Every good hockey-loving Canadian knows that knocked-out teeth often come with the territory of the sport. Despite the use of sports guards and face cages, dental emergencies can sneak up on us in ways that we hadn’t imagined. But what is a dental emergency, really? And when do we need to see a dentist urgently as opposed to within a few days of the onset of the problem? Here is what you need to know about handling dental emergencies until you can get to your emergency dentist in Edmonton.
What is a Dental Emergency?
A dental emergency is considered urgent where there are signs of infection or trauma involving the teeth and/or the soft tissues. If your pain and discomfort is well-managed with Advil or Tylenol, you are not likely to be experiencing a dental emergency – but you should still get in to see your dentist at your first opportunity. Where there has been a trauma to the teeth and you notice that your teeth are loose, broken or knocked out altogether, you need to head to your emergency dentist in Edmonton as soon as possible.
What is Not Considered Urgent
Figuring out what is urgent and what isn’t requires you to rely on your judgment of the situation. Given that the mouth and face are full of blood vessels, bleeding is sometimes (but not always) misleading. It doesn’t take much to get your tongue or cheeks to bleed, and while wounds here may bleed more than you’d have otherwise expected, it is important to clean the area to determine how bad the injury really is. To accomplish this, rinse the mouth with clean water and apply pressure to the area with a clean gauze. When you lift the gauze away, you should have a better sense of whether you require stitches. And while dentists are the professionals to look to for injuries of the mouth, your family doctor or local clinic will also assist you in closing up and suturing lacerations whose bleeding isn’t well controlled by ice and pressure.
Sensitive teeth, dull aches due to dental cavities and prosthetics, such as crowns, that have failed require a dentist’s attention – but not the same day. Advil can be used to decrease the degree of painful sensitivity experienced, dental cavities and lost fillings can be patched with chewing gum to protect the sensitive tooth from the elements, and dental wax can also be used to press the crown back in place until your dentist can see you.
Dentist or Hospital – How to Decide
If you are trying to decide whether to go to the hospital or the dentist for help with a mouth-related issue, you should first assess whether there is any chance of head trauma or a broken jaw. If you have sustained a significant blow to the head or mouth and the teeth were subsequently impacted as a result, always prioritize treating the head injury by heading to the nearest hospital emergency room. Broken or dislocated jaws should also be seen at your nearest emergency room.
If you suspect that you have a dental infection and experience pronounced swelling of the cheek or find it difficult to breathe, head to an emergency room straight away. While not all dental infections are life-threatening, they can become very serious. Of importance is the fact that teeth are only able to hurt if they are still alive – once the infection kills the tooth, the infection could be advancing without your knowledge.
In cases where you suspect that you may have an infection, your level of pain will likely tell you whether it is an emergency or not. Tooth infections are notoriously painful, one of their indications being pain not alleviated by over-the-counter medications. You may experience sensitivity of the tooth to both hot and cold and you will likely taste something bitter and metallic coming from the tissues around the tooth. You may or may not see visible signs of infection on the gums, which typically present with a pimple-like formation on the gums.
Common Dental Emergencies
- Broken or Chipped Teeth
- Knocked-out teeth
- Cracked Teeth
- Loose teeth (from trauma)
- Tooth Infections
How to Prevent Dental Emergencies
First Aid Kit
No matter whether you’re a sports player or not, you should always have a first aid kit on hand in your vehicle, and one at home. Most facilities are equipped with emergency first aid kits, but you’ll want to have one on hand for those times that a medical incident occurs far from home. You should ensure that your first aid kit contains clean gauze for absorption of blood and to apply pressure to the source of a bleed without introducing bacteria to it.
Where dental emergencies are concerned, applying pressure to a bleed usually involves rinsing the mouth with clean water before rolling a small square of gauze and placing it at the source of the bleed. If you can, gently bite down on the gauze to hold it in place and to apply enough pressure to discourage bleeding.
If you or your children play sports, it’s important that they are prepared to be on the court with appropriate personal protective gear. Pads, gloves, and helmets are critical to ensure their safety in many sports – but don’t overlook the importance of wearing a sports guard over the teeth.
Mouth guards for use in sports are relatively inexpensive and can be the difference between major trauma including lost teeth and soft tissue damage and bruising. These guards protect the teeth from impact and protect both your natural teeth and your restoration investments such as bridges, crowns and implants. If you require a mouth guard often, speak to your dentist about having a custom mouth guard made to keep your teeth safe. These guards are made specifically for your mouth and can be used many times before needing to be replaced.
Proper Use of Your Teeth
It might sound a little funny at first, but please only use your teeth for their intended use – chewing and speaking. Opening bottles, cracking crab shells, and breaking nut shells do not count and can be quite harmful to your teeth. In fact, you’d be surprised about the number of times dentists hear of people skipping bottle openers in lieu of using their teeth! And if you’ve done it ‘a million times’, let us just remind you that there is a first time for everything, including broken teeth.
If you are serious about keeping your teeth in good health, regular visits to your dentist are a critical part of maintaining that goal. While you do what you can from home in the way of brushing, flossing and getting good nutrition, you won’t have access to the tools that your dentist has. See your dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings. As part of these services, your dentist will likely offer a digital X-ray of your jaw – these photos of the teeth under the gums can detect abnormalities such as asymptomatic cysts. Proactive visits to your dentist make it more likely that if there is something developing in your dental structure that shouldn’t be there, it can be caught before you have a dental emergency on your hands.