Is it a Dental Emergency or Can it Wait?

Once the shock of an injury has passed, it’s best to remember that not all dental emergencies are created equally. Some dental emergencies demand immediate (or as immediate as possible) treatment in order to save a tooth or prevent the spread of infection. Other dental emergencies, while potentially embarrassing or annoying, don’t necessarily warrant an unscheduled stop at the emergency dentist’s office. Today, we’re taking a closer look at each type of dental emergency and offering a few tips for basic dental first aid.

Problems You Should Address Immediately

If you experience one of these serious dental emergencies, call your dentist immediately:

An avulsed (completely knocked out) tooth. You have a greater chance of saving an avulsed tooth if you receive professional treatment within 24 hours of the injury. If a tooth is knock out completely, find it, rinse it in warm water but do not remove any strands of tissue, and store it in a jar of water or Save-a-Tooth.

An extruded (loose) tooth. Teeth that have been knocked out of place but are still attached (even by the thinnest thread of tissue) should be gently reinserted into the socket. However, this alone may not be enough to save the tooth from falling out entirely. Your emergency dentist may place a splint to stabilize and protect the tooth.

An injury or break that causes lingering pain and severe toothache. Serious dental pain usually indicates damage to the nerve-filled interior of the tooth, called the pulp. Although the treatment options could range from root canal therapy to crowning, pulp injuries must be addressed immediately since it’s unlikely the pain will go away on its own.

Problems That Can Wait a Day or Two

If one of these injuries happens during off-hours or on the weekend, you can afford to wait a couple of days before seeing the dentist:

Breaks that don’t cause pain. Chipping or breaking a tooth without damaging the pulp will not result in extreme tooth pain (although the area around the tooth might be a little sore). While a broken tooth might look embarrassing, it is not considered a true dental emergency.

Losing a veneer, crown, or filling. If a dental restoration falls out, you should seek treatment within the next week or two, but you don’t have to rush out to the emergency dentist immediately.

It should be noted that while these two minor emergencies do not require immediate attention, the fact that they make your smile look uneven or unhealthy can have a serious impact on your self-esteem and may feel like an emergency (imagine trying to deliver a high-priority sales pitch or conduct a business meeting with a broken front tooth). If you feel like the issue can’t wait, you always have to option of contacting your dentist and scheduling a same-day appointment.

About Shawn Hofkes, DDS

With advanced training in oral and maxillofacial surgery and certification in oral and IV sedation, Shawn Hofkes, DDS provides emergency dentistry services from our state-of-the-art dentist office in Cerritos, CA. To schedule your appointment or consultation with Dr. Hofkes, contact us today. We proudly serve patients of all ages from Cerritos, Lakewood, Long Beach, Buena Park, and all surrounding communities.