the tooth will succeed.
The first step is to contain the bleeding of the gums, if any. You can do this by using warm water to rinse your mouth. Press on the injury site using gauze. Rather than applying pressure with your fingers, you may bite down on the gauze. Seek dental care as quickly as possible if the bleeding does not stop after ten minutes. In the meantime, place an ice pack against the affected site to reduce swelling.
The next thing to do is to retrieve the knocked-out tooth. Hold the tooth by its crown, and rinse it using warm water. Do not scrub the tooth root or remove the attached tissue fragments, if any. Try returning it to its socket by gently pushing it into place and biting on it. Ensure it is facing the correct way. Do not force the tooth into place.
If it is impossible to reinsert it, put it in a cup with milk or salt water and visit the dentist to conduct the reattachment procedure immediately. Dentists have a higher chance of saving knocked-out teeth when they are returned to their sockets within an hour.
Wisdom Tooth Infection or Pain (Pericoronitis)
Infected wisdom teeth can be painful and potentially dangerous. Signs that your wisdom tooth may be infected are:
- Pain around the area. This is the most common symptom. In particular cases, an infected wisdom tooth may also result in pain in the throat, neck, and entire jaw and headaches.
- In addition to the pain, an infection of the wisdom teeth may cause swollen lymph nodes underneath the jaw and a sore throat.
- Jaw and face swelling, a bad taste or smell in the mouth, or pus drainage.
- Difficulty chewing or eating.
If you suspect an infected wisdom tooth or teeth, contact your dental professional immediately. You may develop an infection of the wisdom teeth, mainly due to their position in the mouth. The teeth are usually hard to access with dental floss and a toothbrush, meaning they are often neglected or not appropriately cleaned. This may cause plaque, food, and other particles to build up between and on the teeth, encouraging bacteria growth.
At times, a wisdom tooth does not erupt fully. If this occurs, the tooth might be covered partly with a flap of gum tissue. This flap can also trap plaque, food, and bacteria, leading to an infection of the tooth.
Debris In-between Teeth
The problem of debris between teeth is often easily remedied with flossing. But if your attempt to remove the debris fails, call a dentist immediately.
- Emergencies Related to Soft Tissues and Gums
Soft tissues and gum-related dental emergencies include the following:
Burnt Roof of the Mouth
Even though blisters and sores caused by eating hot foods will generally heal themselves, they often lead to discomfort. To relieve the pain, use pain relievers like acetaminophen. Another thing you can do is apply some topical anesthetic to the injury site. To maintain cleanliness around the area, rinse it with warm water after each meal. Call your dentist if the blisters or sores fail to heal after ten days.
Dental abscesses refer to pimple-like infections or swollen areas that arise in the spaces between the gums and teeth or around the tooth root. A dental abscess is a severe condition that may damage surrounding teeth and tissue. If not treated, the abscess could result in jaw or face swelling. Even worse, the abscess could spread to other body parts.
You should visit a dentist as quickly as possible if you develop a dental abscess. Meanwhile, draw out the pus toward the surface and relieve pain. Try rinsing the mouth using warm salt water several times daily.
Gum Swelling or Pain
Gum swelling or pain may signal an infection of the tooth root or gum tissue. You should tell your dentist when you notice these signs since they could indicate something dangerous. Additionally, identifying what is causing the swelling or pain requires a comprehensive dental exam.
Bitten Cheek, Lip, or Tongue
A small cut (less than a quarter of an inch) generally heals independently. Use warm water to rinse the mouth as it ensures the affected site heals correctly. This will help sanitize the mouth and prevent more problems caused by bacteria invading the sore region. It is highly recommended to rinse every twenty to thirty minutes on the first day.
Continue with frequent rinsing until the injury site completely heals. Putting a cold pad or ice pack on the injury site may also reduce swelling. You can also use a caffeinated tea bag or moistened gauze to exert pressure on the injury site to minimize bleeding. The tannic acid contained in tea assists in the shrinking of blood vessels and slowing bleeding.
Conversely, it is best to seek immediate dental care when you experience these situations:
- The tooth is lodged deeply into the cheek or lips.
- You are biting into the tongue.
- Bleeding at the affected site continues for more than ten minutes.
- The cut is larger than a quarter of an inch.
- Orthodontic Emergencies
Orthodontic-related emergencies include the following:
Missing or Lost Ligatures or Wire
Ligatures refer to colored bands or tiny wires holding the long archwire onto every bracket. With time, a ligature may start sliding off the brackets. If the ligature is not missing, utilize sterile tweezers and try returning the ligature to its place. You can also use tweezers to bend the ligature back to its original position if it has shifted.
