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What Constitutes a Dental Emergency?

Plaque and tartar or cavities in your canines, these are everyday dental issues that can be handled in the course of regular checkups. But once in a while, something out of the ordinary happens to your mouth or teeth, and you need emergency dental care. 

George Kontoveros, DMD, and Anthony Klobas, DMD at 2K Dental have seen and treated countless dental emergencies, and they can help you, too. The best time to learn about what to do in a dental emergency is before you have one, so our providers have a few tips for how to recognize and handle various dental problems in the best way possible.

Preventing dental emergencies

The best way to approach dental emergencies is to avoid them altogether. Here are some pointers for keeping your teeth out of harm’s way.

Wear a mouthguard

Sports injuries are the most common cause of dental emergencies. Getting hit in the mouth by a ball, a stick, a bat, or an opponent can all do serious damage to your teeth. 

Molded plastic mouth guards can protect your teeth and gums from most errant sports equipment that might find their way toward your face. 

Watch what you chew

Hard candy, ice cubes, and unpopped popcorn kernels can crack your teeth, as can nonfood items like pencils and pens. Even though your teeth are fairly strong and can handle heavy-duty chewing, they weren’t meant to chomp down on things made of harder material, like metal, plastic, and rocks. 

Don’t treat your teeth like tools

If you use your teeth to tear open packages, twist off lids, and anything other than chewing your food, you risk serious injury that can land you in the dentist’s office with a broken tooth or cut mouth. Practice good oral habits by limiting your toothly duties to food-oriented activities.

Identifying dental emergencies

Every injury and issue is unique, but a high level of pain is a good indicator. Here are some general guidelines for deciding what’s urgent and what’s not.

Cracked, broken, and knocked-out teeth

Whether you have a sports injury, a car accident, a bad fall, or an unfortunate chewing experience, you may find yourself with a cracked or broken tooth. Most cracks are not considered emergencies unless they’re causing you a great deal of pain. A broken tooth, on the other hand, is more serious and generally calls for immediate care. 

If you’ve knocked out your tooth completely, you have yourself a bona fide dental emergency. If possible, rinse your mouth and the tooth, being careful not to touch the root end. Gently place the tooth back in its socket and get to our office right away. If it won’t fit or it’s too painful, place the tooth in a zip-top bag with some milk and bring it with you to the office. The faster you get to our office, the better your chances of saving your tooth.

AWOL fillings, crowns, and veneers

Accidents and age may cause your crowns, veneers, and fillings to loosen or pop out. If this happens, you may have exposed nerves that can cause excruciating pain. This is a dental emergency.

If, however, you’re not in extreme pain, the fix can probably wait until you can schedule an appointment with one of our providers. 

Braces-based emergencies

Metal wires and soft gums can coexist under normal circumstances, but if you have a blow to face, that hardware can damage the tissues in your mouth. 

Cuts and bruising to your gums, tongue, and cheeks definitely count as dental emergencies. Your provider can evaluate the extent of the damage, treat your injuries, and also determine whether there is damage below the gumline to your teeth, roots, and nerves.

Even if your mouth seems to be in good shape after a hit to the head or face, your braces may have taken the brunt of the blow. Your provider can do a thorough check to see if you need any repairs or adjustments.

Infections and abscesses

Injuries and trauma alert most people to the need for emergency care, but there are some conditions that may seem less obvious.

Infections and abscesses generally start off with mild symptoms and worsen over time if left untreated. Once they get to the emergency stage, they’re often quite painful. You’ll also notice visual signs of infection, such as swelling, redness, fever, and a bad taste in your mouth. If you think you might have an abscess, please contact us as soon as possible. 

Now that you know what constitutes a dental emergency, make sure you have our contact information handy in case you or someone you love needs urgent dental care in the future. Schedule a regular appointment to see our amazing team of dental care professionals to keep your mouth in tip-top shape.

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