What is a Dental Emergency, How Can I Avoid it, And What to Do if it Happens?
The term ‘dental emergency’ is used often but its meaning is not always clear. In this article we will define what a dental emergency is, and provide advice on how to avoid a dental emergency and what to do if you find yourself in a dental emergency. The team at dentist Indooroopilly River City Dental regularly provides emergency dental care for our patients, both existing patients and new patients.
What is a dental emergency?
A dental emergency is a situation in which you require dental care as soon as possible in order to ensure that you do not suffer lasting impacts to your health or wellbeing. A dental emergency may also be a situation in which a dental condition is affecting your health and wellbeing significantly in the moment, for example if you are suffering from extreme pain.
As we all know, dental appointments are typically booked in advance. This may occur a few weeks out or you may book for your next appointment when your previous appointment finishes to maintain an ongoing cycle of regular dental check-ups. A dental emergency happens in the moment and cannot be foreseen in advance, and given the urgency of the situation, it cannot wait until your next appointment.
Your dentist Toowong may offer emergency dental appointments, as we do here at River City Dental. If you are suffering from a dental emergency, a dentist that offers emergency dental care will endeavour to fit you into their schedule as soon as possible, on the same day if possible.
Can you provide some examples of a dental emergency?
Many different situations may qualify as a dental emergency, but it can be helpful to provide specific examples of what does and doesn’t constitute a dental emergency. The following situations are not generally considered to be dental emergencies.
- Tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity is a highly unpleasant condition that may manifest when you drink hot or cold beverages, or when you chew. It can result for a number of reasons, including the recession of the gums which exposes the root of the tooth, and also due to dental erosion or tooth decay, which makes the sensitive inner part of the tooth less protected from outside influences. Tooth sensitivity is not a dental emergency and can be managed with an appointment booked through the usual channels, but if you are suffering from tooth sensitivity you should definitely consider bringing your next appointment forward.
- Cosmetic dental treatment. Your Indooroopilly dentist may offer a wide range of cosmetic dental treatments. While it can be very important for a person’s confidence and wellbeing to restore the appearance of their teeth, this does not constitute an emergency. Treatments such as dental veneers, dental crowns, and teeth whitening will need to fit into the usual appointment schedule maintained by your Chelmer dentist.
Of course, these situations and symptoms still require treatment or care, but this dental treatment at your dentist Indooroopilly is not time-sensitive, so this is not an example of a dental emergency.
Below River City Dental have listed some examples that are generally considered by your Toowong dentist to constitute a dental emergency:
- Extreme toothache. Dental pain can constitute an emergency in a few different ways. The pain may be so extreme that we cannot function normally and focus or enjoy our day-to-day activities. This may include activities at work and at home, and in extreme cases may even impact safety or income. Toothache can also indicate a serious underlying condition that needs to be promptly identified and addressed by your dentist. Many conditions may be implicated, including damage to certain nerves, or an abscess in the centre of the tooth. Treatment of such conditions can determine their ultimate trajectory, so time is certainly of the essence.
- Tooth loss. Teeth are commonly knocked out during sporting incidents, but tooth loss can occur in a range of settings, and very unexpectedly without the tooth necessarily having been notably loose in the first place. Even the loss of a baby tooth, which was going to fall out eventually, can be significant because of the important role that baby teeth play in development. Treatment of a knocked-out tooth needs to be undertaken fast because if treatment is received soon after the incident, the tooth may be able to be replaced, avoiding more complicated and extensive fixes after the loss, such as dental implants.
- Chipped, cracked, or fractured teeth. As with knocked out teeth, chipped and broken teeth are also commonly caused by a sports incident or collision, for example during a ball sport such as football, rugby, or soccer. However, they can also occur unexpectedly, for example due to unconscious teeth grinding, from accidentally biting down on something firm or from performing a bad habit such as opening a bag of chips or a lolly packet with your teeth. This can be associated with pain, but some people can have a fracture without pain. In either case, emergency dental treatment should be sought from your Fig Tree Pocket dentist because the structure and integrity of the tooth has been compromised, making it vulnerable to further damage, and creating a pocket/groove or an avenue to the tooth centre – conditions conducive to tooth decay or a tooth infection.
