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It’s crucial to understand what a dental emergency is and to seek professional care as soon as possible if dental pain or injury is experienced. 

However, all too often, when an individual experiences a painful or serious oral health concern, they underestimate its severity and the potential damage that can be caused by delaying treatment. 

A woman brushing her teeth is experiencing pain.

What Is a Dental Emergency?

Dental emergencies include a range of conditions and situations that almost always occur at the most inopportune times. 

Dealing with the following four scenarios expediently is never convenient but absolutely necessary to help avoid invasive procedures, high out-of-pocket costs, and potentially even permanent tooth loss. 

1. Severe Tooth Pain

A dull ache in or around a tooth isn’t always an emergency, but a call to the dentist is warranted for advice and to schedule an appointment. This action can prevent the condition from becoming worse and requiring more extensive treatment to correct it.

Trying to ignore a severe toothache or treating it at home without notifying your dentist can mean the difference between a simple filling to repair a cavity and the need for root canal therapy or even extraction.

Tooth decay can spread fast, so as soon as you experience tenderness in your tooth, gums, or jaw, call your dentist. If it is persistent, throbbing, or intensely painful, and you can’t reach your provider, call an emergency dentist right away!

2. Broken Tooth

A broken tooth is considered a dental emergency and should be addressed quickly to avoid the need for a crown. If you break a tooth, call the dentist immediately, try to gather the broken pieces, and store them in a small container filled with milk (or water if no milk is available). Take precautions to protect soft tissues if the broken tooth has sharp edges. 

The dentist may be able to use the broken pieces to repair the tooth with a strong adhesive and bonding, although in some cases, root canal therapy and a crown may be needed. If it’s a small break (or crack), there is a chance that composite bonding or a porcelain veneer can solve the problem.

3. Knocked Out Tooth

When a tooth is knocked out (avulsed), find the tooth and hold it by the natural crown (the enameled or visible portion) while gently rinsing away any dirt. Do not touch the root of the tooth! 

Carefully put it back in place, correctly positioned, and get to an emergency dentist within half an hour for the best chance of a successful reimplantation procedure.  If the patient is a child, put the tooth in a small container of milk rather than their mouth to avoid choking. These instructions apply to loose teeth caused by trauma as well.

If the tooth cannot be saved, replacement options, including a fixed bridge or dental implant, are available.

4. Abscessed Tooth

A dental abscess or abscessed tooth results from tooth decay (bacteria) spreading from the tooth into the bone, gums, other oral tissues, and even the throat. Symptoms include inflammation, redness, and intolerable pain.

In extreme cases, patients with an abscessed tooth may experience fever, chills, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, or breathing and may require medical intervention.

Do not delay receiving emergency dental care for a suspected dental abscess. Sometimes, the abscess can be drained, or root canal therapy can save the tooth

Questionable Dental Emergencies

Some sudden dental issues may be difficult to define as true dental emergencies. Some of these  include:

Soft Tissue Injuries

Cuts and scrapes to the gums, tongue, or inside of the cheeks often appear worse than they are and tend to heal easily. Follow these tips for at-home care, and call the dentist if bleeding persists or pain increases over the following few days:

  • Ensure the cause of the injury is removed and rinse the mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash or salt water periodically throughout the day.
  • If there is bleeding, put pressure on the site using gauze or a tea bag for 15 to 20 minutes (tea contains tannins that help stop bleeding and comfort the tissue).
  • Use a cold compress on the face outside the affected area for five to 10 minutes for pain and swelling. Children who resist this approach may enjoy a popsicle instead. 

If an oral tissue wound is larger than ½ inch, call the dentist as soon as possible, as stitches may be needed. Be sure your tetanus vaccinations are current to help avoid serious complications.

Broken Crowns

Depending on the size and placement of the break, this may or may not be a dental emergency. Call your dentist immediately and explain the situation. 

You will likely need to receive care within a few days to avoid another impression having to be made for a new crown, as the underlying gum shape will change quickly.

A Cracked Tooth

A superficial crack in a tooth can typically wait for a regular dental appointment. Bonding or a porcelain crown can have it looking like new in two weeks or less.

Loose Teeth Caused by Gum Disease

If you have periodontal disease and find your teeth are loose or falling out, there is little hope of reimplantation. Call your dentist or periodontist to begin or accelerate your treatment. 

The best solution for missing teeth due to advanced gum disease is one or more surgical treatments to restore gum and jaw health, followed by tooth replacement with dental implants.

What Else Can Help?

If you or your child participates in sports, a mouth guard can prevent most soft tissue injuries and may reduce the impact trauma has on teeth.

If bleeding accompanies a dental emergency, use Tylenol for pain relief as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen thin the blood and increase bleeding.  

Your Beverly Hills Emergency Dentist

Dr. Afshin Salamati is a highly regarded dentist in Beverly Hills, providing emergency dentistry and advanced periodontal treatments.

Dr. Salamati offers top-level dental care in Beverly Hills, California, and serves the greater Los Angeles area. If you have a dental emergency, call our knowledgeable and helpful team at (310) 275-1090 now!