Knowing what to do in a dental emergency is an essential aspect of dental care, knowledge which can mean the difference between repairing a tooth and replacing it. Dental trauma can happen to anyone — healthy teeth or not — from an adventurous child to sporty teen or quiet adult. Injuries to the mouth, jaw and face can occur during a sports event, car accident or even in a simple fall down the stairs. Keeping a cool head when trauma happens — and getting to your dentist as quickly as possible — is essential.
What constitutes a dental emergency?
Anytime a tooth has been chipped, broken, displaced or knocked out, a dental emergency has occurred. A 2019 study published in Dental Traumatology found that the most common dental trauma experienced in New Zealand is a chipped or broken tooth. Other dental emergencies include:
- Uncontrollable bleeding
- Dental abcess
- A lost dental crown
- Facial trauma
Toothache or pain from wisdom teeth might feel like a dental emergency — and are certainly signs you should call a dentist for an appointment at the soonest available moment. But removing wisdom teeth or performing a root canal treatment is standard oral health care and not reasons to run to A&E.
But an adult tooth which has been knocked askew or fallen out completely is a reason to seek emergency dental treatment. Many dentists reserve some time each day to handle emergencies, and City Dentists in Wellington is no different. We want you to call us any time a dental trauma has occurred so we can advise you how to get the most appropriate dental treatment.
Tooth loss and tooth damage - It’s important to know if the tooth you or a loved one has damaged is a permanent, or “adult,” tooth, or if it is a baby tooth. Most people will know the difference, but some older children or teens may be unable to remember if their tooth is a permanent or baby tooth — particularly in an emergency with lots of tooth pain.
When a permanent tooth falls out completely, you will want to find the tooth. Handle it by the crown, not the root. If dirt or other debris is on the tooth, rinse it under water or saline solution. Do not scrub the tooth. Once it is clean, ease it gently back into its socket, and bite down on a soft cloth to keep the tooth in place. If you cannot get it into its socket, prioritise keeping the tooth moist. You can try to hold it between your lip and gums, in your mouth, or put it into milk or even saliva. The priority is keeping the tooth moist and increasing the chances it can live in your mouth again .
Baby teeth, though, should never be reinserted into a child’s mouth, as this could damage the adult tooth underneath. Still, it is important to get the child to an emergency dentist to make sure no tooth fragments remain in the gums.
If your tooth has been cracked or chipped, you will need to see your dentist as soon as possible to begin treatment. Even if the tooth must eventually be replaced, it’s essential to get a cover or seal put on the tooth to protect its inner structure and prevent infection.
Any displaced teeth - which may be hanging loose or shoved sideways - should be seen right away by your dentist or emergency room provider to make sure no bone damage has also occurred. If so, dental surgery may be necessary.
As soon as possible, apply ice to your face. It’s also a good idea to take paracetamol or ibuprofen. This will help reduce pain and swelling.
Problems with existing dental work ? If you lose a crown — or if it cracks, chips or otherwise is damaged — reach out to us at City Dentists so we can schedule an appointment. We will want to see you quickly to begin fixing the situation, as an exposed tooth is an easy candidate for infection.
Preventing dental emergency
A dental emergency can happen at any time; perhaps as a result of a bike accident or stumble. Sure, there are some precautions, like wearing a mouthguard during collision sports like rugby. This can prevent broken teeth.
Good oral health practices can also decrease the likelihood of a dental emergency. Making sure teeth are brushed and flossed twice each day can minimise the chance of dental caries and tooth decay. A healthy diet free of sugary drinks is an ideal way to improve oral health, too. You’ll also be preventing abscesses or infections.
City Dentists in Wellington wants to help you respond to any dental emergencies. Please contact us with any questions about dental trauma so we can work to get you on the path to relief straight away.