What to do in case of a dental emergency

Dental emergencies can feel alarming, but if something happens to your teeth or gums — stay calm! There are steps you can and should take to preserve your oral health and ensure your smile stays bright well into the future.

A dental emergency can take several different forms, like a chipped or knocked-out tooth, a filling falling out, a broken crown repair, a tooth abscess or a painful toothache. All are issues that need to be dealt with, but your course of action may vary depending on the severity and immediacy of the problem.

For all dental emergencies, youll want to do two things:

  1. Contact your dental provider and determine whether you should wait to see a dentist or go to urgent care right away. If the injury occurs within your dental provider’s office hours, they may be able to fit you in immediately. If the emergency is outside of the offices usual hours, reach out to your local urgent care center (or an emergency room for serious oral injuries). At Island Family Dental, existing patients of Dr. Newkirk can call the office after hours to obtain the number for her emergency line.
  2. In the meantime, take action to mitigate your dental emergency at home. Depending on the nature of the problem, that could involve a few different steps.

In case of a knocked-out tooth:

Accidents happen. Its not uncommon for a tooth to get knocked out when someone is driving, playing sports, riding a bike, or engaging in some other intense physical activity. But if an adult tooth is knocked out, you run the risk of the gap in your mouth developing an infection, so its crucial to see a dental provider as soon as possible — preferably right away.

First, do some quick at-home first aid: Gently rinse the tooth in water. If you can, gently place the tooth back into place and hold it there lightly with your tongue or finger until you can see a dentist.

If thats not an option, cover the wound with clean gauze. If you dont have gauze, you can use a cotton ball or even a teabag. Your tooth is full of nerves and blood vessels, and its crucial that you dont let it dry out. Preserve the tooth in cold milk for transport to the dentist, urgent care or ER.

In case of a chipped tooth:

With the right amount of pressure and a little bit of bad luck, its remarkably easy to chip a tooth. While its not as urgent as a knocked-out tooth, a medium or large chip in a tooth can lead to increased sensitivity, enamel damage, an abscess or even loss of the tooth altogether if left untreated. And if a chip is large enough to expose the nerve, it can be extraordinarily painful. For those reasons — as well as cosmetic reasons! — its important to see a dentist as soon as you can.

In the meantime, rinse your mouth with warm water and apply pressure to the tooth with gauze or cotton to stop any bleeding. Apply a cold compress to the area of your mouth that may be swelling. If youre not bleeding too profusely, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen (if the bleeding is intense, avoid painkillers that thin the blood). If possible, preserve the chipped portion in milk — your dentist may be able to reattach it.

In case of a broken crown:

Call your dentist ASAP. Depending on the severity of the damage, they may need to see you right away. At the Newkirk dental office, you may be prescribed a night guard if the break was a result of grinding your teeth.

If the damage is less extreme, you can take steps to alleviate the problem at home if you have to wait a day or two to see a professional. Examine the tooth. If the crown is loose enough to be a swallowing hazard, you can pull it off. Rinse your mouth with warm water and avoid eating or drinking things that are too hot or cold — youll likely have sensitivity to temperature. Most drugstores carry dental cement that you can use to protect the tooth in the very short term.

In case of an abscess or toothache:

An abscess or a toothache dont usually require a trip to urgent care, but dentists recommend that they should be examined and treated as quickly as is reasonable. Symptoms include an intense, throbbing pain in your tooth or gums, a discolored or loose tooth, and a sensitivity to hot or cold foods. Treatment may require a root canal or an extraction — at Island Dental, the Dr. Newkirk’s dentist techniques prioritize a comfortable and gentle process.

To ease the pain in the meantime, you can rinse your mouth with warm salt water and take over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) as needed.

Island Dental offers a wide range of emergency, routine and cosmetic dental services, including dental implants, teeth whitening and veneers. To find out more, call your Island dentist at 360-718-8861 or send us an email at info@islandfamdental.com.

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