Do You Need an Emergency Dental Visit?

posted by Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS on 11/4/2021 in General

Man rubbing his cheek and grimacing in reaction to tooth pain

Serious dental pain can be debilitating. It makes it difficult to eat, drink, and even enjoy everyday life. If you’re wondering how to differentiate between issues that can be addressed at a regular dentist appointment and those that require treatment right away, read on to discover when you need an emergency dental visit.

What are the Signs of a Dental Emergency?

When you experience serious injuries like a broken bone or deep wound, you know it’s time for a trip to the emergency room. However, you don’t always know the right next steps when something happens to your teeth. It can be especially concerning if it’s a night or weekend when your dentist isn’t readily available. So where do you turn? Here are some key indicators you should seek immediate attention:

  • Severe pain. At some point in your life you’ve probably had the unpleasant experience of a toothache. For normal aches and pains, you can usually live with it for a few days until you’re able to schedule a regular dentist appointment. When that pain starts to increase rapidly or comes on suddenly, it’s a strong sign you should seek care now.
  • Bleeding in the mouth. Whether a direct result of trauma to the mouth or completely unexpected, bleeding may indicate an emergency. It can be normal to see a small amount of blood if you’re flossing for the first time in a while or brushing too vigorously. Anything beyond this should get attention right away.
  • Loose teeth. In children loose teeth can be exciting because it means a visit from the Tooth Fairy is coming soon. As an adult, experiencing loose teeth is cause for concern because it may be indicative of an infection. Even if you’re not experiencing pain, get to the dentist as soon as possible to determine the cause.
  • Cracked, broken, or missing teeth. When there’s visible damage to your teeth it can be quite traumatizing. Small chips or cracks that don’t cause much pain can usually wait a short time for treatment, but if the tooth is completely broken or dislodged, the sooner you seek care the higher the likelihood the tooth can be saved.

5 Common Dental Emergencies

With an understanding of the signs of a dental emergency, you can make a better determination if you need to make an emergency visit. While there’s a wide range of reasons you would need immediate attention, these are some of the most common causes.

1. Knocked-Out Tooth

No matter how it happens, having a tooth knocked out of your mouth requires treatment as soon as possible. With immediate action it’s possible the tooth can be preserved and put back into place by your dentist.

If you’ve experienced a knocked-out tooth, be careful not to pick it up or handle it by the root. Gently rinse the tooth and if possible, place it back in the socket. You can also place the tooth in a small amount of milk for a short time to help preserve it until you get to the dentist.

2. Damaged Dental Work

Dental work is meant to stand the test of time, but occasionally it will need extra attention or some repairs. Something as simple as biting down on hard food or eating sticky candy can break a crown or pull out a filling. This can lead to painful exposed nerves which are vulnerable to damage and infection. Getting these situations addressed quickly will help prevent issues from compounding.

3. Swelling of the Jaw

An unintentional elbow to the face or an unfortunate meeting with a soccer ball can leave your jaw sore for days. The real cause for concern is when this pain and swelling comes on unprompted. This is a big red flag that there may be a serious infection and you should get an oral exam and X-rays to determine the cause.

4. Bleeding or Swollen Gums

Bleeding, aching, and swelling gums are often a common sign of gum disease. When these symptoms are excessive or recurring, you should head to the dentist as soon as you’re able. It’s also possible a sharp piece of food has been lodged between your tooth and gums, and your dentist can help provide relief before it becomes more problematic.

5. Abscessed Tooth

A tooth abscess is a bacterial infection either at the tip of the root or in the gums at the side of the root. It can cause wide-ranging problems that go beyond just your mouth including fever, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and even sepsis. With quick action your dentist can help minimize the impact and possibly save the tooth.

What Should I Do if I Have a Dental Emergency?

One of the most stressful aspects of a dental emergency is figuring out where to go or who to call if it occurs outside of normal office hours. No matter when your emergency happens, call your dentist's office first. They will typically have an automated message that provides an emergency contact or instructions to follow.

If no emergency dentist alternatives are provided, the next-best option is to go to the emergency room. Though they may be unable to treat your condition on the spot, they can help assess the injury and provide antibiotics or painkillers to reduce your discomfort until your dentist’s office is open.

Dental Care at Kimball & Beecher

One of the best ways to avoid dental emergencies is to establish a patient relationship with a dentist who knows your history and can provide regular preventative care. At Kimball & Beecher we have an outstanding team of experienced, caring doctors ready to help with all of your dentistry needs. WIth six office locations across Iowa, it’s easy to find dental care near you. Whether you’re a first-time patient or have been visiting for years, please don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule an appointment.

About The Author

Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS

Dr. Beau Beecher is the founder and CEO, of Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry. Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry is known for being a patient-centered practice that puts comfort and convenience first. Over 50,000 patients in Iowa cities travel miles to experience the high level of ... read more

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