A: Good question, I get this question quite a bit— “I have a dental emergency, should I go to the hospital/emergency room?” You certainly can. If you have a fever of 101° or greater, have a swelling that’s closing your eye, or affecting your ability to breathe. The appropriate thing to do in these cases would be to go directly to the emergency room nearest you. Those are life-threatening developments that indicate that infection is spreading pretty fast.
If, however, you have a toothache from a broken tooth or a cavity, or just notice a swelling starting to develop in your jaw—the correct thing to do would be to come see us at JH Emergency. We can get you back quickly, get you taken care of, and keep you out of the emergency room.
That is the whole goal of JH Emergency Dental—keep people away from the emergency room. We want to help them get out of pain when their dentist is closed.
This is a common question Dr. E gets because it is a common problem in hospitals everywhere. Patients showing up to the ER with a dental emergency happens on average, roughly every 15 seconds. In fact, these incidents have doubled over the past few years and it’s adding to ER congestion.
With the emergence of COVID-19, you want to avoid the ER as much as possible if it’s not necessary. So, if you experience dental trauma do you know how to react? How do you differentiate between a dental emergency that requires a dentist vs. a trip to the ER?
What Dental Emergency Should I Visit The ER For?
As Dr. E mentioned, several criteria would warrant you taking your dental emergency to the ER, including:
- Dental trauma from a severe injury to the head or neck
- Sudden, overwhelming pain that spreads rapidly
- Bleeding that won’t stop
- Extreme swelling
- Inability to breathe or swallow
It should also be noted, that those with compounding conditions such as diabetes, or immune disorders should go straight to the ER.
Now the question is, how do you know whether your non-life-threatening dental emergency warrants an emergency dentist or your regular dentist. That is another situation where the more you know about dental trauma, the better prepared you’ll be to make the right choice.
Naturally, an emergency dentist is going to cost a bit more than your primary dentist. Knowing your situation’s appropriate action can have a serious effect on the outcome and on your wallet.
When Should I Visit A Dental Emergency Clinic
A dental emergency can come at you in many different variations. Some are more critical and require immediate care while others can wait till the next available appointment. The following are a good idea of what constitutes a critical dental emergency:
- Gums that won’t stop bleeding
- A tooth that is loose or knocked out
- Injury to the jaw
- Early-onset swelling (does not affect breathing or vision)
- Swollen gums due to toothache/infection
- Extreme sensitivity in one or more teeth
Critical dental emergencies should be handled as soon as possible as hesitating could allow the problem to get worse. Your dentist may have an emergency contact in case something like this occurs after hours. However, if they don’t or you are unable to reach them, you should contact an emergency dentist ASAP.
When Should I Just Contact My Regular Dentist?
Other dental emergencies are far less critical and simply require some patience on your part and contact with your regular dentist. We’re not saying wait two weeks to take care of the issue, it’s still important just not critical. So, you should try to get in on the next available opening. Some good examples of non-critical dental emergencies include:
- Missing crown, filling, or bridge
- Fractured tooth (unless it’s causing severe pain)
- Broken retainer
- Dull tooth pain
- Mild sensitivity in one or more teeth
- Small chip in a tooth
- Wisdom Teeth Pain
- Loose Fillings
When one of these occurs, although they may be concerning and even somewhat painful—it’s not critical. So, if you can hold off until your regular dentist’s next opening—you’ll save yourself some money.
However, if it is bothering you to the point of interrupting your daily life, you’re more than welcome to contact us. We’re always here to help and we do have many patients that prefer immediate attention no matter the issue. We just like to be transparent and honest with our patients.
What Can I Do At Home If I Have A Dental Emergency?
When you have a non-critical emergency there are some home remedies you can perform that will mitigate pain and discomfort. One thing that will aggravate pain more than anything else is anxiety or stressing out. So, try to remain calm and try some of these at-home solutions to deal with any pain or discomfort:
- Take a teaspoon of salt and mix into a cup of boiling water and use as a mouthwash. This will ease some pain and help reduce swelling.
- Floss can be a great reliever of pain when it’s isolated to one tooth. It could be possible that a food particle has become lodged into the gum bed. That will often cause a sudden onset of pain.
- Get an icepack to reduce swelling, numb pain, and stop any bleeding from gums.
- Use hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash to help kill any bacteria and alleviate discomfort.
- OTC pain medication can be used for pain, just make sure you don’t exceed the recommended dosage.
- Monitor your temperature to ensure you aren’t fighting an infection, anything over 101° is something to be concerned with.
How Can I Prevent Future Dental Emergencies?
Chances are, once you experience the fear, pain, and discomfort of a dental emergency you will want to prevent a reoccurrence. While you can’t protect yourself from all accidents that result in emergencies, you can mitigate your risks.
One of the best things you can do is to visit your dentist twice yearly for routine checkups. This ensures that any developing issues are addressed before they become major problems. Other than that, some other tips for preventing future dental emergencies include:
- Always follow the treatment plan your dentist recommends when dealing with a dental issue. Whether it’s something as minor as a touch of gingivitis or something major like a cavity—trust the process.
- Maintain proper oral hygiene—brush, and floss at least twice a day. Keeping a strict oral care regimen not only develops into a habit, but it also helps keep teeth strong.
- Be careful with what you eat. Foods that are hard, sticky, tough, or chewy can get lodged on your teeth. Sometimes they adhere so well that even brushing may not remove it from the surface.
- If your dentist has diagnosed you with periodontal disease make sure to add additional cleaning appointments to your schedule.
- Invest in an ultrasonic or rotating electric toothbrush such as Oral B or Sonicare. These toothbrushes offer an additional level of cleaning over traditional brushes.
Do You Have A Non-Life-Threatening Dental Emergency?
If you are suffering from a dental issue that is not a medical emergency, we recommend assessing the situation. If it’s not a critical dental emergency and doesn’t require immediate attention—wait and call your dentist.
However, if it is indeed a situation that warrants immediate care, or you just want to get it resolved right way—we’re here.
We are open until 9 pm every day except on Wednesdays— we’re closed. We offer same-day appointments, and you can conveniently book online 24 hours a day. We look forward to serving you