When you have a dental emergency, it’s important to receive proper care right away. As with any type of medical emergency, it's important to be aware of what you can do to ensure the best outcome — before you’re actually in the situation.
A knocked-out permanent tooth requires immediate action. To increase the chances that the tooth can be saved: pick it up without touching the root, gently rinse it with water, and put it back in its socket facing the correct way. Use gentle pressure to hold it in place as you rush to the dental office or emergency room. If you can’t replant it immediately, tuck it between the patient’s cheek and gum or carry it in a container of cold milk. For a tooth that has been moved or loosened, treatment needs to occur within six hours. However, go immediately to the ER if there is uncontrollable bleeding.
Fortunately, it’s less severe dental injuries that happen more frequently. The most common traumatic dental injuries are chipped teeth. It might be possible to reattach chipped pieces, so make an appointment for an office visit as soon as possible and bring the pieces with you.
Acute or persistent tooth pain always signals a need for an urgent visit to the dental office. The most common cause of dental pain is tooth decay, a bacterial infection that can spread through many parts of the tooth, and even into the gum tissue. Sometimes, tooth pain indicates that you may need a root canal treatment to relieve the pain of infection and keep the tooth from having to be removed. Other times, pain may be caused by a loose filling or sensitive tooth.
Injuries and infections involving the soft tissues of the mouth may also require emergency treatment. The tissues of the gums, tongue or cheek lining can be damaged by accidental bites, falls, sports injuries and scalding liquids. Any injury to the soft tissues of the mouth should be rinsed with diluted salt water. Clear any visible debris, and control bleeding by pressing a clean, damp material on the area for 10-15 minutes. If bleeding continues, go to the emergency room immediately.
Foreign bodies that become lodged below the gum line can develop into painful and potentially serious abscesses. Sometimes, the foreign body can be gently worked out with dental floss or a toothpick. If this can’t be accomplished easily, make a dental appointment so the area does not become damaged or infected. Abscesses caused by infection require immediate attention at the dental office.