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Family Care Dental Clinic

What to Do in a Dental Emergency

What to Do in a Dental Emergency

Having a dental emergency? Don’t panic—most dental emergencies are nowhere near the severity of a medical emergency. In most cases, it’s the potential of extreme pain that is the issue, not health. You should still call your dentist right away, but here are some tips if you can’t see your dentist right away.

Quickly skim this article to find the issue that applies to you to find my advice on what to do.

If you have a toothache

What it could mean:

  • A toothache could mean tooth decay, a cavity, gum disease, or even that you’re grinding your teeth (bruxism).

What to do:

  • When getting out of tooth pain, it’s all about controlling swelling. Reduce the swelling and you reduce the pain. Short-term, the best way to reduce this inflammation is with the 3-3-3 method: that’s three Advils (600 mg total), three times a day, for three days.
  • It’s important to have a complete exam at the dentist to identify the root cause of the toothache, in order to understand the best way to address it.

If you have pain when you bite

What it could mean:

  • It could mean cracked tooth syndrome. If you catch this early, the sooner you crown it, the less likelihood there will be of a root canal or loss of the tooth, because you’re stopping the cracking from progressing by stabilizing it with a crown.
  • It could also mean it’s not a tooth pain, but a muscle pain when you bite, caused by nighttime grinding or daytime grinding—these aren’t emergencies, so book an appointment within the month.
  • It could also be a pulpal abscess, see above.

What to do:

  • Make an appointment to see your dentist within the week.
  • Don’t chew on that tooth because the next chew or bite could result in loss of the tooth with a crack that goes all the way through the tooth.

If your face swells up

What it could mean:

  • A serious dental infection that needs immediate response by a dentist. Typically, these types of conditions don’t get better on their own.
  • It could be an infected tooth or bone infection or gum infection.

What to do:

  • Don’t wait. Go see a dentist right away. If you delay, it is possible to die from an infection in or around the mouth.
  • Stay upright and don’t lie flat, even during sleep.
  • Drink fluids. Getting dehydrated while you have an infection could make complications more likely.

If you are bleeding from the mouth

What it could mean:

  • It could be a chronic condition or an acute condition. If you’re seeing blood on the floss, then you have gum disease or gingivitis. But if you’re seeing blood in your saliva, that’s a different story—it could be due to an advanced stage of cancer or a very advanced stage of gum disease.
  • Bleeding from the mouth is not normal. The mouth is very good at preventing bleeding (unless you bite your tongue) so it’s rare for gums bleed from abrasions or cuts.
  • If you’ve had an extraction and you’re bleeding and it won’t stop, you need immediate care.

What to do:

  • If you’re seeing blood on your floss, see your dentist and get treated for gum disease. The sooner, the better. Blood on your toothbrush or floss is not normal and indicates that you may have a chronic disease that will lead to the loss of your teeth. Book an appointment within the month!
  • If you’re bleeding after a procedure, go back right away to the dentist who did the surgery. It is not normal for the bleeding to continue the night after your procedure. If your dentist is not available, call an oral surgeon right away. Keep your head elevated. Just like you keep your hand elevated if it’s injured, you want to do the same with your mouth. Keep your mouth above your heart at all times—especially during sleep.

If you think you have a gum abscess

What it could mean:

  • A gum abscess looks like a yellow, red, clear, or whitish pimple on the gum.
  • It could mean tooth is infected or the gum is infected, meaning you’d need a root canal or an extraction. In some cases, antibiotics and an x-ray will be needed.
  • This could lead to permanent gum recession, but the sooner you get to it, the less likely that will happen.

What to do:

  • You need to be seen immediately. Schedule an appointment with your dentist.
  • Do not pop the gum abscess like a pimple.
  • Make an appointment for the next day.
  • Keep brushing and flossing that area, as usual.

If you think you have a tooth abscess

What it could mean:

  • It’s hard to know whether you have a pulpal abscess without an x-ray and an exam, but, if the tooth has lingering sensitivity to hot and cold, severe tenderness upon chewing, pain after positional movement, or causing spontaneous pain, chances are you have a dead or dying tooth.
  • A pulpal abscess is an infection inside of the tooth and typically means the living tissue inside the tooth is necrosing (slowly dying) and will need a root canal.

What to do:

  • Don’t plan on putting this off too long. In my experience, pulpal abscesses lead to facial swelling and potentially severe systemic complications, always at the worst possible time, like right before a vacation, exams, or leaving on a business trip. Make an appointment for the next day.
  • If you can’t get ahold of your dentist, ask friends and family if they’ve ever had a root canal to get a referral from an endodontist. You don’t have to wait for a referral from your dentist. Unlike the medical world, you can bypass the generalist and self-refer to the specialist.

Contact Family Care Dental Clinic for your consultation today!

We at Family Care Dental Clinic offer our clients a wide range of comprehensive dental services for the whole family. Our dentists can help everyone in your family understand the importance of proper oral hygiene over time and the positive effects it has on your health. At Family Care Dental Clinic, we treat our clients to a soothing environment where they can receive quality dental care no matter what their needs are. Call (604) 987-3545 or write us at info@familycaredentalclinic.com to schedule an appointment with a member of our excellent team!

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