Emergency Dental Care
If you experience a dental emergency, call our office as soon as possible so that we can schedule an evaluation to assess your condition. We are available after hours to active patients of record. In an extreme emergency, please visit a hospital emergency room.
When your dental health is at risk, we’ll do everything we can to make sure that you’re treated as soon as possible. While dental emergencies are rare, they can happen, and it’s important to know how to take care of your teeth no matter what. Common dental emergencies include:
- Abscessed tooth
- Broken or cracked tooth/teeth
- Permanent tooth knocked out
- Lost temporary or permanent crown
- Object caught between teeth
If it is after hours or you are unable to come into our office for treatment right away, here are some suggestions for managing your dental problem:
An abscessed tooth is characterized by swelling of the gums around the tooth and may expand into swelling of the face. Get in touch with our office as soon as possible if you have an abscessed tooth. If you are a patient of record, we will likely be able to give you specific instructions based on your particular condition. If you experience severe facial swelling that begins to limit your ability to swallow, breathe, or open your mouth, do not hesitate to seek emergency medical attention at a hospital, as you may require the administration of intravenous antibiotics to stop the spread of infection.
Toothache symptoms may include pain when chewing, hot and/or cold sensitivity, bleeding or discharge from around the gums, swelling around tooth or jaw, and injury or trauma to the area. These symptoms may be related to pain associated with dental decay, gum disease, TMJ disorder, sinus infection, or ear and throat pain. It is important to differentiate between actual tooth-related pain or referred pain from other sources; this can be assessed during normal business hours.
Until you are able to come in for an evaluation, take great care to clean very well around the tooth and rinse well with warm salt water to displace any food that may be trapped between the teeth and/or gums. Ibuprofen and/or acetominophen can provide temporary pain relief.
For mild facial swelling, apply a cold compress to the affected area. If you experience severe facial swelling that impedes your ability to breath, swallow, or open your mouth, seek emergency medical attention at a hospital.
Broken/Cracked Tooth or Lost Filling
Teeth or fillings may break due to large cavities or large fillings that have weakened the teeth. It is not uncommon to feel rough edges or sensitivity to hot and cold. This problem can usually be addressed during regular office hours when the dentist has staff for assistance.
Orthodontic wax or temporary filling material from a drug store may help seal the sensitive parts of the tooth and/or cover rough edges.
Permanent Tooth Knocked Out
Time is of the essence. Immediately call our office for emergency instructions. Here are some steps that you can take on your own to increase the prognosis of saving the tooth:
- Make sure that the tooth is free of debris, but do NOT scrub the tooth. Attempt to replace the tooth in the socket yourself and hold it in place.
- If unable to replace the tooth yourself, place the tooth in a cup of milk or hold the tooth in your mouth (your saliva will help to keep the tooth hydrated) on the way to the dental office.
- Typically there is also bleeding of the lips or gums due to traumatic injury. Apply pressure to help stop the bleeding and place an ice pack on the injured site to relieve swelling.
Lost Temporary or Permanent Crown
A lost crown can cause sensitivity to the exposed tooth. If a crown is missing from the tooth for an extended period of time, the surrounding teeth can shift and prevent the crown from being properly replaced. Until you are able to have your crown re-cemented in the office, you can temporarily replace the crown yourself by following these guidelines:
- First make sure that the inside of the crown is cleaned very well.
- Try the crown in to make sure you know the correct orientation. It will only fit on the tooth one way. Typically, the longer side goes toward the cheek or lips.
- Place a small amount of denture adhesive (found at most drug stores or grocery stores), petroleum jelly, or toothpaste inside the crown. Do NOT use super glue or drug store temporary cements.
- Place the crown on the tooth, press it into place, and bite your teeth together to make sure that the crown fits all the way onto the tooth. If the crown is not aligned correctly, you may have to clean out the adhesive and start again.
- Rinse your mouth after a few minutes to help remove any debris. You may use a cotton swab to remove excess adhesive.
- Avoid chewing on the crown for at least an hour and avoid chewing any hard, crunchy, or sticky foods on the crown.
- You may have to replace the temporary adhesive more than once a day because some of it may dissolve. Schedule an appointment with our office to cement the crown as soon as possible.
Sometimes part of the tooth may be broken off inside the crown. In these cases, it may be difficult or impossible for the crown to be retained on the tooth with temporary adhesive. Contact our office as soon as possible so that we can evaluate whether the crown can be re-cemented or if a new crown will be required.
Object Caught Between the Teeth
Sometimes an object, such as a popcorn or peanut husk, fish bone, etc., can inadvertently get caught between the teeth. Try using dental floss to remove the object. You can tie a small knot in the floss and work the knot back and forth along the gumline to try to dislodge the object. If you have a WaterPik, use it to try to flush out the object. If these attempts are not successful, be sure to come in for an evaluation as soon as possible. Objects that are left stuck between the teeth may get worked deep into the gum tissue which can be very irritating and potentially lead to a dental abscess or irreversible periodontal damage.