We all know the look of an emergency: the flashing blue and red lights, gathered people looking anxious, sometimes sirens, maybe a crowd gathering.
Dental care just doesn’t seem to drum up that same kind of urgent energy, now does it?
Still, there are times when a trip to the dentist is urgently needed. While it might not be a life and death situation, our mouths matter and there are times when urgent action can keep them healthy, whole, and intact. Here are five examples of moments that merit an emergency dental appointment:
1. Knocked out Tooth
This one tops the list as the most obvious. An accident that knocks out a tooth definitely gets your attention. You certainly are free to rock the hockey player style, but most likely, you’d like the tooth back where it belongs. If you act quickly, and the tooth itself isn’t too damaged, it can be saved.
Try to get the tooth back into place as soon as possible and hold it there while you get to the dentist. Find a 24-hour dentist if necessary. This will help preserve and protect the nerves and limit exposure to air and bacteria. If you can’t put the tooth in its place because of swelling or pain, drop the tooth into milk. This is less than ideal, but it helps.
If the tooth is damaged beyond repair, still get to a dentist. They will need to assess any other damage to the mouth and help you make a plan for filling the space left by the missing tooth. Your jawbone and other teeth will be healthier if that space is filled by an implant or a bridge.
2. Dental Abscess
A dental abscess is a pocket of pus. Pus isn’t a pleasant topic of conversation, but it is a signal of infection, possibly a serious one. It is a gathering of bacteria-fighting soldiers. Sometimes the abscess is easily visible, showing up on the gums. Sometimes they are deep under the surface. But, wherever they are, they are painful and merit immediate attention.
If you see an abscess, act quickly. If you have pain in your mouth that is joined by swelling or fever, then there could be an abscess somewhere hidden, and it is a good idea to get to a dentist right away. If a dental infection is ignored, that infection can spread to other parts of your body, which will mean more aggressive and expensive treatment.
Not all swelling means a dental abscess, but all swelling does deserve attention. Again, swelling is a sign that your body senses something wrong and is sending in the troops to fight the problem. It might be tempting to pop some ibuprofen, keep an ice pack on it and use the “wait and see” approach. Ice packs and ibuprofen will certainly help with the discomfort, but they are not going to address the deeper issue. Only a dentist can get to the root of that.
Figuring out the problem does not only save you money, but it could also save your teeth. You are worth the trip.
4. Lost Crown or Filling
When a crown comes off, or a filling pops out, get out that phone and call a dentist immediately. This isn’t just an annoying cosmetic issue, this is about the health of your teeth.
A missing crown or filling leaves a tooth vulnerable and exposed. Food particles can get into nooks and crannies and start to do the dirty work of decay right away. As soon as you lose a crown or filling, get to a dentist.
5. Exposed Nerves
This one is as painful as it sounds. It can often be a result of ignoring #4 on this list. Though it can also happen if a cavity is left untreated. Eventually, the decay will continue and reach a nerve, exposing it to air.
An exposed nerve will render you extremely sensitive to cold and heat in what you eat and drink, even just the air as you breathe. If a nerve is exposed it means that the tooth has been compromised and needs attention. Ignoring the pain won’t earn you a tough guy badge, but it could earn you more nerve damage and a higher dental bill. Earn a “take care of yourself” badge instead and get to the dentist.
Are there bigger emergencies in the world than a knocked-out tooth or lost filling? Absolutely. None of these “emergencies” are immediate life or death situations or reasons to panic. They are, however, worthy of immediate attention. You use your mouth every single day of your life: chewing, talking, swallowing, breathing. It is on the front lines of your immune system and the main player as you communicate and go about your day. It deserves the best. Take care of it, and pay attention if any of these red flags start flying.