It can be tough to know when you’re dealing with a dental emergency. Maybe you’ve had an accident, your tooth hurts badly, or you have some swelling or bleeding in your mouth and your dentist is closed for the weekend. A trip to the emergency room could take hours, meaning time off work and other inconveniences. On the other hand, delaying treatment could cause serious complications. Fortunately, there are clear signs to check for that tell you when you need immediate treatment.
What Is a Dental Emergency?
Knocked-out or cracked teeth, lost fillings and toothaches are common dental emergencies. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), other regular dental emergencies include a broken jaw, objects caught between the teeth and lip, or tongue wounds and bites. For most emergencies an urgent-care clinic can provide temporary treatment, or your dentist’s office may have an emergency line you can call for advice. When a dental emergency seems to be life-threatening, you should go straight to an ER.
When Should You Visit the ER?
Some dental problems can quickly become serious. Medline Plus lists symptoms that indicate you shouldn’t wait for a dental appointment. Visits to the ER for dental emergencies are typically covered in most insurance plans and you should go to your local ER if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Trouble breathing
- Heavy bleeding
- Severe pain
- Swelling that impedes breathing
- High fever that medicine doesn’t reduce
If you’re worried about a dental symptom and you can’t contact your dentist, you may want to visit your ER.
What Can You Do at Home?
For many dental emergencies, you can help relieve your symptoms at home while waiting for a dental appointment. The ADA has advice on what to do in common emergencies. If your tooth has been knocked out, replace it in its socket or keep it moist by putting it between your gum and cheek, or in milk. A cold compress helps reduce pain and swelling from a cracked tooth or wound, and rinsing and flossing can help relieve toothache. Flossing may also remove a stuck object. Prepare a dental care kit to help you deal with emergencies.
Unexpected dental problems are stressful and often painful, but knowing what is a dental emergency and what to do can put your mind at ease. An ER visit is usually only necessary when the symptoms affect your breathing, or cause severe blood loss or pain or fever. An urgent-care clinic can help you with less serious issues, or you may be able to contact your dentist on an emergency line.