Going for regular dental check-ups will stave off a lot of dental emergencies, but accidents do happen.
And, since many people don’t go to the dentist until they’re facing major issues, lurking trouble makes itself felt over weekends, on holidays, or in the middle of the night.
Here are five of the most common dental emergencies and how to deal with them.
Toothache is a sure sign of trouble. It can be a case of a cracked tooth or bad tooth decay that has reached the nerve inside the tooth, or it could be even more sinister.
An abscess beneath the tooth can be very dangerous to your overall health.
Use painkillers or anti-inflammatories to bring down swelling and ease the pain, and be sure to ask for the earliest possible appointment your dentist can spare.
If you use a cold compress applied to your cheek, be sure to wrap it in a cloth.
Ice applied directly to the skin can cause damage of its own. A warm salt water rinse is a safe option and can give some relief.
2. Chipped or Broken Teeth or Crowns
A chipped or broken tooth, a damaged filling, or a broken crown can’t be left to itself.
Even if you aren’t feeling any pain, the soft dentin of your teeth is likely to be exposed and vulnerable to decay.
However, if you are in pain or if sharp edges are cutting your mouth or tongue, you will need to see a dentist as soon as possible.
If you’re wondering what to do if you have a broken crown, the procedure is very similar to the one you’d follow if you had a broken tooth, but with one exception.
If the whole crown or a large piece of it came out, save it. Your dentist may be able to repair the crown.
If your mouth is bleeding, rinse it out with warm, salty water.
Over-the-counter dental cement, or even a piece of sugar-free gum can protect your mouth from jagged tooth edges while you wait to see your dentist.
3. Tooth Knocked Out
Having a tooth knocked out is an emergency in the truest sense of the word. To save the tooth, it must be repositioned in your mouth very fast.
You can try doing this yourself, but you will still need urgent professional help.
If you can’t fit the tooth back into its socket, place it in a glass of milk or in your mouth behind your lip to keep it moist.
Get to an emergency room as quickly as you can, and try calling your regular dentist to alert him or her to your accident.
Apart from the knocked-out tooth, you may have suffered damage to the jaw itself. Getting treatment is a matter of urgency.
4. Loose Teeth
A tooth that has been loosened in an accident needs urgent attention. Handle the situation much as you would one in which your tooth was knocked out.
However, if you didn’t have an accident and your teeth seem to be loose, you may have advanced gum disease.
Once again, getting treatment is a matter of urgency.
If you do have gum disease, you will probably have noticed other symptoms.
For instance, your gums will have been prone to bleeding when you brushed your teeth and the gums are likely to be red and inflamed.
Fortunately, your condition can be treated, but the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to save your teeth.
5. Sores in Your Mouth
Fever blisters and cold sores aren’t usually too serious and you can treat them with over-the-counter medications.
But there are other types of sores that occur in the mouth, and if they are especially painful and don’t improve, you should get help.
Sometimes, dental abscesses look like pimples on the gum, but unlike regular pimples, they are a sign of serious infection and signal the need for emergency dental attention.
Painkillers and mouth rinses are only first aid measures – you still need to see a dentist.
Mouth sores can also be a symptom of oral cancer – but fortunately, your dentist will be trained to do the necessary screening.
Sooner is better, so be sure to have persistent mouth sores checked out.
Preventing Dental Emergencies
Prevention is always better than cure.
Apart from your brushing and flossing, regular dental checkups and visits to the oral hygienist will help to keep teeth and gums healthy.
If you play contact sports, invest in a mouth guard – it may not look beautiful, but missing teeth are even less attractive!
You should also treat your teeth with respect – they aren’t tools for opening packaging, and super-sticky or very hard foods are the source of many dental emergencies.
But no matter how careful you are, there will be times when you need urgent dental help.
Don’t delay! You only have one set of permanent teeth, and they must last a lifetime.