An emergency is any situation you haven’t planned for that calls for immediate action. A dental emergency is any surprising problem involving teeth, gums or jaw. Many of the various types and levels of dental emergencies involve pain, swelling, or bleeding – sometimes a broken or loose tooth. The cause of the emergency could be accident or trauma; other times symptoms may have begun slowly and built up over time.
Deciding if You Have a Real Dental Emergency
Dental emergencies happen. When they do, it’s important to recognize and treat them as quickly as possible.
Sometimes the emergency might be obvious, such as a broken tooth from a bite into a piece of hard candy, a sports injury or a fall. Other times it might be an undefinable pain or suddenly increased sensitivity to hot or cold. While a loose crown should be handled, this doesn’t normally constitute an emergency. It should be attended to, but can wait until normal clinic hours.
It’s important not to ignore dental issues, especially those that pop up unexpectedly.
If you’re unsure of whether what you’re experiencing is an actual dental emergency, give us a call. We will be happy to help you adjudicate whether it’s something you need to take care of right away or whether it can wait until the next available appointment.
We are here for you.
A Cracked Tooth
We often get the question whether a cracked tooth is considered an emergency. If the patient has bitten into something and thinks a tooth might have cracked, it might or might not be an emergency. If the crack is visible it should be checked out immediately. Also, if the tooth has become more sensitive after the suspected break it’s best to seek help right away.
Dental Symptoms and What They can Mean
Sensitivity to Cold
Sensitivity to cold generally indicates the nerve has become slightly exposed – often due to a cavity. However, the sensitivity could also mean the teeth have been exposed to acids. Most beverages, other than water, are to a greater or lesser degree, acidic. Bottled teas, sodas and juices are particularly sensitizing. First, they will cause the teeth to become sensitive to cold and sweetness. Later, cavities will likely form. The best way for a patient to reverse this cold sensitivity is to treat any tooth decay and eliminate the source of the offending sugar and acid. This is not usually an emergency, but the patient should call for an appointment as soon as possible.
Heat and Cold sensitivity
A tooth can become increasingly sensitive to both hot and cold. When this occurs, chances are the nerve has become unhealthy and a root canal may be required. A throbbing sensation that goes back to the ear and continuing pain that begins for no obvious reason are both symptoms that should be treated by an emergency dentist as soon as possible.
Should facial swelling occur the patient should call our dental emergency number right away. If we are not available, it’s best to contact an urgent care center. Facial swelling is indicative of an infection and antibiotics should be taken as soon as possible.