Dental emergencies are not like other emergencies. It can be hard to know the difference between bothering your dentist or getting in contact because there is a serious time-sensitive issue at hand – particularly if you’re not even sure what the problem is.
The rule of thumb is this: “If it hurts – it’s an emergency.”
If you chipped a tooth, but there’s no pain, it can likely wait until the office’s normal operating hours. Just be sure to take care when chewing as to not worsen the injury. But if it’s fractured or you’re in pain, you may have damaged the soft tissue inside your tooth or “pulp” and that needs to be looked at immediately lest the tooth be compromised.
A knocked out tooth or loose one should be immediately brought to a dental professional to attempt to save. The more time that passes between the initial trauma and attempted dental restoration, the less viable the tooth will be. In cases like this, if the tooth is loose please try to keep it in place by either keeping a finger there or gently biting to minimize movement. If it’s completely knocked out, avoid touching the root and either place it back in the socket (if you can comfortably do so), or store it in a small container or submerged in milk if it’s available. It can also be transported in a cup with, preferably the same person’s, spit. Get to our office immediately to minimize the likelihood of permanent tooth loss.
(Did You Know! Milk can help maintain the correct fluid balance of the root, preserving it longer; water, on the other hand, can cause the cells to swell and die.)
If you have any kind of mouth injury including: punctures, lacerations, tears, or similar to the cheeks/tongue/mouth – this is an emergency. Be careful not to take any pain killers which may be blood thinners, like aspirin or ibuprofen, as this can increase the severity of the injury. Abscesses or infections of the mouth are serious and can be life threatening in some cases. If you are experiencing any of these, it is certainly an emergency. If you are bleeding, dealing with a loose/missing tooth, in severe pain, have been dealt trauma to the mouth, or have swelling – this is a dental emergency. Call a medical professional immediately.
Note: If trauma to the head is involved, make sure to rule out a concussion. Some symptoms include headache, confusion, lack of coordination, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, ringing in the ears, sleepiness, and excessive fatigue. If you think you may have suffered a concussion, then you want to go to the ER first.
Dental emergencies are not a black and white issue, as is the case with injuries like broken bones. But when it comes to your oral health, pain is never normal, and severe pain means a severe issue. Fortunately, dental emergencies rarely pop up for no reason at all, and as long as you take care of yourself and avoid dangerous situations, they are mostly preventable. If you find yourself at a sport outing and take a rogue ball to the mouth, definitely give us a call. Until then, just keep to your usual oral hygiene routine and don’t worry – if the worst happens, you always have us to set things straight (:
Dr. Ernesto Mireles
Salinas Dental and Implant Centers
608 E. Boronda Rd., Suite B
Salinas, CA 93906
696 Walnut Ave., #1
Greenfield, CA 93927