- Dental abscess. A dental abscess refers to the build up of pus that may occur in the root or gums that is associated with infection. You may be able to identify a possible dental abscess if you are suffering from intense toothache, sensitivity, a foul taste in the mouth, swelling in the gums, face, jaw, or glands, or a high body temperature. If you are suffering from a dental abscess, you can certainly take over the counter pain relief, eat soft foods, use a soft toothbrush, and avoid sugary or hot and cold foods and drinks, but treatment needs to be immediate and antibiotics are often required. Treatment mayinvolve your dentist Indooroopilly draining the abscess and if an irregularity or issue with the tooth has caused the abscess (for example if you have infected dental pulp due to a cavity), then a root canal treatment may need to be carried out by your dentist Chelmer. Sometimes, impacted teeth that have not grown from the gums properly may also cause an abscess; this can commonly occur with wisdom teeth.
- Wisdom teeth dental emergencies, lost fillings or crowns, and bitten lips, tongues and cheeks may also be examples of dental emergencies.
Can a dental emergency be avoided?
In hindsight, it may seem that it was possible to have avoided a dental emergency. It is easy to think to oneself ‘if only I hadn’t gone for that tackle’ or ‘if only I had seen the ball in time and dodged it’. However, some risks to our teeth are an inherent part of our lifestyle, and rather than avoiding these risks entirely, we need to focus on reducing them.
Because the risk of a dental emergency cannot be avoided entirely, we need to make contingency plans for when we do suffer from a dental emergency. This may include keeping the number of your emergency dentist Toowong, emergency dentist Indooroopilly, or emergency dentist Brisbane within your phone – on ‘speed dial’ so to speak.
It is important to note that your dentist may not be available to deliver emergency dental care 24/7. However, they will do their best to accommodate you as soon as possible within their operating hours.
On this topic, a dental emergency cannot be avoided by denying the existence of a dental emergency that is happening. Pretending that everything is fine will only make the situation worse. Some people are anxious of additional costs during a dental emergency, which may be incurred due to the treatment required or the need to cancel other bookings to fit you in for emergency treatment. However, this is a false economy, for two reasons. Firstly, in the long run, not treating a dental emergency may result in the need for more extensive treatment. Secondly, you cannot place a price on wellbeing or health.
How can I avoid a dental emergency from happening to me or my children?
As noted, though, there are certainly steps you can take to reduce your risk of suffering from a dental emergency. These steps include:
- Follow the correct dental routine at home to protect your teeth and keep them strong. This will involve ensuring you are using the correct brushing technique, the correct toothpaste, the correct type of brush (particularly as relates to its firmness), the correct flossing technique, and other factors. More than anything, it actually means having the discipline to follow your routine because you recognise how important it is to your oral health.
- Reconsider your habits in light of advice from your Fig Tree Pocket dentist. Habits that contribute to tooth decay can increase the risk that we will suffer from a dental emergency. If we consume too much sugar, we make it more likely we will suffer from tooth decay, so we need to consider ways of reducing our sugar intake, for example by familiarising ourselves with the nutritional information on the back of food packets. It’s also important to maintain healthy levels of saliva, by staying hydrated. Other bad habits may include those habits that place our teeth at risk of direct damage. This may include clenching our teeth when we are stressed or opening packets with our teeth.
- Follow a regular schedule of dental check-ups. The value of visiting your Indooroopilly dentist or Brisbane dentist on a regular six-monthly basis cannot be overstated. Your dentist near me can identify issues before they become more serious and provide treatment in a timely manner, to reduce the likelihood of a dental emergency occurring. They can also undertake cleaning of your teeth, such as EMS cleaning using airflow treatment at River City Dental, which removes the plaque that has built up on the teeth. This alters the conditions that can cause tooth decay, and as we have established, tooth decay underpins many dental emergencies. However, if you are starting to notice an issue with your teeth that is not quite emergency level, you should still look to bring your appointment forward with your Pullenvale dentist. This way, they may be able to treat the problem early, or provide assurance that it is nothing serious.
- Ask your dentist near me about devices to protect your teeth. Many dental emergencies can be avoided, or their extremity reduced if you are equipped with a suitable protective device. Your Taringa dentist can design a custom-made mouthguard that is a comfortable and secure fit, to protect your teeth when you are playing a high contact sport such as football or rugby. They can also design a nightguard or splint that will f from damage due to grinding your teeth together, which many people do without being aware during their sleep.
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