When someone considers a dental visit, it most likely involves a scheduled appointment for a specific reason—for example, getting a professional cleaning with your hygienist, a restorative/cosmetic procedure or even a simple consultation for a brighter smile.
What happens, though, when you’re in a situation where one or more symptoms are severe or even unbearable? Then you may be dealing with a dental emergency.
What Is a Dental Emergency?
Dental emergencies describe all potentially life-threatening situations where immediate professional assistance is required.
So when dealing with an emergency, a dental professional should examine you as soon as possible and take the necessary actions to relieve your symptoms and offer treatment options.
Even though it’s not always the case, pain and bleeding are usually the most common symptoms that are recorded in dental emergencies.
However, even these symptoms should not always be treated urgently, and patients can simply make an appointment with their regular dentist at a suitable time.
So let’s discuss some details to understand more about the symptoms that should make someone seek a doctor’s help immediately.
Dental Emergencies: Symptoms and Possible Causes
If you’re experiencing constant and severe pain and can’t complete basic activities (like sleep, eat, drink or even concentrate), then call your dentist for advice promptly.
Toothache, especially acute, is associated with numerous causes that require a treatment plan. For example, you might be facing a severe infection on your teeth or gums, fractures and damage to your teeth or even a complication of a previous dental treatment.
Visiting your doctor as soon as possible for immediate pain relief and proper diagnosis is also crucial for your oral health.
Observing bleeding in your mouth after brushing or flossing your teeth is not considered a dental emergency. This is probably associated with gum disease, which is essential not to leave it untreated but not life-threatening. So you can safely wait a couple of days and schedule an appointment to visit your dentist and get the proper care you need.
However, if you’re experiencing uncontrollable, extreme bleeding from trauma or dental injury, call for advice as soon as possible. Emergency treatment is possibly required, especially when combined with other symptoms, like pain, swelling or dizziness.
Swelling can be detected in different places like your face, cheeks or inside your mouth, on your gums and surrounding tissues.
Minor swelling on your gums that feels a little uncomfortable can be treated in a regular dental appointment. Just make sure you won’t neglect it.
When intense swelling is present, we usually deal with a more severe infection that requires medical assistance. Especially if you’re experiencing severe pain, having a fever, difficulty opening your mouth or even trouble breathing, you should seek emergency dental advice and care.
Now that we have analysed some of the most common symptoms, it’s time to dive into the actual conditions that can be severe and require urgent dental care. So, what is actually considered a dental emergency?
Most Common Dental Emergency Conditions
A dental abscess happens when severe infection is present, and pus (a thick fluid caused by bacteria) is build-up in the teeth or gums. Some of its symptoms include severe pain, fever, and swelling.
✓ If you believe you’re dealing with a dental abscess, call your doctor or an emergency dental clinic to help you, as this is an absolute emergency.
Also, getting some over-the-counter painkillers and avoiding hot and cold foods and drinks can help ease some of your symptoms, but please don’t try to treat a dental abscess at home.
Chipped or Broken Tooth
A broken tooth can happen to anyone after biting something hard or by an accident or injury during an activity. Visiting your dentist to restore the issue is the only way to repair a broken tooth. However, this is not always an emergency.
✕ Restoring a chipped tooth or a tooth with a minor break when it’s not associated with pain is not an emergency. Book an appointment with your dentist to take a look and offer proper treatment.
✓ However, when a larger piece is missing, it usually involves severe pain. In this case, finding proper medical care soon to treat your broken tooth is extremely important.
An avulsed tooth (knocked-out tooth) happens when you lose your entire permanent tooth, usually after an injury or an accident.
✓ If your tooth is completely knocked-out, please don’t waste your time, as this is a true emergency.
Finding a dentist as soon as possible (within the first 30-60 minutes) will enhance your chances of saving your tooth.
Try to put your tooth back in and support it with your teeth or fingers without touching the root but only the crown (the top of the tooth). If it needs cleaning, use only water to wash out any dirt and try to put it back. If you can’t, put it in a container with milk to take it to your dentist.
Wisdom Tooth and Complications
If one of your wisdom teeth has started erupting, you might be experiencing discomfort, sensitivity in the area or other related symptoms.
✕ Having your wisdom tooth evaluated by your dentist without having severe symptoms is essential but not an emergency. Instead, book a regular check-up, and your doctor will do the rest.
✓ However, if you’re having extreme pain, swelling in the surrounding area, difficulty opening your mouth or swallowing and other symptoms that indicate an infection (like feeling sick or having a fever), call your dental team.
An infection associated with your wisdom tooth is considered an emergency. Your doctor will give you instructions to relieve your symptoms and see you in the office as soon as possible.
After the evaluation, if an extraction is needed, it will be booked in another appointment.
So don’t worry or get anxious about an emergency wisdom tooth removal. Your infection should be treated first, and a few other examinations must be performed before we proceed with an extraction.
