Did that recent wild adventure end badly?
Our teeth are more fragile than we think, and it’s important to take preventative measures against breakage and other irreparable damage.
After all, your smile is essential to all aspects of your life — including employment.
But sometimes even that beach or rock climbing vacation can result in some serious mouth damage. Crashing your bicycle, diving into a shallow pool, and even chewing on hard substances can all lead to pains, swelling, and breakage.
Luckily, emergency dental care is available in certain cases for patients with tooth or gum damage.
Read on to learn more about when it’s the best option for you so that you can be prepared no matter where you go or what you do.
1. Oral or Dental Infections
When it comes to emergency dental situations, infections are at the top of the list as one of the most dangerous conditions out there.
Your mouth is full of a lot of healthy bacteria and enzymes that assist with a variety of bodily functions. Proper oral hygiene can help keep the right bacteria in your mouth and cut down on harmful bacteria that can lead to plaque, tooth decay, or infections.
If you do have an oral or dental infection, it’s crucial that you seek emergency care right away. Your mouth is a pathway to other critical parts of your body, particularly your heart. A mouth infection can mean a blood infection, which can be life-threatening.
Keep in mind that there are different kinds of infections out there, some more minor than others. Canker sores, for example, are a type of mouth infection that do not pose any risk to the bearer beyond inflammation and irritation.
Indications of mouth infections include bleeding and/or tender gums, loose teeth, pus around the gums, and changes to the way your teeth fit when you bite down.
2. Internal and External Bleeding
It’s definitely time for a trip to the emergency room or dental chair if you experience internal or external bleeding in the mouth.
Bleeding gums, tongue, lips, or the insides of your cheeks should be treated very seriously. This is especially the case if the blood is a result of impact (i.e., an accident or other act of violence).
Bleeding gums are also a potential sign of a mouth infection.
Keep in mind that you may experience minor bleeding in these areas from chapped lips, chewing sensitive areas accidentally during eating or sleeping, or flossing infrequently.
If you are unsure about whether or not the bleeding is minor or major, contact a physician immediately.
3. Broken or Loose Teeth
While our teeth are generally fairly durable to assist us with chewing and digesting our food, they can be fragile in other ways. It is common for athletes, for example, to break or lose teeth through exertion or physical contact.
Others may break teeth by engaging in certain activities or encountering an accident.
If you’ve broken, chipped, or otherwise damaged your tooth through any activity, be it chewing a hard substance or getting hit in the mouth, you’ll want to seek emergency dental care right away.
If you are past the age of losing baby teeth and encounter a loose tooth, it’s also important to get emergency care. Loose teeth can be a sign of tooth decay, infection, or worse.
Broken or loose teeth can also invite in bacteria that can cause a serious infection.
4. Damaged or Broken Braces
Braces function by applying key pressure points on individuals’ teeth in order to shape them into straighter and more desirable positions.
If your braces have broken in any way, or if the wires have snapped, you’ll want to see your dentist for emergency dental care. This is because broken or damaged braces can instantly change how your teeth are shifting and growing and could lead to further orthodontal care or irreparable damage.
5. Loss of a Crown or a Filling
Dental crowns and fillings help take care of cavities and broken or damaged teeth. Fillings and crowns can be made of a variety of materials, including metal, porcelain, and resin.
If you’ve lost a crown or a filling, either through chewing or physical contact, it’s important to seek emergency dental care. This is because the loss of a crown or filling can be imperfect–the loss could have damaged the roots or tops of the crowned or filled tooth.
An exposed tooth can invite in bacteria that can lead to infection. It can also be extremely painful and could become damaged further by eating and chewing.
6. Severe and Constant Pain
We all get toothaches under a variety of circumstances. Sometimes a piece of food gets lodged between teeth and even after flossing can cause soreness. Prior to extraction, wisdom teeth can be painful.
Sometimes toothaches are just unexplained. They may last for a short time or appear in brief flares.
If you experience constant pain in a tooth or your gums, however, it’s definitely time to be concerned and to call your doctor. Prolonged and severe tooth or mouth pain can be a serious indication of an infection or other damage.
Moderate or minor tooth or facial pain that doesn’t last very long can be treated with ibuprofen or other pain relievers. However, if minor pain becomes major, consistent pain, it’s time for emergency dental care.
7. Jaw Dislocation or Fracture
This may seem like an obvious indicator of an emergency situation, but it’s an important one to know all the same. Dental care doesn’t just involve your teeth, after all. Dentists are concerned about your entire mouth health, including the health of your gums, facial nerves, tooth roots, and jaw.
Think about the last time you went to the dentist for a checkup. Remember when your dentist checked the opening and closing mechanism of your jaw?
