Dental Emergencies: What They Are and How To Handle Them

Know how to handle dental emergencies

What are dental emergencies?

It’s important to know what to do during a dental emergency. Dental emergencies are more common than you might realize. However, not every situation requires an emergency visit. So how do you determine the difference between issues that can wait for a scheduled appointment and those that require immediate attention? If you have experienced some sort of dental trauma or feel that you might have an emergency situation, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I experiencing severe pain? 
  • Is my mouth bleeding? 
  • Have I lost a permanent tooth
  • Do I have a loose permanent tooth? 
  • Do I have an infection or abscess in my mouth? 

If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, contact Dr. Sexton’s office for information on what to do next. As a rule of thumb, any dental problem that needs professional treatment to stop bleeding, treat severe pain, or save a tooth is one that requires immediate care. Severe infections can also be life-threatening and should not be ignored. If for any reason you can’t reach someone at the office, you may need to visit your nearest ER.

What are common types of dental emergencies?

Though asking yourself these questions can help you determine if an emergency visit is needed, some situations are considered dental emergencies right off the bat. Check out these five common dental emergencies that should have you reaching out to your dentist right away.

1. Swollen, Bleeding Gums

Bleeding, swollen gums are never a good sign and shouldn’t be overlooked. Though bleeding gums can be the result of vigorous brushing, it can also mean a more severe issue, such as periodontitis (an advanced form of gum disease), vitamin deficiency, or a lack of clotting cells (platelets). If you have swollen, bleeding gums, especially with one or more of the additional concerns listed below, reach out to your dentist.

2. Cracked Teeth

If you have experienced trauma to the mouth that has resulted in a seriously cracked tooth (or teeth), you can assume that you need to contact your dentist for an emergency visit. Severe cracks can expose nerve tissue and risk infection. (A minor fracture may be able to wait until your next scheduled visit. When in doubt, give your dentist’s office a call.)

3. Abscess or Infection 

Infections can get more and more severe with each passing hour. Therefore, especially if you have an abscess (a pocket of pus caused by a bacterial infection), it is best to give your dentist a call to clarify the next steps. If your infection is severe enough, your dentist may even suggest you pay a visit to the closest hospital, urgent care, or emergency room.

4. Loose or Knocked-Out Tooth

Any facial impact that causes your tooth to loosen or fall out should be addressed as quickly as possible. If a tooth is loose, try to keep it in its socket so that it will stand a better chance of reinsertion. Gently bite down to hold the tooth in place until you get to the dentist. If the tooth has fallen out, store it in milk and bring it with you to your emergency visit. 

5. Soft Tissue Injury

Oral soft tissue includes your lips, gums, tongue, and the insides of your cheeks. If any become injured, contact your dentist for guidance on what to do next. If your injury is severe enough, you may be told to head to the emergency room. Regardless,  always immediately rinse soft tissue injuries such as lacerations, punctures, and tears with warm water and be sure to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. 

What is not considered a dental emergency?

Dental evaluations, professional cleanings, and dental X-rays are not considered dental emergencies and can wait until your next routine appointment. Similarly, the events and procedures listed below are not regarded as dental emergencies unless you are experiencing related discomfort. These can typically wait until adequate time can be allotted for treatment.

  • Loose fillings
  • Visible dark spots or possible cavities
  • Chipped teeth
  • Ulcers
  • Cosmetic dental procedures (veneers, teeth whitening, etc.)

For any of the above needs, simply request to schedule an appointment with your dentist. Your family dentist will be more than happy to help you with whatever you need to help you love your smile and prevent true dental emergencies.

What do you do in a dental emergency?

If you feel that you have a dental emergency, the first thing you should do is contact your dentist’s office. Even if your dentist office is closed for the day, most answering services or answering machines will be able to tell you what to do in the event of an emergency. Remember, in any dental emergency the most important thing you can do is stay calm. Keeping calm will help ensure that you can relay the appropriate information to your dentist so that they can provide guidance on what to do next.

How can you avoid dental emergencies?

In some cases dental emergencies just happen, as in the case of accidents or sports injuries. But in many cases dental emergencies can be avoided by doing the following:

  • Follow a proper oral hygiene regimen including twice-daily brushing, daily flossing, and daily rinsing with mouthwash.
  • See your dentist every six months for preventive cleanings.
  • Contact your dentist at the first signs of any oral pain

Take the next steps to prevent dental emergencies.

Dr. Bruce Sexton has over 30 years of family dentistry experience. If you are in need of a professional dental cleaning or oral evaluation and live in or near Wayland, Michigan, now is the time to request an appointment with our team. Our warm, inviting atmosphere will make you forget you’re visiting the dentist. We would love to partner with you to ensure great oral hygiene and help you prevent dental emergencies.