What is a Dental Emergency?

While a little twinge in a tooth may seem to be an emergency, The American Dental Association (ADA), provides us with guidance as to what constitutes a true dental emergency, especially in light of the current Covid-19 pandemic. If there is ongoing bleeding of your gums, you are in severe discomfort or there is the possibility that an infection is present as evidenced by pain or swelling, we encourage you to be seen as soon as possible.

Other circumstances could also require prompt attention by your dentist:

  • Trauma to the mouth that caused a tooth or teeth to loosen or fall out
  • Fractured tooth or teeth that result in irritation to your tongue or gums
  • A change in the appearance of oral tissue
  • An unusual intra-oral growth — a biopsy may be indicated
  • Adjustments to your denture if makes it difficult to eat comfortably

Oftentimes it is difficult to ascertain whether your concern falls into the ‘emergency’ category; we encourage you to reach out to us and we’d be happy to help with that determination. Drs. Hochberg and Diora are available to see our emergency dental patients as soon as possible. Our goal is not only to avoid the potential of further damage to your teeth, but also to help ensure that your dental concern does not impact your overall health.

In the interim, listed are some recommendations to follow until we are able to see you:

  • If a tooth has been knocked out:
    1. Contact us immediately; the sooner we see you, the better the opportunity to potentially save the tooth.
    2. If it’s a permanent tooth, it should be rinsed and placed back into the socket. If it doesn’t go in easily, place the tooth or teeth into milk, if available, or water or saliva; this will keep the tooth moist. When doing so, be careful not touch the roots, handling the tooth by the crown only. Also, avoid using a toothbrush and toothpaste to clean the tooth.
    3. If it’s a baby tooth that comes out prematurely, leave it out and give us a call for further directions.
  • If you are in discomfort:
    1. Use warm salt-water rinses for sore teeth and gums
    2. Take an over-the-counter pain medication. Depending on your tolerance, take Advil or another ibuprofen product, or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
    3. Apply an icepack to the outside of your cheek; however, if the discomfort is the jaw (TMJ) a heating pad should be used
    4. Dental anesthetics containing benzocaine may be used as directed on the package for pain.
    5. If you are experiencing sensitivity, avoid foods and liquids that are hot or cold; moderate temperatures are kinder to the gum tissue

Some other tips to help reduce the potential for further damage:

  • Avoid chewing in the injured area
  • If a fractured tooth has an edge that is sharp to the tongue, you can purchase an orthodontic wax at the pharmacy to place over the rough area and chew on the other side.

Please remember that not all dental problems have accompanying pain, but they could result in an emergency need down the road. It’s best to be proactive if a change or trauma occurs in-between your dental hygiene visits. Let the experts address problems as soon as possible so we can work with you to optimize your oral health.