What Constitutes a Dental Emergency?

There’s routine dental care, and there’s emergency dental care. Emergencies are, thankfully, rare for most people. If you’ve never had a dental emergency, though, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on what to do so that you’re not trying to research in the midst of a scary situation. 

At Higgins Dental, our experts keep some time open to handle emergency situations. Your dental health is important to us, and if you’re in the middle of an emergency, we’re here to help! This post explains how to recognize you’re having an emergency, as well as what you should do. 

Prevention is best

Although we’re happy to help when you have an emergency, we’d prefer you to not have one to begin with — as you probably would, too! Here are a few pointers to help you protect your teeth.

Use a mouthguard when appropriate

Do you play sports? You should know that the most common cause of dental emergencies are accidents that happen to people while playing sports. When a ball, stick, bat, or another person hits you in the mouth, you can suffer serious dental damage. 

Plastic mouthguards are widely available, and can offer protection for your teeth and gums. Wearing a mouthguard can save you pain and money. 

Chew carefully

Many people enjoy chewing hard candy, ice, or the kernels of popcorn that don’t pop. Each of those items can crack your teeth, and so can things like pencils and pens. Your teeth are strong, but chewing items that are especially hard can do damage. 

Your teeth aren’t tools 

Your teeth are designed to chew food, and they work well for that purpose. However, you may be tempted to use them to open packages, bite through threads, or tear off lids. Don’t. Using your teeth like tools presents a serious risk of injury.

Broken teeth and cuts in the mouth are just two of the injuries we see that result from people using their teeth for things other than eating. 

What’s a dental emergency? 

Every injury and issue is unique, but a high level of pain is a good indicator. Here are some general guidelines for deciding what’s urgent and what’s not.

Your mouth is as unique as you are, and every dental emergency is different. A good indication of whether or not your particular situation is an emergency is your level of pain. Here are a few other guidelines to help you decide. 

Cracked, broken, and knocked-out teeth

Regardless of how it happens, if you’ve cracked or broken a tooth, you may wonder if it’s an emergency situation. Most of the time, a crack is not an emergency, but if you’re in a great deal of pain, it can be. A broken tooth, though, is an emergency and is a more serious problem than a crack. 

When a tooth is knocked completely out, you’re having a dental emergency, no question. You should rinse your mouth, and, being careful not to touch the root of the tooth. If you can, place the tooth back in its socket and call our office immediately. If you can’t, put the tooth in a zip-top bag with some milk. The faster you get care for a knocked-out tooth, the more likely it is we can save your tooth. 

Losing crowns, fillings, or veneers

There are lots of reasons you may lose a crown, veneer, or filling, but if the result is excruciating pain, you’re experiencing a dental emergency. If the pain isn’t so bad, you can probably wait to schedule an appointment for repair. 

Dental emergencies related to braces 

Braces themselves aren’t dangerous, but if you get hit in the face, metal braces can cause a lot of damage to the soft tissues of your mouth. 

Cuts and bruising to your gums, tongue, and cheeks definitely count as dental emergencies. Although you’re likely to have cuts or bruising on your cheeks, gums, and tongue, you may also have damage to the roots of your teeth. If you’ve been hit in the mouth and you have braces, seek emergency care. 

Infections and abscesses

Injuries and accidents are usually pretty clear when it comes to whether or not you’re having a dental emergency, but there are other less obvious situations that can also require emergency care. 

You can have an infection or an abscess and have quite mild symptoms. However, over time, they can get much worse without treatment.

When an infection or abscess reaches the emergency stage, you’re in serious pain, and you have clear signs of an infection like swelling, fever, and a bad taste in your mouth. If you think you have an abscess, contact our office for emergency care. 

Knowing what constitutes a dental emergency is just the first step. The next thing you need to do is make sure Higgins Dental’s phone number is handy. You should also schedule and keep regular appointments so that we can keep your mouth in great shape and spot any issues that could become emergencies well before they do. 

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