Loose, Broken or Lost Restorations
If your dentist used a restoration treatment in the past to improve your smile and health and something is not feeling right, don’t panic!
✕ A loosened, broken or lost dental restoration like a crown, veneer, or filling is not always a dental emergency that needs fixing right away, especially when their placement was purely for cosmetic reasons.
Of course, you should schedule your dental appointment soon so your doctor can take a look and proceed with the appropriate treatment, avoiding further complications.
✓ However, if your restoration was placed to protect your teeth, and you lose or break your veneer, filling or crown, you should find a dental professional as soon as possible. With a damaged or lost restoration, you leave your tooth exposed to bacteria and in danger of infection.
Also, don’t neglect to call an emergency dentist if your dental restoration has remaining sharp edges after it’s broken. In this situation, you should find medical assistance so you don’t cut your tongue or cheeks by accident.
✕ Generally, gum disease is not considered a dental emergency as it’s a chronic condition that takes time to progress.
✓ However, if gum disease has progressed because it is left untreated for a long time, the symptoms are more severe and might need immediate dental care.
Advanced periodontitis is the last and the most dangerous stage of gum disease. People in this phase are experiencing severe pain, have damaged inflamed gums and dealing with a significant danger of tooth loss.
This situation requires action right away. Advanced periodontitis can also become life-threatening if someone continues ignoring these severe symptoms.
What to Do in a Dental Emergency?
First of all, try to retain your calmness and avoid panicking so you can help yourself and find the proper care you need. Then, find someone you trust to be with you so you won’t be alone.
Call your doctor as soon as possible and explain the situation with the details and all your symptoms. Your dentist will then be able to give you instructions and see you in the office as soon as possible.
If you can’t find your doctor or don’t have one, please search online to find a dental emergency clinic near your area.
Dealing with an emergency might sound scary, but a dental professional will always provide the necessary care you need.
And even if we can’t prevent all dental emergencies, there are some measures anyone can follow to decrease the possibility of facing one.
Tips to Avoid a Dental Emergency
1. Schedule Your Regular Dental Appointments Twice a Year
Visiting your dentist for check-ups is one of the most important things you can do to preserve your oral health. When required, proper examination and professional cleaning can prevent plaque formation from bacteria, which can lead to gum disease.
2. Follow Good Oral Hygiene Practices
Caring for your teeth at home is essential and will help prevent infections and dental complications. So, don’t neglect your routine; brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day, and remember to floss between the teeth daily.
3. Be Careful With Your Diet and Eating Habits
Following a healthy diet and avoiding consuming a lot of sugar can significantly impact your oral health. As a result, you can protect your teeth from decay and gum disease and improve your overall health.
Don’t forget to avoid extremely hard and sticky food, as this can put your dental restoration treatments (crowns, fillings or veneers) in danger. They can crack or get lost completely, leaving your tooth exposed and vulnerable to bacteria.
4. Use a Mouthguard During Activities or Sports
Using a mouthguard would be ideal whenever you’re participating in any kind of activity or sport with a higher risk of falling or getting injured.
It’s a great way to protect your teeth and avoid any dental injury like chips and cracks on teeth or even getting a tooth knocked out.
5. Avoid Chewing on Hard Items
Many people tend to chew different objects like pencils, plastic pens, hard candy and the ultimate favourite, ice. In some cases, people might start chewing a hard item when they are down on a lot of stress.
All these can cause serious damage to your enamel (the outer layer of your teeth), leading to cracks and breaks.
So if you feel that you need to chew something, try to avoid anything hard and instead use gums or some less hard foods like apples or nuts.
6. Avoid Using Your Teeth to Open, Break or Cut Something
It has been observed that injuries involving a chipped or broken tooth can happen after trying to use your teeth as a tool.
Even though these habits might be convenient in many situations, thankfully, tools are available for each case. We assure you that all these instruments (scissors, openers and more) will complete all your tasks without risking your smile.
So the next time you want to open a bottle or cut a cord, please try to avoid using your teeth!
7. Work to Overcome Any Dental Fear
Some people do not feel comfortable and get anxious about the idea of sitting in a dentist’s chair. So they tend to neglect to go to the office for regular check-ups or even when they need treatment.
This can lead to severe dental complications and emergencies requiring a more extensive or invasive treatment plan.
We recommend discussing any concerns you might have with a dental professional. Knowing and understanding every step of the process might help you overcome your fears.
Do You Need Emergency Dental Care?
At Swedish Dental Clinic, we offer our services to treat any patient in need as soon as possible. Our dental team is here to provide everything you need if you’re facing an emergency.
Contact us immediately on our emergency number so we can discuss your situation, provide professional advice, and determine whether you need to do anything before your visit.
We will offer you an appointment on the same day if possible and see you in our office as soon as possible to comfort your symptoms and provide optimal care.