Common Dental Emergencies and First Aid
Dental emergencies seem to have a way of popping up on Saturday afternoons or while you’re on vacation. We hope dental emergencies don’t happen at all. But if they do, we’re here to help! As with most oral health problems, prevention starts with a visit to your dentist for a full dental health check. However, if emergencies do happen, knowing the right moves to handle a dental emergency well can significantly improve your outcome in our office.
Misplaced or Knocked Out Tooth
While we usually think of children when we think of accidents involving teeth getting knocked out, you might be surprised how many adults deal with lost teeth every year. A missed curb, a sudden stop on a bicycle, or an overeager dog pulling the wrong way on their leash can mean serious problems for your pearly whites.
If a tooth gets knocked out and you can find it, the most important thing is not to touch the root of the tooth. Pick the tooth up carefully only by its crown (the part that normally shows in the mouth). If it is dirty, you can rinse it very gently in cool water for a couple of seconds. Then, try to either gently replace it in the socket, or store it in the little pocket between your cheek and gums. The mouth is the safest place to keep the tooth while you seek care!
However, if the person whose tooth was lost cannot control their swallowing or cannot tolerate keeping the tooth with these methods, you can put it in a little milk to transport it.
This is a situation where you absolutely want to get in touch with your dentist right away to seek treatment. In many cases, if it’s replaced quickly enough, the tooth can be saved. Even if it cannot be saved, it’s important to get treatment right away to make sure there are no other problems such as bone fractures or left-over debris in the gums that could lead to bigger problems down the road.
When to go to the ER: If the person loses consciousness, shows signs of a concussion such as vomiting or disorientation, or if there is significant injury to their skull or face other than the tooth problem, you’re better off heading to the ER or an urgent care facility. We can patch up their teeth later!
Cracked or Fractured Tooth
Cracks and fractures seem to have a sense for weekends and holidays. Most of us have small hairline fractures in one or more teeth that develop slowly over time. These can go years without causing problems. However, you never know when that one last bite of dinner will hit it just right for a catastrophe.
If you find yourself with a cracked tooth, try to avoid swallowing the broken-off piece of tooth. (Although it’s not the end of the world if you do.) Then, take a close look with a flashlight in the mirror to check which tooth broke, and how it broke. When you call your dentist, it will help us plan next steps if we know the location and severity of the fracture. If you can, let us know if the fracture goes between the teeth, how much of the tooth is missing, and whether it seems to have broken above or below the gums. Most importantly, let us know if you’re in pain!
Lost Filling or Crown
Over time, even the best dental restorations may break down. While filling materials have improved dramatically in the past several years, no material perfectly matches your own enamel. Each material can shrink or expand over time and with temperature changes. Likewise, your enamel may break down from acid exposure or even just usual wear and tear. This can cause tiny gaps to form between the restoration and allow saliva and bacteria to invade. Recurrent decay is just one of many reasons a restoration may fail.
If possible, try to save any crowns that fall off. In many cases, we may be able to re-use the lost crown and avoid fabricating a new one, which can save you a lot of money. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, but it can’t hurt to try!
Call us right away if you notice a restoration has gone missing. While many lost restorations don’t qualify as a true emergency, the situation may be urgent if you are in pain. Lost restorations can frequently leave your tooth incredibly sensitive, making it difficult to eat and drink. Even if it’s not a true emergency, however, any tooth missing its restoration is compromised, meaning it is more at risk for further damage like fractures, so we want to hear about it as soon as possible!
Dental infections can be incredibly painful. The pain from an infection may be described as shooting, throbbing, aching, or sharp. If tooth pain is waking you up at night or disrupting your life, be sure to call us right away. In many cases, we can prescribe and antibiotic over the phone which should help relieve symptoms until you can come see us in the office.
Fortunately, dental infections are usually easy to prevent. If Dr. Anderson has recommended any treatments such as fillings, be sure to take care of those as quickly as possible to keep decay from penetrating deeper into your tooth and endangering the nerves and blood vessels within. However, not all dental infections give warning signs before they start causing problems. Abscesses can form quietly over time without pain. That’s why routine x-rays and oral health checks are so important!
When to go to the ER: Dental infections can become a life-threatening emergency. Left untreated, infections can spread to the heart or brain and cause death. If a loved one has facial swelling that impairs their breathing, or if the facial swelling is severe, it’s best to head to the ER. Likewise, if you are aware of a dental infection but haven’t completed treatment and you develop a sudden fever, severe headache, double vision, or nausea, these can be signs the infection has spread and you need emergency medical care.
Your team here at Anderson Family Dental is always ready to help you in an emergency. We have protocols in place even after hours and on holidays, so never hesitate to call! As prepared as Dr. Anderson is to help you through any urgent care, we want to help you avoid pain completely. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so schedule your next oral health checkup right here in Winter Park!