Don’t let a dental emergency stress you out.

You bite into your favorite crunchy food and gasp when you feel your tooth crack. You’re playing football with the guys and you take a hard hit to the jaw, dislodging a crown from your molar. Your daughter is proudly showing off her new bike-riding skills until she tumbles onto the sidewalk and knocks out a tooth.

Besides being scary, what do each of these scenarios have in common? They’re all potential dental emergencies that require professional attention to correct.

What exactly constitutes a dental emergency? How do you know when it’s time to seek dental services? And what can you do in the meantime before you visit your dentist? Read on for the answers to these important questions.

What is a dental emergency?

The good news is most dental emergencies are nowhere near as severe as many medical emergencies. The fear, the surprise, and the (possible) pain are usually the biggest concerns.

Here are some common examples of dental emergencies:

  • Your tooth falls out or gets knocked out
  • You crack, chip, or break a tooth
  • You develop a toothache or facial swelling
  • You lose a filling or a crown

If you or a family member experiences any of these things, don’t panic. Take a nice deep breath. Your next step is determining how quickly you need to visit your dentist.

When should I seek emergency dental care?

Not all dental problems are actual emergencies. In some situations, it’s important to get to a dentist or an emergency room as soon as possible. For other scenarios, you may be able to wait a few hours (or days) before seeking care. Let’s take a look at these examples one by one to help you determine when to call your dentist and what you can do in the meantime.

Your Tooth Falls Out

This is one of those dental emergencies where time is of the essence. If you can get in to see your dentist quickly (within an hour), there’s a good chance he can save your tooth. Call your dentist immediately to explain the situation and get to the office ASAP.

In the meantime, you need to keep the dislodged tooth clean and moist. Pick it up by the crown, or top, of the tooth, not the root or bottom. If you can, gently place the tooth back in the socket without touching the root. If that’s not possible, place the tooth in a cup of cold milk or slightly salted water and bring it with you to the dental clinic.

Your Tooth Chips, Cracks, or Breaks

Start by collecting the tooth fragments, if there are any. Rinse your mouth with warm water to ensure it’s clean. If you have any pain or swelling, use a cold compress or ice pack on your cheek or jaw.

A minor chip or crack is unlikely to cause pain and is not a true emergency. Your dentist can likely repair it with a filling. If it’s a larger crack or chip, however, you might need a crown to encase and protect what’s left of the tooth. If the tooth cracks all the way through, it will probably need to be extracted and replaced with an implant.

You won’t know the extent of the repair work you’ll need until you see your dentist, so make an appointment as soon as possible. In the meantime, avoid foods that are very hot, cold, or hard.

You Have a Toothache, Sores, or Facial Swelling

A toothache itself is rarely an emergency, but it could signal an underlying problem that needs attention.

White sores that develop on the gums are often the first sign of an abscess. The same is true of unexplained swelling around a tooth or anywhere else inside your mouth. Don’t brush it off as nothing. If you have a toothache or oral sores that don’t go away after several days, schedule an appointment to get checked out. Better to learn it’s nothing than to ignore it until it becomes a serious problem!

You Lose a Filling or Crown

A lost filling or crown is another scenario that doesn’t usually require immediate attention. Try to make an appointment within a few days to see your dentist for the necessary repairs.

In the meantime, go to the drugstore and buy a bottle of temporary dental cement to fill in the space. If that’s not possible, a piece of sugarless gum will also do the trick. This will keep the area clean until your dentist can replace the filling or crown.

The Best Medicine of All: Prevention

Of course, there’s nothing you can do to completely eliminate the chance of a dental emergency. Nor should you give up the activities or foods you love so you don’t accidentally chip a tooth.

Like other forms of healthcare, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Minimize your risk of a dental emergency by wearing a mouth guard when you play contact sports. Avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels, or hard candies, and never use your teeth to open anything.

What else can you do? Adopt a regular oral healthcare routine at home to keep your teeth and gums healthy between dental visits. If you have kids, teach them how to brush properly (and make sure you set a good example yourself).

And remember that even the best at-home routine doesn’t replace the need to see your dentist. Cleanings and screenings allow your dentist to address minor issues before they become worse.

Here’s the takeaway: The healthier you keep your teeth, the less likely you’ll ever need to seek emergency dental care.

Dental Services: Plans for the Whole Family

Has all this talk of dental emergencies left you feeling stressed? Wouldn’t it be great to have a plan in place so you know you don’t have to worry about the unexpected?

Duvall Dental Center offers in-house dental health plans for children and adults. Our plans cover preventive cleanings and screenings and offer a 20% discount on other dental services.

If this sounds like the perfect solution for your dental needs, contact us today for more information. We’ll be happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have.