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Dental Emergencies

 

Introduction

Tips on how to handle common dental emergencies

What to do

Questions your Dentist will ask

What if I can't afford a Dentist?

References


Introduction

Properly handling a dental emergency can mean the difference between saving or losing a tooth. Whether you are away on a trip, at home or involved in outdoor activities, it's smart to be prepared for any kind of dental emergency.

Time is crucial in saving teeth. If your tooth or your child's tooth has been fractured, or if the tooth has been knocked out, you need to get to a dentist's office as soon as possible.

Tips on how to handle common dental emergencies

Knocked-Out Tooth

  • It is important to retrieve the tooth, hold it by the crown, and rinse off the root of the tooth if it is dirty.

  • Do not scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. The tissue on the root (ligamentum flavum) is needed for the tooth to fuse with the tooth socket.

  • If possible, put the tooth back in it's socket. If that is not possible, put it in a container with milk or water and then get to your dentist as soon as possible.

Broken Tooth

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water to keep the area clean.
  • Use cold compresses on the area to keep the swelling down, and get to your dentist's office quickly. Sealing of exposed dentin or pulp minimizes chance of infection and decreases pain.

Bitten Tongue or Lip

Clean the area gently with a cloth and then apply cold compresses to reduce the swelling. If the bleeding does not stop, go to a hospital emergency room immediately. Lacerations of your lip, tongue or mouth may require cleaning and suture (stitch). Such repairs are often done by medical doctors (MD's).

Sutures cannot be placed if a wound is more than 12 hours old in most circumstances because the edges will no longer stick together. Therefore, it is important to have a cut checked out as soon as possible (preferably within the first 6 hours).

Objects Caught Between the Teeth

Try to gently remove the object with dental floss and avoid damaging the gums. Do not use a sharp instrument. The best item to use is a plastic toothpick that has an angulated tip. If not successful in removing the object, visit your dentist.

Toothache

The most common complaints associated with a toothache include:

  • that the tooth is sensitive to hot or cold liquids or foods or to sweets
  • throbbing pain
  • sometimes there is referred pain (pain from one area that is felt somewhere else). An example would be an infected tooth that causes ear pain.

Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean out the area. Make sure there is no food or any other object lodged around the tooth. Use dental floss to clean the area thoroughly.

Never put aspirin or any other painkiller on the gums or around the painful tooth because it can burn the gums, thus causing more harm than good.

Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (aspirin, Ibuprofen, Naprosyn,...) or Tylenol may give some pain relief. However, these medications cannot treat the cause of the pain. For this you will need to see a dentist

What Should You Do ?

Your tooth hurts, it throbs and is sensitive to hot or cold.
You can't lie down because it hurts.
You can't chew because it hurts.
What should you do?

The obvious answer is to visit your dentist!

Questions will you be asked if you have a toothache and visit your dentist

  • How long has it hurt ?
  • What makes it hurt ?
  • How much does it hurt ?
  • Have you been taking anything for the pain ?

    The dentist or the assistant will ask you those questions to determine what type of emergency treatment will be required.

    When you arrive at the dentist's office, he or she will do an oral examination to see which tooth is bothering you and then diagnose the source of the pain. Your dentist may also want to take x-rays to help in the diagnosis. Treatment can then begin to alleviate the pain and address the problem.

    Some of the common reasons for a toothache include decay, periodontal (gum) disease, or physical trauma such as being hit on the mouth with a baseball or hockey stick.

What if I cannot afford a Dentist?

Low cost or free dental clinics are available in most communities. They may not be accessible 24 hours a day. Unfortunately, some people are unable to afford immediate dental care and do not have access to 24 hour dental care.

In these situations the only alternative is go to a hospital emergency room. Most hospitals do not have a dental specialist on call and care is not free; however, all emergency departments in the United States are required by law to provide a basic medical exam regardless of ability to pay. You will receive an medical evaluation and treatment without having to pay first. Although Emergency Room Doctors are limited in what they can do for your teeth (they are not Dentists), they can treat your pain and recognize serious dental infections that must be treated immediately.

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References

  1. "Dental Emergencies" from American Dental Association @ http://www.ada.org

  2. "Dental Emergencies" from Dr. Deepak Vaswani @ http://members.rediff.com/deepakvaswani/index.htm

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