When to Call Your Dentist: Emergency Needs

Child in a dentist's chair

Aside from the standard twice-annual dental visits, there are some emergency occasions that may require a last minute trip to the dentist office. Fortunately, dentists are equipped to help with dental emergencies on a timely basis to care for your health and well-being. 

The following are some emergency dental needs that necessitate an immediate call to your dentist’s office. It is best not to put these off. Many offices have emergency lines in case you need to contact your dentist after-hours, or when it’s an urgent situation. 

1. Tooth infection. 

There are usually early warning signs that there may be a tooth or gum infection, but sometimes, it isn’t clear until you’re running a fever and experiencing tooth pain. One such example is an ‘abscessed tooth,’ in which a pocket of pus within the tooth has become infected. Look for warning signs such as running a temperature, swelling around the tooth, a toothache, and heightened sensitivity. 

Any type of moderate tooth pain is a sign that there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed immediately. 

2. Losing a tooth. 

Unless you’re a child losing your baby teeth, a loose tooth - or, actually losing a tooth - is considered an emergency. Your adult teeth are supposed to last for the rest of your life, and it’s important to do your best to save these teeth if a trauma occurs that loosens the tooth or knocks it out. 

Dentists can perform dental implants to replace a tooth after a trauma. If you still have your tooth but it is loose, call your dentist immediately. Each of your adult teeth is held into your mouth by your gums and a number of nerve endings, so any type of loosening is typically a sign of gum disease that must be treated as soon as possible. 

If you do lose a tooth and still have it, it’s advised to try to keep the tooth moist by storing it between the inside of your cheek and the soft gum by your molars while you make it to the dentist. You can also try to loosely place it back into its original socket, but be weary of touching the root if it’s exposed. In any case, keeping it moist will up the chances of being able to keep the tooth.

3. A chipped tooth with pain. 

Other types of trauma can lead to a chipped tooth. On its own, a chipped tooth isn’t necessarily an emergency (beyond cosmetic purposes) However, if the tooth has been chipped at an angle that is quite sharp or is the result of blunt trauma that is accompanied by significant pain, it’s best to get into the dentist’s office immediately. 

En route to the dentist, use a cold compress to help with the pain, and also rinse with salt water.

4. Any type of bleeding or swelling. 

Inflamed gums may lead to some bleeding just from irritation, which is totally normal. However, continuous bleeding or swelling in or around your mouth, tongue, teeth, or gums is also a sign of a dental emergency.

When you call your dentist to arrange an emergency visit, they will let you know what to do on your way in to keep you as comfortable as possible and to try to preserve the tooth (if it’s been knocked out). Rest assured that dentist offices are more than equipped to handle any type of dental emergency in a calm and collected manner.

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