If you’re not prepared, a dental emergency can literally leave you pulling your teeth out. It’s crucial to stay one step ahead so, if you suddenly find yourself experiencing a dental emergency, you know what to do and where to go. Being prepared can minimise pain and ensure you benefit from quick access to dental treatment.
In this blog post, our London-based dentist reveals the types of dental emergency you could find yourself facing. We also cover what you should do and how to secure speedy access to an emergency dentist. Plus, as prevention is always better than cure, our top prevention tips are not to be missed.
What is the definition of an acute dental emergency?
A dental emergency is any dental situation which could lead to, or has already led to:
- loss of a tooth
- ongoing bleeding
- extreme pain.
What is not covered under the definition of an acute dental emergency?
The following are examples of treatments which would require care by a dentist but would not be defined as an acute emergency:
- a chipped tooth which is not loose, bleeding or causing extreme pain
- a filling which has come out
- a broken denture
- a broken crown or other dental restoration.
Types of dental emergencies
With such a broad definition of dental emergency, let’s start by looking at what to do in the event of a less serious dental emergency.
A chipped tooth
Your teeth are pretty strong but there is always a limit as to what they can stand. A chipped tooth is not in itself a dental emergency but there are some things you need to look out for. If the chip takes off a large section of tooth, and the pulp is exposed, this can then become a more serious condition. In such a scenario, immediate dental treatment could be sought.
If just the outer surface of the tooth or a corner has chipped off the enamel, we simply recommend calling the dentist and booking an appointment as soon as you can. Your dentist will normally be able to repair small chips by bonding on dental composite to replace the lost area.
If the chip goes deeper and you are experiencing bleeding, you may need to apply some gauze to the area. A cold compress applied to the cheek may also help to minimise any swelling and/or pain. If you are unable to see the dentist immediately, your pharmacist is often the next best port of call. They should be able to supply you with some dental cement, often used to replace crowns, so you can apply this over the exposed area. By taking these steps, the immediate pain should subside. You may also find that painkillers can help.
A broken denture
If your denture breaks we highly recommend that you do not try to fix it yourself. Many dentists offer emergency denture repairs – as do many dental laboratories. Try searching on the internet for ‘denture repair <<local area>>’ as you are more than likely to be able to find someone on your doorstep that can repair your denture quite quickly.
Broken or dislodged crown or other dental restoration
Firstly, make sure you retrieve the crown. Crowns normally come out whilst you are eating so it’s quite simple to find them. Try to avoid swallowing them as this will prove far more difficult to retrieve.
You may suffer from quite severe pain and sensitivity over the tooth where the crown has fallen out. Applying a small amount of clove oil may work to reduce the immediate pain.
If you are able to get to a pharmacist, purchase a crown replacement kit and replace the crown yourself. Then make an appointment at your dentist to have it permanently re-seated. Under no circumstances should you use any other form of glue to replace your crown. Superglue, for example, contains a variant of cyanide!
First aid for acute dental emergencies
If you have a genuine dental emergency the priority is to stop bleeding:
- if the tooth has been knocked out, retrieve it, hold it by the part that is usually exposed in the mouth (the crown) and not by the root
- rinse the tooth with water if it is dirty – do not scrape the tooth or try to remove any attached tissue
- if you are able to, put the tooth back into the socket the correct way round (but don’t force it)
- if you can’t replace the tooth, store it in milk
- Place a piece of moistened gauze or a cold teabag onto the bleeding area and hold it in place for approximately 20 minutes
- if the bleeding doesn’t stop, go straight to accident and emergency at your closest hospital
- make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.
Dental emergencies in sport
Dental emergencies in contact sports can be regular occurrences. The advice for an emergency is the same as the first aid advice outlined above.
Prevention of a dental emergency in sport can be achieved by ensuring that you always wear an accurately fitted mouth guard. Mouth guards should ideally be made by your dentist as they will be precision-made to fit you perfectly. A sports mouth guard works by spreading the load of any impact across your entire mouth, avoiding pressure on any single tooth or individual part of your jaw.
How long does it take to get an emergency dentist appointment?
Each dental practice works on a different format. Most practices will reserve a few spare appointments each day for dental emergencies. The first port of call should always be to contact your own dentist who are obliged to include emergency and out of hours details on their answerphone.
Dental emergencies on holiday
Nothing is more frustrating than experiencing a dental emergency when on holiday. We all want to enjoy a break uninterrupted by dental emergencies but an infection or accident should not be ignored.
The same advice for emergencies applies, as previously highlighted, but it is also worth knowing that you can protect your dental care whilst away prior to your holiday.
Denplan practice membership includes worldwide insurance for dental treatments received as a result of injury or emergency whilst abroad. It also gives you 24-hour emergency helpline assistance.
Denplan cover starts from as little as £19.67 per month. This includes two dental check-ups per year including dental x-rays, two hygienist visits per year in additional to discounts on dental treatments. For total peace of mind, visit your dentist regularly for a check up.