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Emergency Dental Care: What Constitutes an Emergency?

Thinking you might need emergency dental care? Here’s how to know if your situation is an emergency – and how quickly you need to seek dental treatment.

At Regal Dentistry, our team is dedicated to keeping you updated and informed about your dental health! Today’s topic? Emergency dental care.

We’ve previously covered the topic of what constitutes a dental emergency, so consider this a refresher course of what you need to keep in mind.

In fact, a 2012 study found that almost 28% of adults had untreated dental problems. When we ignore our bodies, small concerns can often turn into dental emergencies requiring emergency dental care.

And if that stat isn’t enough to prove to you  just how serious dental health is, just keep in mind that the average cost of a dental emergency visit is $749.

So what constitutes a need for emergency dental care? Let’s review!

The basics:

In an earlier blog, we talked about some of the most emergency dental care procedures that you should be aware of. These problems can easily be taken care of, but be sure to come in as soon as possible!

Tooth Pain

  • We mentioned that tooth pain can be caused by the following:• Reversible pulpitis: If the pain was induced by a stimuli; (hot, cold or sweet) it is usually a reversible condition. Removing the stimuli and placement of a filling is often the treatment.

    • Irreversible pulpitis: If the pain was spontaneous and persists, it means the pulp is severely inflamed. In such cases, root canal therapy (RCT) is required. During the emergency visit, RCT may be initiated. It includes drilling into the pulp chamber to remove the pulp and filling the empty pulp chamber and root canals. The patient is required to come back to complete the treatment and have the tooth filled permanently. If there is enough damage to the tooth structure, a crown is advised. In some cases, emergency extraction is done depending on the severity. Judging by the level of discomfort of the patient, RCT can be delayed for few days but not more than that. Pain should be managed with appropriate analgesics.

Gum Swelling

  • Swelling of the gums can happen for a variety of reasons (like gingivitis), but if the swelling is painful there may be something more serious occurring.

    • In cases with a localized swelling accompanied with severe, spontaneous and persistent pain, incision and drainage of the pus might be required. RCT or extraction is the definitive treatment and patient should visit the dentist within one to two days. Pain can be managed by analgesics. Antibiotics may or may not be prescribed depending on the severity of the infection.

    • In some cases, the infection can spread into the surrounding tissues and can cause extensive swelling. (Cellulitis). Fever may be present along with severe pain. If not treated this can lead to serious complications. In addition to incision and drainage, oral antibiotics are prescribed and the patient is required to visit the dentist for RCT or extraction after the swelling has subsided.

    • If the swelling has extended into deep spaces of the head and neck there is risk of life-threatening complications and the patient should be hospitalized.

Dental Trauma

  • Accidents can happen to the best of us, so all dental trauma should be addressed as soon as possible to increase the likelihood of saving the tooth or minimizing the damage.

    If you have experienced a fracture, or if a tooth has been broken or removed completely from the socket, pain management may be required as well as a filling or complete removal of the remaining tooth fragment.

    In the case of a fracture, it’s important for your dental team to examine the severity and discuss which repair procedure is right for you.

Wisdom Teeth

  • When wisdom teeth are erupting, it is possible for food and bacteria to become trapped within the flap of gum created by the emerging tooth. When this happens, it is not uncommon for an infection to occur.

    If you notice swelling, redness, and pain in the area of your wisdom tooth, it is imperative that a patient comes in to be seen as soon as possible. Drainage of the infection, removal of the tooth, or the prescription of antibiotics and pain medication are all possible treatments.

Broken Crowns and Lost Fillings

  • When one of your teeth has a crown or filling, that tooth has required dental attention in the past. Therefore, if damage occurs to those repairs, the patient should treat it as needing emergency dental care to prevent further damage of the tooth.
  • With a broken crown, bridge, or lost filling, the tooth is left susceptible to decay and will need those devices repaired or replaced as soon as possible to avoid losing the tooth.

So now that we’ve gone over those common problems, let’s turn our attention to other dental emergencies that you should be aware of and what signs to look out for.

Other Emergency Dental Care Situations You Should Know About

Tongue or Cheek Injury

  • Bites to the tongue or cheek are fairly common, especially when an individual is hastily chewing food or gum. However, this common annoyance could turn into a need for emergency dental care if a particularly bad bite occurs. If a flap has been created, or a sore has developed, it is best to seek emergency treatment by a dental professional.

Object Stuck in Mouth

  • Whether food or a foreign object becomes stuck in your mouth, removing the item by yourself is not always a wise option. Often, removal at home can cause more damage and open the patient up to the risk of infection through the use of dirty hands or unsanitized tools.

Tonsil or Gland Stones

  • Unknown to many people, tonsil and gland stones can occur when bacteria and food become trapped in the folds of the tonsil, throat, or mouth. As this bacteria flourishes, it calcifies and forms a solid mass.

    These “stones” are often accompanied by an unpleasant odor and can sometimes be expelled on their own, unbeknownst to the person.

    However, if you notice a stone and it is accompanied by swelling or pain, please treat it as an emergency and do not attempt to remove it at home.

If you have noticed any of these symptoms, or have other concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us for help. The qualified team at Regal Dentistry is ready to create a comprehensive treatment plan to help you maintain your dental health!