What is Considered a Dental Emergency?
A dental emergency is defined as any injury to the gums, jaws or teeth. Even an injury that seems mild at the time of the causal event may be serious if not treated properly by a qualified dental professional. Injuries that are ignored for any substantial amount of time may result in a more severe situation that requires extensive and costly treatment, so it is important that patients seek out professional help as soon as possible after the injury occurs.
What Situations are Considered Dental Emergencies?
A variety of conditions and injuries constitute dental emergencies. The following is a comprehensive list of the type of emergency situations that warrant immediate professional dental treatment.
A forcefully dislodged tooth: If a tooth is knocked out of its socket, it is imperative to the process of reinsertion that you see your dentist immediately. The likelihood that the tooth can be saved exponentially diminishes after one hour. First, pick the tooth up by the crown, or the portion of it that is visible when secured by the gums. If the root has been exposed to any type of dirt or contaminant, rinse it in warm water. Take care to avoid rubbing it or removing any tissue that is attached to it, as these are necessary in the process of reattachment.
Next, place the tooth in a small plastic or glass container of milk. The proteins in milk promote cell health and may aid in keeping the tooth for the time that it takes to get to the dentist. Patients are strongly advised to follow this procedure in order to increase the chances of saving and reinserting the tooth.
A partially dislodged tooth: If the tooth has not been completely removed from its socket, it is usually easier for your dentist to repair it. Take care to avoid touching the tooth with your fingers or tongue, as this may weaken the tissues holding it in place. Use an ice pack on the outside of the mouth to reduce pain and swelling and see your dentist immediately.
Abscess: An abscess is a painful infection of the gum or bone that usually occurs between one or more teeth. If left untreated, an abscess may cause serious damage to gum tissue, bone and teeth in the area of the infection, so it must be addressed immediately. In severe cases, the bacteria associated with an abscess may spread to other areas of the body, resulting in moderate to serious illness.
A lost filling or crown: Aside from the pain that accompanies a lost filling or crown, this situation can potentially result in damage to the tooth in question. In the case of a dislodged crown, extreme pain may be a factor as you wait to visit your dentist. A doctor-approved over-the-counter pain reliever should help in the interim.
Injuries to the gums: If you sustain a cut, deep gouge or any other major injury to the gums, see your dental professional immediately. Serious injury to the gums may affect surrounding teeth and must be examined as soon as possible to reduce this risk and to stop bleeding.
Fracture to the jaw: A fractured jaw is often accompanied by damage to the teeth or permanent misalignment if not treated soon after the event occurs. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon will assess the situation and determine the most effective treatment possible.
If you have suffered any type of injury to the teeth, gums or jaws, consult a qualified dental professional immediately.
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