Pub. 4 2022 Issue 3

Dental emergencies come in many forms, and some situations are more urgent than others. People are often hesitant to call their dentist when they’re experiencing a dental emergency, wondering if the situation truly warrants emergency dental care and if a treatment will be covered by their insurance plan. If you’re in severe pain, have a fever, or are experiencing swelling or bleeding that cannot be controlled, don’t delay contacting your dentist or visiting the hospital emergency room. Some problems can be life-threatening. Other problems may be less urgent but avoiding immediate dental care can cause greater problems down the road. Play it safe and get a proper consultation. What is a dental emergency? The American Dental Association defines dental emergencies as anything “potentially life-threatening and requiring immediate treatment to stop ongoing tissue bleeding [or to] alleviate severe pain or infection.” Life-threatening dental emergencies can include: • Uncontrolled bleeding – may be from trauma, accident, health condition, or other cause • Soft-tissue infections with intraoral or extraoral swelling that potentially compromises the patient’s airway. Be aware that tooth infections can spread into the soft tissues causing swelling without causing pain. • Trauma involving facial bones potentially compromises the patient’s airway. Other dental emergencies may not be life-threatening but will require urgent care. Some of these include: • Severe tooth pain from decay and/or dying pulp • Third molar/wisdom tooth pain • Pain from post-extraction surgery or dry-sockets • Abscesses or other infections causing pain and localized swelling What ToDo In a Dental Emergency • Objects caught under the gums or between teeth causing pain and/or swelling • Tooth chips, fractures, or lost fillings causing pain or trauma to the teeth, soft tissues, or both • Trauma to the teeth causing one or more teeth to become loose, displaced, or even lost • Orthodontic wires or other dental appliances becoming loose and cutting into the cheeks, gums, or both What are the causes of dental emergencies? Oral conditions such as tooth decay, gum disease, TMJ disorders, and large and older fillings contribute to the bulk of dental emergencies. However, multiple situations in daily life may accidentally lead to a dental emergency. Some examples include: • Playing contact sports • Work-related accidents • Car accidents • Falls during normal activities or recreational play • Eating something hard • Improper use of your teeth (e.g., ice chewing; opening bottles, packages, tough nuts; cutting tape; chewing pencils/pens; biting nails • Jaw joint pain or locking The longer that dental issues go untreated, the more likely that they may result in permanent damage to your teeth, or that they may warrant serious and expensive treatments. How to handle common dental emergencies Here are some tips on how to handle common dental emergencies: 1. Toothache A toothache may not necessarily require emergency care. However, toothaches should be taken seriously since they could be an indicator of a bigger issue or lead to greater dental problems if ignored. There can be many sources of tooth pain including dental decay, a cracked tooth, an infected tooth pulp, objects stuck between the teeth, gum disease, sinus infections, and more. If you have a toothache, always contact your dentist – they’ll be able to help determine if you need to be seen immediately. To deal with the pain of a toothache, try these tips: • Floss carefully to remove any trapped food particles wedged between teeth that may be causing pain. • Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater. Add 1/2 tsp of salt to 8 oz. of warm water. • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen. N E W H A M P S H I R E 21