But if the wire ligature is missing, you must see a dentist for a replacement. You may wait a few days if you only lose one wire ligature in the back. However, losing one in the front generally needs immediate replacement. Set up a dental appointment right away with your orthodontist.
Loose Bands or Brackets
Brackets are the parts of braces glued to the teeth. They are designed to be temporary, so they may loosen with time. This generally occurs if you eat crunchy foods. When brackets loosen, they usually stay stuck to the archwire, but they slide between the teeth now and then.
Until you can have the dentist fix the brackets, try rotating the loose brackets into their normal positions using tweezers. If you have loose braces, temporarily reattach or restrict their movement with a piece of orthodontic or dental wax. Generally, problems that involve loose rubber bands are resolved by replacing or re-cementing them. Remember, immediately contacting your orthodontist should be the first consideration, irrespective of the steps you take at home when faced with these situations.
Wire Ends Poking or Sticking Out of the Mouth
The edges of every archwire should remain close to the brackets. However, with time, the wires start to loosen. If this happens, it is an emergency. If the archwire is long enough, it may end up poking the back of your mouth, resulting in discomfort. You may fix this problem by pressing the wire flat against your tooth using a pencil eraser or Q-tip.
If you cannot reposition the wire, just cover the end of the wire with over-the-counter orthodontic or dental wax to prevent any wounds, then call your orthodontist. Even though you can clip the lengthy wire on your own, there is a higher risk of cutting your mouth. Therefore, this procedure of fixing pokey wire edges is not recommended.
Trauma or injury to the jawbone involving swelling, a misaligned bite, the inability to close and open your mouth, and pain is considered an emergency warranting urgent attention. Therefore, should you suffer jaw trauma, it is essential to visit the dentist immediately.
In case the jaw is broken, you can secure it into place by tying a handkerchief or towel around it and over the top of your head. Place a cold compress on the face close to the injury area for twenty minutes to stop any bleeding or swelling. Your dentist will take x-ray pictures of the whole jaw to find any cracks.
Additionally, an oral surgeon may need to check you. Jaw fractures need the care of an oral surgeon to stabilize the jaw by wiring the lower and upper parts together. This might require hospitalization.
Broken or Lost Dental Restoration
Worn-out dental restorations may sometimes become dislodged or fall out. If your dental filling is missing or broken, stick a sugarless piece of gum in the cavity (gum containing sugar will cause pain). Alternatively, you can use over-the-counter dental cement. Schedule a dental appointment as early as possible.
If your dental bridge or crown is broken, schedule a dental appointment immediately and carry the restoration to the appointment. If you can, return the restoration to its place. Before you do so, coat the inner surface with an over-the-counter denture adhesive, toothpaste, or dental cement to hold the restoration in place. Do not use glue or adhesive.
Basic Ways to Prevent Dental Emergencies
The following routine habits can help you prevent various dental emergencies:
Watch How and What You Eat
Teeth are usually strong, but they can also easily chip or crack. Chewing hard meat and candy is just one way to break otherwise beautiful, straight, and strong teeth. The ideal way of avoiding this is to not eat hard foods. Also, avoid eating sugary foods like candy and ice cream, as they can lead to dental cavities due to excessive sugar.
Do Not Chew on Foreign Objects
Most people develop habits like chewing on pen caps, biting their nails, and biting on other objects that are not food. These habits can make the teeth chip or crack. You can avoid these habits by chewing on sugarless gum or keeping your hands busy.
Using a Mouthguard
Especially if you are a sports person, you should not entertain rough plays that could injure your mouth and face and knock out or chip a tooth. Put on a mouthguard before heading to the field to avoid dental emergencies.
Find Reliable Emergency Dental Services Near Me
A dental emergency should not be ignored, regardless of how slight. If you have one, you should contact your dentist as soon as possible while trying to contain the emergency at home so it does not escalate further. Thanks to advancements in emergency dentistry, treatments for dental emergencies are quick and comfortable.
At Washington Dental, we offer various dental emergency services, including tooth extractions, broken tooth replacement, and dental trauma treatment. Once you come to us with a dental emergency, we will spare time from our schedule to address your problem immediately. Our services are also affordable, quick, and effective. Call us at 310-326-5183 for a consultation if you seek emergency dental services in Lomita.