What is Considered a Dental Emergency?

Many people have questions when they have a tooth or mouth problem. Is this something I need to take care of immediately? Is it an emergency? Will the pain go away on its own? Should I call my dentist now or wait until their office is open? Do I need to go to the Emergency Room? Can the problem wait until tomorrow? These are good questions.

  • What is a Dental Emergency?
  • What Is Not A Dental Emergency?
  • Common Dental Emergencies – What Can I Do Now?
  • How to Avoid Potential Emergencies

What is a Dental Emergency?

To help you determine if you can wait to be seen by your dentist or if you need to take a trip to the ER or to an emergency dentist, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you in severe pain? Sever pain might be pain that wakes you up at night or prevents you from performing your regular daily activities. Severe pain is a sign of a dental emergency.
  • Have you lost a tooth? Fast treatment can potentially save a tooth.
  • Have you been injured? Do you have teeth that are now visibly fractured, broken, painful, or lose?
  • Do you have an infection? Tooth infection is commonly associated with swelling. Swelling that is localized around a tooth should be taken care of soon but is not an emergency requiring immediate attention. However, swelling that has traveled into the face, into the neck region, or up to the eye is cause for concern and requires immediate attention.
  • If you have any of these conditions, you may be experiencing a dental emergency. Call your dentist immediately and describe what happened. He or she will give you directions and determine whether your condition requires immediate attention.
  • Most dentists have an emergency phone number listed on their office telephone voicemail. If you are unable to reach your dentist, or you do not have a dentist, you may need to visit an urgent care facility or emergency room.

    Our office, Larsen Dental, enjoys treating emergency patients. We reserve times slots in our daily schedule for emergency patients and can usually see a patient with an emergency the same day. Call us at 970-242-2717.

    What Is Not a Dental Emergency?

    Many routine dental conditions do not require immediate attention but might require attention within the next few days.

    If a tooth is only slightly chipped and does not hurt, an appointment can be made to get it addressed in the next few days. However, a large chipped or cracked tooth is an emergency if the fracture is very large, is very painful, or has left sharp fragments that cause trauma inside your mouth.

    A toothache that is merely annoying, does not wake you up at night, or interrupt your daily activities can probably be scheduled within the next few days. Minor toothaches can often be temporarily addressed with over-the-counter pain medications like Advil, Aleve, or Tylenol. However, a toothache with severe pain or with accompanying signs of swelling, or fever are reasons to seek immediate care.

    If you have a tooth that has lost a crown or filling, you most likely should have it fixed within the next few days. If you have lost a filling, sometimes you stabilize your situation by temporarily sticking a piece of sugar-free gum into the cavity space. With a lost crown, you can try putting the crown back in place temporarily with denture adhesive or over-the-counter dental cement or even toothpaste (don’t use super glue.)

    Gums that bleed when you brush, or floss are signs of gum disease. While this is a condition you should get taken care of soon, it does not require immediate attention.

    With all of these conditions it is important to make an appointment with your dentist soon, to prevent more damage from occurring.

    Common Dental Emergencies - What Can I Do Now?

    Severe Tooth Pain

    Severe tooth pain that wakes you up and night and prevents you from doing your regular daily activities is an indication that something is wrong. Temporary relief can be obtained in the short run by taking over-the-counter medications Advil, Aleve, or Tylenol. However, tooth pain almost never goes away on its own. Call your dentist to determine the cause the and the appropriate treatment. (Tooth pain with swelling requires additional attention -see below).

    Knocked-Out Tooth

    A knocked-out tooth can be very alarming. With quick action the tooth can likely be saved if addressed quickly. Carefully pick up the tooth by the crown or the white part of the tooth, taking care not to touch the root surface, and carefully rinse it gently with water without scrubbing it. If possible, reinsert the tooth back into the tooth socket. If you can’t, place the tooth in the socket, then place it in a small container of milk and see call your dentist. Reimplanting the tooth as soon as possible increases the chances of being able to save the tooth.

    Cracked or Chipped Tooth

    Large cracks require immediate attention. If you crack your tooth, see if you can find any of the displaced large fragments. If the fragments are large, they can often be bonded back in place later. Place the fragments in a container of milk. Clean your mouth with warm water and apply a cold compress. Take Advil, Aleve, or Tylenol for pain. Call your dentist.

    Tooth Infection or Abscess

    Dental infections can be serious and even life-threatening. Infections are usually accompanied by swelling that is localized to the tooth and can probably be addressed in the next few days. However, swelling that appears to be traveling into the face, the neck, and up towards the eye require immediate attention. Fever, or having an overall feeling of sickness or malaise are also signs the infection may be spreading and immediate attention is required.

    Usually, antibiotics will be prescribed to begin fighting the infection. Sometimes draining the abscess by a dental professional is also required. A patient with severe swelling, difficulty breathing, fever, and or general malaise will need treatment in an emergency room and IV administered antibiotics may be necessary.

    How to Avoid Potential Emergencies

    Not all dental emergencies can be avoided. However, many emergencies can be avoided with good oral hygiene and by having regular checkups with your dentist. Using athletic night guards also is a good idea to protect your teeth in contact sports.

    Early detection of dental problems is key. Dental problems are often like a crack in the windshield of a car. Detected early, the repair is often relatively simple, painless, and less expensive. Delaying care, often leads to more involved, more complex, and more expensive care.

    Larsen Dental Welcomes Emergency Patients

    At Larsen Dental, we enjoy meeting and treating emergency patients. Many of our patients who have been coming to our office for decades were first introduced to us through an emergency appointment. Dr. Larsen enjoys surprising emergency patients with how painless and efficient the treatment can be to fix their problem. We are confident we can help you! Contact our office at 970-242-2717.

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