What Constitutes a Dental Emergency? How to Know When to Visit the ER
A toothache should be a clear indication that a visit to the dentist is in order. There’s a difference, though, between a dull ache that disappears temporarily when you take ibuprofen or apply an over-the-counter topical remedy and that intensely painful sensation that feels as though somebody is running an electrical current into your brain.
You will need to consult with a dentist in both instances. The former situation, however, is typically more indicative of a chipped tooth or a lost filling, bridge or crown, which means you have a little more time. Intense pain is more likely to be associated with a cracked tooth, an injured tooth that’s coming loose from your jaw or an abscess that’s forming in your tooth pulp.
These types of situations constitute a dental emergency that should be evaluated by your dentist as soon as possible. Here are three dental emergencies that require immediate attention and possibly a trip to the emergency room.
A Loose or Knocked-Out Tooth
You’ll have the best chance of saving a tooth that’s partially or completely knocked out of its socket if you can arrange to be seen by your dentist within an hour of your injury. If your tooth is loose, don’t touch it even if it seems as though it’s about to come out.
Try to keep the tooth in your mouth. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever to control discomfort and gently apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek.
If your tooth has been knocked out entirely, try to retrieve the tooth if that’s at all possible. Try not to touch the tooth’s roots; only handle it by the crown. If you can reinsert the tooth into its socket without applying an undue amount of pressure, do so.
If the tooth does not slip easily back into your jaw, put it into a small receptacle of water that contains a dash of salt, and bring it with you to your dentist’s office.
A Cracked Tooth
Molars are the teeth that are most susceptible to cracking. A small crack in your molar may only constitute a cosmetic issue, but if you’re experiencing serious pain, the soft pulp of your inner tooth may be exposed. This pulp contains sensitive nerve and blood vessels, so any crack that extends beyond the enamel can be quite painful.
Rinse the area around the tooth with warm salt water. If pieces of your tooth come loose, try to collect them for your dentist to look at if you can. If bleeding is associated with the cracked tooth, apply gauze gently to the area until the bleeding stops.
Depending upon the severity of the crack, your dentist may recommend a crown, a root canal or both procedures. The root canal may be necessary if exposed pulp becomes infected. In such cases, your dentist may use filling materials to restore the structural integrity of the cracked tooth before fitting a crown on top of it.
An Abscessed Tooth
An abscess is a suppuration that’s caused by a bacterial infection. Its symptoms typically include pain and swelling. Abscesses develop over time.
If you have an abscessed tooth, at first, you may only notice sensitivity to temperature extremes or to the pressure when you bite down hard on something. Over time, that sensitivity may develop into a constant, throbbing pain. The lymph nodes on the side of your neck or beneath your jaw that are closest to the infected tooth may swell, and you may develop a fever.
If the abscess ruptures, the pain typically disappears, and you may assume you’re no longer facing a dental emergency. That isn’t true. Dental abscesses will not heal without medical intervention. The infection can spread from your tooth into other parts of your body, and you can spread your infection to other people particularly if those people have weakened immune systems.
Your dentist will prescribe antibiotics and drain the abscess to eliminate the source of infection. Your dentist will also evaluate the condition of the tooth to figure out how it can best be treated.
In many instances, your dentist will be able to perform a root canal, which will remove the diseased soft tissue so that the tooth overlying it can be capped. In some instances, however, the tooth will be so damaged that it may need to be extracted.
Dental health is not something to play with. If you notice something going out of the ordinary, go ahead and take the time make an appointment. with the best dentist Edmonton or your local area. Even if the dental emergency requires a trip to the ER or Urgent Care, still call your dentist to advise them of your challenge, and see if you can stop by for a quick look at your teeth. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
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