While dental care is often considered a luxury, this couldn’t be further from medical reality. In truth, dentistry is so vital to your general health that it may be the oldest form of medicine. Tooth and gum problems can be terribly detrimental to your comfort and quality of life, and infections can quickly spread from these locations to your airways. It’s essential to know when your toothache, sore, or other issue constitutes a dental emergency and what to do when you experience one of these issues.
Common Dental Emergencies and How to Handle Them
Some of the most common dental emergencies include:
- Severe toothaches
- Knocked out, chipped, or otherwise damaged teeth
- Harm to the soft tissues of the mouth
While just about everyone has had some mouth sores or minor tooth pain at one point or another, what separates these incidents from dental emergencies is a matter of degrees. Most situations where you’ll require emergency dental care will accompany severe pain, although there are some exceptions to this rule. In particular, severe toothache pain stopping suddenly is actually indicative of greater danger than the pain you were previously experiencing.
The approach from one dental health incident to the next varies considerably, but there are a few rules of thumb that you can consistently rely upon. For instance, do not use aspirin to treat pain associated with any mouth problem that includes bleeding. Aspirin prevents blood from clotting, so even a relatively small amount of blood flow could grow into something serious after taking aspirin. Likewise, never assume that oral pain is unserious; anything that affects the mouth can quickly spread elsewhere.
Pain and swelling of the gums are the telltale signs that you have some sort of oral infection. If you see numerous, small marks around the gums, that indicates you have a tooth infection. When this spreads or you have widespread swelling of the gums, then the gums themselves have developed an infection and you might have inflammatory gum disease.
In any event, you shouldn’t respond to any sort of oral infection with home remedies or by hoping that it goes away on its own. These infections can cause lasting damage, and it’s even possible for an oral abscess to travel to the brain and become potentially life-threatening. If you suspect you have an oral infection, you should schedule an emergency appointment with Dr. Kevin F. Postol.
When physical trauma damages your tooth, the proper response varies depending on the extent of the damage. If only the enamel is chipped and none of the underlying materials experience exposure, then it’s not an emergency at all. While you’ll need to take care to avoid putting pressure on the tooth and should seek a professional opinion, there’s no urgent risk.
However, emergency dental care is absolutely necessary if the interior of the tooth is exposed. If there’s visible red inside the tooth, that means that the sensitive pulp has no protection from bacteria. Without urgent care, you’ll have a high risk of infection.
When a tooth is knocked out, you should attempt to preserve the tooth as well as possible. Pick it up by the crown, avoiding the root and attempt to insert it back into your gums and secure it there with gauze or cloth. If it’s impossible to reinsert, then placing the tooth in milk will help expand its life and increase the odds of a successful reimplantation. The longer you take to receive care, the slimmer the success rate for saving the tooth becomes.
Soft Tissue Damage
When it comes to the mouth, soft tissue damage can take many forms. Common sores, scratches, and burns from eating excessively hot food technically qualify, but are unserious. What’s more worrisome is fluid-filled abscesses and swelling that’s either highly painful, or sufficiently severe in itself as to be externally visible when your mouth is closed.
Relatively small issues such as trapped food particles can cause significant tooth discomfort. Before assuming that your toothache is a sign of an infection, try cleaning the area. Brush your teeth and use a saltwater mouthwash to flush the area and see if that relieves the pain. If it does, then your toothache is likely not serious. On the other hand, persistent pain can indicate a deeper problem that warrants emergency dental care.
If the pain suddenly stops without any apparent reason, that’s not a cause for relief. This is because the most likely reason for a severe toothache subsiding on its own is nerve death. Rather than indicating that the problem has undergone remission, the problem has killed the tooth nerve and pain signals can no longer transmit to your nervous system. Without the sensation of pain, you could easily ignore the problem until it grows into something much more severe. In this event, seek an examination and the advice of a dentist such as Dr. Postol.
Preventing Dental Emergencies From Arising
Many people are going to need emergency dental care throughout their lives, but you can minimize these risks by taking good care of your teeth. Brush daily, floss frequently, and avoid putting your teeth at risk with your diet or lifestyle choices. Some of the ways that you can minimize the likelihood you’ll need emergency dental care include:
- Practice good dental hygiene
- Reduce consumption of sugary and acidic foods
- Protective measures, such as wearing mouthguards while playing sports
- Schedule routine dental care
While you can reduce your odds of needing urgent dental care, no one is immune to infections and accidents. When you find that you need emergency dental care, reach out to the office of Dr. Kevin F. Postol for responsive, first-class treatment.