It is important to know what kinds of dental injuries are classified as severe enough and require an immediate emergency dentist. Not everybody has the expertise to assess dental trauma and make such a call. According to the Sandton Chronicle, a thorough assessment of the trauma to the tooth, or mouth, is necessary, to ensure that there will be no permanent damage if you do not go to the emergency room immediately. Accidents can happen day or night, any time and place, some injuries might need immediate attention, while others are not that severe and can be treated by your family dentist during normal business hours.
The most common types of injuries include cracked, broken or knocked out teeth. This is the result of biting on something hard, like biltong, hard sweets or ice, and some are sports-related injury, a fall, hard hit on the mouth, or any other type of accident. The type, location and severity of the injury will be the deciding factor if an immediate visit to the emergency room is necessary or if a call to your dentist during normal business hours is sufficient.
A dental emergency is basically any dental problem that requires immediate treatment, to save a tooth, stop ongoing bleeding or reduce severe pain. A severe infection or abscess or tooth can be life threatening and should be dealt with immediately.
Immediate medical treatment should be sought if a large piece or the whole tooth is knocked out, the crack is severe or there is nerve damage. In the past very little could be done to save a tooth but today almost any injury to a tooth can be treated successfully. To find out more on how to handle a broken tooth, consult the Colgate Oral Care Center.
Handling Dental Emergencies
- A knocked out tooth – Retrieve the tooth, hold it by the crown (the part that is exposed in the mouth). Rinse the tooth off with water if it is dirty. Try to put the tooth back in place, but do not force it into the socket. If it is not possible, put the tooth in a small container of milk, salt water or the person's saliva. A cold, wet compress can be applied to the tooth socket to help with any bleeding. Get to an emergency dentist immediately, knocked out teeth has the best chance to be saved if you can see your dentist within an hour of the teeth being knocked out.
- Partially dislodged (extruded) tooth – see your dentist right away. You can apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek in the affected area. An over the counter pain killer can also be taken to relieve the pain if needed.
- Something stuck between teeth – dental floss is always the best first call. Remove the object gently and carefully. If you cannot get the object out, see your dentist. Do not use sharp objects to try and remove objects, this might scratch the tooth or cut the gums.
- Lost filling – a temporary measure is to use a piece of sugarless gum and close up the cavity, or get some over the counter dental cement. See your dentist as soon as possible.
- Loose dental crown – keep the crown in a safe place if you cannot get to the dentist right away. Over the counter dental cement, toothpaste or denture adhesive, can also be used to cover the tooth underneath and to slip the crown back over and in place. If there is pain and discomfort, apply a little clove oil (available over the counter at your local pharmacist) to the sensitive area. Do not use superglue.
- Broken braces and wires – if the braces or wire breaks, use the eraser end of a pencil to push it into a more comfortable position. If it cannot be repositioned, cover the end with orthodontic was, a small cotton ball or a piece of gauze until you can get to the orthodontists office. Never cut the wire, it could be swallowed or breathed into the lungs.
- Abscess – these are infections that occur around the root of the tooth, the space between the teeth and gums or an infection inside the tooth or root. Abscesses are serious conditions that can damage tissue and surrounding teeth, even the bone, with the infection possibly spreading to other part of the body if left untreated. Because an abscess can cause general health problems, see your dentist as soon as possible if you discover a pimple like blister on your gum that is painful. In the meantime, draw the pus towards the surface, and rinse your mouth with a mild salt water solutions several times a day.
- Soft tissue injuries – injuries resulting in bleeding of the tongue, check, gums or lips can be treated in the following manner: - Rinse mouth with mild salt water solutions. Apply pressure to the bleeding site by using a piece of gauze or tea bag and holding it in place for 15 to 12 minutes. To control both bleeding and swelling, hold a cold compress outside the mouth or check for 5 to10 minutes. If the bleeding doesn't stop, see your dentist right away or go the emergency room immediately. Continue to apply the pressure to the bleeding site until you can be seen and treated.
If the problem is not as obvious as a cracked, broken or knocked out tooth. If you have severe pain, from an abscess tooth, or you think you might need emergency dental care, call your dentist's office first. The office may be able to fit you in for an appointment quickly, they leave slots open in the dentists schedule for emergency cases. Or they might ask you to come in and wait for the dentist and when they have an opening in their schedule, they will see you.
Even if you know the dentist office is closed, go ahead and call. There may be an emergency number or instructions on the answering machine. If you cannot find help, go to your nearest clinic. The staff there might be able to point you in the right direction, or at least give you some pain medication to relieve the pain while you have to wait to see your dentist during business hours.