21 Dec What to do in a Dental Emergency
Our aim, as well as yours I imagine, is to need the dentist as little as possible. Sadly, there are times when you will want to see us and those times aren’t often good ones. This guide is a simple resume of when you do need to seek help, and when you have a bit more time on your hands.
PROBLEM 1- ‘Arrrggghhhh… MY TOOTH BROKE!!’
There are two reasons a tooth will break:
- It’s been drilled and filled in the past
- Its been weakened by tooth decay
Broken teeth DO NOT suddenly start hurting once they fracture- pain is due to infection getting inside the tooth and fractures and decay let decay into the tooth regardless of whether the actual tooth is fractured or not.
If there is no pain then you can leave the tooth as it is until we dentists open up again or, if it is sharp to your tongue, you can smooth down the sharp edge yourself. You could also use something like TOOFYPEGS or orthodontic wax to smooth over the fracture. Once the holidays are over make an appointment with your regular dentist to see what can be done for the broken tooth.
If you are getting pain then……
Problem 2- OWWwwww…MY TOOTH HURTS!!!
So if your tooth hurts it will either be:
- Responsive to hot and cold
- Tender to bite on
Responsive to temperature:
If a tooth is responding to temperature then the nerve inside the tooth is angry about something, usually bacteria entering the tooth. So you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- When does it hurt?- if you get spontaneous pain (Does it wake you up at night?) it is BAD NEWS, if it only hurts when you expose it to temperature its GOOD
- How long does it hurt? – A few minutes GOOD; 30 minutes plus BAD
- Is it worse with HOT drinks? – BAD NEWS ☹
Obviously if your pain fits in with the BAD NEWS…..Contact an emergency dentist!!
Tender to bite on:
The two main reasons a tooth can be painful to bite on:
- A fracture within the tooth i.e. it’ll break soon but it hasn’t done so yet- this is a short sharp pain that doesn’t last long and only hurts if you catch the fracturing part of the tooth with something hard.
- An Abscess- this will hurt whenever you touch the tooth …. with anything…… at any time…no matter how hard it is.
If you have an abscess then you will benefit from seeing a dentist; if it’s a fracture then I would arrange a review appointment with your dentist.
Problem 3- OOoooo…..my gum (around my wisdom tooth) is sore ☹
Gum gets infected often, usually because most people don’t regularly clean in between their teeth, but sometimes because a tooth/filling has chipped and left a gap where food can get stuck.
Wisdom teeth often get gum infections around them as they can be difficult to access for cleaning.
If your gum is sore you will notice:
- A feeling of pressure between the teeth which feels like something is stuck. This is due to…..
- Swollen gum that….
- Bleeds a lot when you clean it.
The teeth might feel bruised when you bite on them and it can be worse after meals if food gets stuck under the swollen gum.
- Brushing the area thoroughly- this means pushing the bristles of the toothbrush into and under the swollen gum.
- Cleaning in between your teeth with a small interdental brush or pick.
- Using Chlorhexidine Mouthwash- swill around for 2 minutes after cleaning and if you can, dip the brush into the mouthwash and deliver it to the area.
WARNING!!!- Your gums will be SORE and will bleed A LOT for the first couple of days that you do this. Don’t worry, it’ll get better over 2 days.
If this happens often I suggest you see a dentist to check there is nothing wrong with the fillings or the gums themselves.
Problem 4: My Crown/Bridge/Cap (delete as applicable) has fallen out!!!
Strictly speaking this is not an emergency but it can often cause embarrassment if a front tooth/teeth fall out.
Firstly, I’d advise you see a dentist as soon as you can BUT if you’re in a pickle over the holidays you can use something like TOOFYPEGS.
Remember that a crown or bridge should be hollow (unless it’s a post crown- see below) so that it fits over the tooth/teeth in question. If the crown or bridge is filled with something, and there is no visible stump in your mouth, then the tooth may have fractured meaning there is no way you’ll be able to put the crown back on.
If the tooth has a metal stick pocking out of it then I t might be a post crown. Usually you can stick this back in place but I’d have a few practice goes first- the metal post can be tricky to line up.
‘Who you gonna call?’*
- Call 111 and speak to NHS direct. They may have dental centres open.
- Cannock Dental Walk in Centre: An NHS walk in centre that is often open.
- Scott Arms Dental Practice: A private practice that offers comprehensive emergency care.
ALWAYS let your dentist know you have seen an emergency dentist and book an appointment to review what happened with them.
And remember …….Prevention is the best cure. Often your dentist can help you avoid many of these problems so come and see us regularly. Even if you don’t want to 😊
Good luck and enjoy the holidays 😊
*Courtesy of Ray Parker Jr ‘Ghostbusters’ 1984