Any dental problem is inconvenient. No one likes to deal with pain, and tooth pain can be some of the worst. But how can you tell exactly how urgent your problem is?
When it comes to a pain in your mouth, how do you know if it can wait, or if you need to get to the dentist right now?
Here, we’ll break down exactly what a dental emergency looks like, and what to do if you’re faced with one.
What is a dental emergency?
Put simply, a dental emergency is a situation where you need immediate dental care. Dental emergencies differ from other dental problems because they’re time sensitive. Without immediate care, the problem is likely to get much worse.
For example, losing a filling is an urgent situation, but not a dental emergency. You’ll need to see a dentist to have the filling replaced, but it can wait a few days.
A knocked-out tooth, on the other hand, is a true dental emergency, because if you don’t get to the dentist within an hour or two, you risk losing the tooth entirely.
What are the most common types of dental emergencies?
If your tooth has completely detached from the root, act fast: you’re facing a dental emergency. Knocked-out teeth are commonly caused by hits to the face (from sports or falls, for example). Because the chance of successful reattachment decreases significantly after the first hour, it’s important to get to a same-day emergency dentist right away.
What To Do about a Knocked-Out Tooth
If your tooth has been knocked out, call an emergency dentist immediately. In the meantime, preserve the tooth: gently rinse it clean without touching the root, and put it in an airtight container with saltwater, milk, or saliva. (The moist environment will help the root and crown survive until your appointment.)
The emergency dentist will attempt to reattach your tooth. If the tooth can’t be reattached, they’ll review other restoration options with you.
Dental Fractures or Cracks
It’s rare, but the extremely hard enamel that forms the surface of our teeth can crack or fracture. Usually it happens if you bite into something extremely hard, like nuts, candy, or popcorn kernels.
What To Do about Dental Fractures or Cracks?
If your enamel has cracked, first check how bad the fracture is. A tiny, surface-level crack doesn’t require an emergency dental visit (but schedule a regular appointment right away!).
A deep fracture that extends below the gum line, on the other hand, means you should get to the dentist ASAP. Not sure? Play it safe and go to the emergency dentist.
Based on the severity of your crack, an emergency dentist will walk you through your options. Dental bonding can seal a more superficial crack, or, in more severe cases, a root canal and a crown may be required to protect the crack.
If you’re wondering “should I go to the dentist for tooth pain?” the answer is yes. If you’re wondering if you should go right away, the answer is: it depends.
Toothaches can be caused by many different things, and: some are mild, while others are severe. A severe toothache that gets worse over time definitely requires an emergency dental visit—especially if you also have a fever.
What To Do about Severe Toothaches?
If your toothache is mild, it may have a simple cause—like food stuck between your teeth. Try gently brushing and flossing your teeth to see if you can dislodge anything. Painkillers can also help you get relief.
If that doesn’t help and your toothache gets worse, or is accompanied by fever, contact an emergency dentist right away. You may have an infection, an abscess, severe decay, damaged fillings, or a fracture. An emergency dentist will be able to diagnose the problem and treat it right away.
An Infected Tooth
An infection is a time-sensitive emergency—if you don’t treat the infection right away, you risk it spreading to other parts of your head or neck. Most infections are accompanied by a dental abscess: a pocket of pus that forms around the infection, which often presents as a small, painful pimple-looking bump on your gums.
What To Do about an Infected Tooth?
If you see an abscess, or if you have red, inflamed gums, extreme tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, soreness when chewing, bad breath, or darkening of your tooth, contact an emergency dentist immediately.
Over-the-counter pain relief medicine will help in the meantime. The dentist may drain the abscess or perform a root canal. You may also be prescribed antibiotics to combat the infection.
What are other signs of a dental emergency?
In addition to the symptoms listed above, you should contact an emergency dentist if you notice: an extremely loose tooth, numbness in your mouth (especially after a prolonged period of toothaches, or any signs of burst cysts, like foul odors or a metallic taste in your mouth.
Most importantly, when in doubt, give the dentist a call—they can help you decide if your problem needs immediate treatment.
Are DC emergency dentists open during Covid?
Tend’s top-rated dental teams in DC are ready to treat your dental emergency and take great care in providing a safe environment for their patients. Read here to learn how the Tend dental team is keeping the community safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Are DC emergency dentists open on the weekends?
Finding an emergency dentist open on Saturdays may seem difficult, but Tend studios in DC are available for you. We offer same day emergency dentist appointments with late hours—because we know not all emergencies occur between 9 and 5! Contact us to speak to an expert right away.
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