If you’ve dislocated or fractured your jaw in any way because of any activity, it’s time for emergency care. If you aren’t sure if you’ve damaged your jaw or not but feel moderate to severe pain in your jaw when opening or closing, this is also grounds for emergency dental care.
8. Facial Swelling
If you notice any swelling in your face, particularly in the area around your mouth or gums, it may be an indicator of an emergency situation.
Facial swelling can result from a lot of things. Patients who get their wisdom teeth extracted, for example, commonly experience facial swelling for a few days or even a week after the procedure. Other people who get teeth taken out may experience similar swelling.
However, if you haven’t had a tooth extracted or other dental procedure recently and experience swelling, this could be an indication of infection or something similar. If you experience swelling that gets worse, or doesn’t go away after 24 hours, contact your dentist or physician right away.
9. Consult a Professional in Any Other Case
If you are unsure at all about whether or not you qualify for emergency dental care, the best thing that you can do is consult a professional.
Maybe you’re experiencing a weird form of pain in a weird part of your mouth. Perhaps you’re unsure about the severity of your gum bleeding. You may have had a recent dental procedure and may not be sure if you are experiencing the right symptoms.
No matter what the case is, it’s better to be on the safe side. Your dental health is absolutely essential because it is linked to the health of your heart and overall body function.
Go immediately to your local Emergency Room, Urgent Care clinic, or dentist’s office to seek assistance and potential treatment. You’ll want to go to the ER if you are experiencing symptoms outside of normal business hours.
How You Can Prevent Emergency Dental Care
Sometimes emergency dental care really is unavoidable, especially if you have been involved in an accident or are in a life-threatening situation. But there are still ways to prevent situations that may lead to emergency care.
Practice Excellent Oral Hygiene
One of the best ways to ensure that you keep your teeth healthy and emergency-free is to practice the best oral hygiene possible.
This means brushing your teeth at least twice a day and for at least two minutes at a time. Use a reliable toothpaste that fights plaque and bacteria.
Floss on the daily, rather than right before that dentist appointment. Make sure you use the right flossing method rather than just skimming the tops of the gaps between teeth.
Use mouthwash to improve breath and cut down on harmful bacteria. Avoid chewing tough substances and reduce sugary drink and food consumption to prevent cavities.
This may seem like a lot or a lot of what you already know, but you hear it for a reason. Oral hygiene can lead to heart health and fewer future dental procedures.
Plus, excellent oral hygiene can lead to that perfect white smile.
Wear Mouthguards or other Tooth Protection
If you are an athlete or someone who practices activities that compromise oral health, it’s important to take the right precautions against damage and infection. Wear mouth guards regularly and use other tooth protection against breakage.
If you know that you grind your teeth in your sleep, take precautions against this by wearing a mouthguard, reducing stress, and avoiding alcohol.
Avoid Chewing Hard Substances
Chewing hard substances such as ice, hard candy, or popcorn kernels can lead to tooth damage and mouth infection. Avoid these tough substances as much as possible and opt for softer foods if you have recently had emergency dental care.
Visit the Dentist Regularly
It is advised that you visit your dentist for a regular cleaning and check-up at least once a year, preferably twice.
When you visit your dentist, you’ll receive thorough cleaning that eliminates plaque, reduces harmful bacteria, and optimizes gum health. You can also get x-rays to assess the health of your gums and teeth. Your dentist will point you in the right direction toward optimum oral health and even advise you in teeth whitening.
Know Your Options
At the end of the day, the best preventative measure against emergency dental care is to know all of your options. Knowledge really is power, and it’s key for you to know exactly when to go in and who to call if an emergency arises.
Keep your dentist’s contact information on your phone and know the steps to take if you experience any of the dental situations above.
When It’s Time for Emergency Dental Care
Our mouth and teeth are essential components of overall health, and it’s critical to care for them accordingly.
At the end of the day, the best way to avoid having to undergo emergency dental care is to take safety precautions during athletic or risky activities, engage in oral hygiene practices on a rigorous basis, and know your options.
You’ll know it’s time for emergency dental care if you experience any pain that is long lasting and severe or gets worse over an extended period of time. Serious mouth infections are definitive grounds for immediate emergency care. If you’ve broken teeth or braces, or experience loose teeth, call your dentist immediately.
Dislocated or fractured jaws, as well as lost crowns or fillings, are also grounds for emergency dental care.
If you are still not sure whether or not you are eligible for emergency dental care, you still have options. You can go to the nearest emergency room, for example, or even call your dentist’s after hours or emergency care line. The best way to know about the care you need is to consult a professional immediately.
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