We've all seen it in a movie or tv show: Character breaks their tooth. Character rushes off to the dentist in the middle of the night. Character gets tooth capped. Character lives happily ever after. But is that how it happens in real life? The answer: No, no it isn't. In reality, a dental emergency requires a little more at home action and a lot more after treatment care.
So what defines a dental emergency? The Queensland Department of Health states that a dental emergency is any accident or incident which causes pain, bleeding, infection or swelling to the mouth or teeth. But not all dental emergencies require immediate action. In some instances, a few home remedies can tie you over until you can see a dentist in the morning. Below is a list of the five most common dental emergencies and the actions you should take if they occur to you or someone you know.
1. Knocked out tooth
We've all seen this one in classic looney toons and miraculously the victim has a full tooth again in the next scene. But if it happens to you remain calm and find the tooth. Be sure to handle the tooth from the crown, never the roots. Do not remove any tissue fragments from the tooth. If it is dirty gently rinse it off in a glass of milk (or very quickly in water). If possible, immediately replant the tooth in the socket and hold it there. If that is not possible keep the tooth moist by immersing it in milk (not water this time) or wrapping it in plastic. The key is to not let the tooth dry out. Seek immediate dental treatment. If it is a child's tooth, do not attempt to replant it. Replanting could cause damage to the developing adult tooth.
2. Chips, Fractures or Cracks
In the case of a chip, fracture or crack the most important thing to do is check for any pink in the 'wound'. If you see any pink, it could be an exposed nerve. If this is the case, seek immediate dental treatment. Delay could result in the tooth dying. If you do not see any exposed nerves, and there is no soft tissue damage or pain, seeking prompt dental treatment should be sufficient.
3. Toothache and/or jaw pain
In the case of a toothache, the first thing to do is remove any debris from the mouth using warm, salty water. Then take some over the counter pain relief and place a cold compress on the outside of the cheek.
If you are having trouble opening your mouth or experiencing persistent pain, apply cold compresses and take anti-inflammatory medication. In both cases seek dental treatment if the pain persists.
4. Soft Tissue Trauma and Bleeding (including bitten lips or cheeks)
Treat bitten cheeks with warm salty water. In the case of bleeding lips or gums, apply pressure to the area with a clean cloth. Apply a cold compress to relieve any swelling. Use salt water washes until healed. In each of these cases, they normally heal on their own. However, seek medical or dental treatment if you believe an infection is setting in.
5. Abscesses and swelling
Abscesses are pus-filled swelling caused by infections in either the tooth, gum or as a result of tooth trauma. Abscesses are often painful but not always. If your abscess is causing your extreme pain and swelling, seek immediate medical or dental treatment because if left untreated they can cause widespread infections. Your doctor or dentist will prescribe antibiotics, however, these will not fix the cause of the abscess, they will merely treat the infection. Your dentist will be able to treat the cause of the abscess.
For more information on dental emergencies please contact DentalCareXtra or make an appointment. Alternatively, complete the form below, and one of our friendly team members will contact you.
Queensland Department of Health. (2015). 'Emergency Dental'. Retrieved from: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/services/oral-eye-ear/emergency-dental/index.html