What is considered a dental emergency?

Having a dental emergency is an uncomfortable and annoying situation. Here we tell you which are the most frequent circumstances and how you should act in each case.

Last update: September 15, 2021

Beyond the care given to oral health, a dental emergency can happen to anyone and at the least expected moment. Knowing how to act and where to go according to the problem helps to improve the prognosis of the situation.

In this article we tell you about the dental circumstances that are considered emergencies and what you should do in each case. In addition, we clarify when it is necessary to rush to the hospital and what you can do to prevent mouth injuries.

What is considered a dental emergency?

A dental emergency is all that acute situation affecting teeth and oral mucosa and that needs to be resolved promptly. The symptomatology of the process affects the daily life of the person and their social functioning.

A dental emergency can appear due to an accident. Or, as the evolution and exacerbation of a chronic process that has not been treated in time.

For this reason, dental care should be sought to resolve symptoms and control damage. The final treatment, in which the injury causing the problem is definitively corrected, is performed in subsequent consultations, when the acute situation has passed.

Most frequent dental emergencies

There are several situations that are considered dental emergencies and that lead the person to seek immediate dental care. Next, we mention the most frequent ones and we detail how to act in each case.

Dental pain

Pain in a tooth is usually caused by the presence of advanced cavities. In any case, there are other situations that also cause discomfort in the teeth, such as retained parts, pericoronitis, and infections.

Discomfort in the dental elements can be felt in different ways and with different intensity. It is important to pay attention if the pain is constant, or appears and worsens before certain stimuli such as cold, heat, sweets or when lying in a horizontal position.

When the pain is intense and constant, interferes with the person's daily activities. This causes it to be considered a dental emergency, since relief must be sought promptly until the origin of the problem is diagnosed and definitive treatment is carried out.

In the case of tooth pain, the ideal is to go to the dentist to assess the situation. Many times the symptoms can be contained with medication until the definitive treatment is carried out.

Other times, it is also necessary to open the tooth until it reaches the pulp area to relieve the pressure that causes the discomfort. The dentist is the person trained to perform the appropriate approaches that stop the symptoms.

Anyway, until you can go to the dentist, some home measures can reduce sensitivity. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing with warm water can remove debris that has become trapped on the molars or between the teeth. No sharp or sharp object should be used for these tasks.

It is also good to avoid very cold or very hot foods, as they can make the pain worse. If you notice swelling on your face, placing a cold compress on your cheek helps you feel better.

It is important do not self-medicate or place medications on teeth. In any case, if it is not possible to make an immediate dental visit, a phone call to the trusted dentist to ask for their indications is useful.

The pain referred to a tooth can be so intense that it affects the normal development of daily activities.

Fracture of a tooth

A tooth can be partially broken after receiving a sharp blow or biting into something too hard. Losing a part of the tooth is a dental emergency, as it not only affects aesthetics. The sharp edges of the broken tooth can damage the mucous membranes and injury is caused to the pulp.

It is important to seek a solution promptly to avoid further complications. In addition, it is important that a dentist evaluates the situation to detect if there is damage to other structures.

Before running to the dentist, if possible, the broken tooth fragment should be found and cleaned carefully. The mouth should also be carefully rinsed with warm water to remove any remaining food or dirt. Applying a cold compress to the face helps reduce the inflammation that could be caused by the blow.

Upon arrival at the dentist, the professional will assess the damage and propose the different alternatives to rebuild the damaged piece. In some cases, if there is pulp damage, a root canal may be necessary.

Loss of a tooth

When suffering a very strong blow to the mouth, a tooth can be thrown out of the oral cavity. This situation is known as dental avulsion and it is a dental emergency that requires you to act quickly.

It is important to stay calm and look for the piece that has come off. Touching the root zone should be avoided. Once found, the tooth is gently washed with water and placed in a bottle with physiological solution or milk to transport it, preventing it from becoming dehydrated.

It is not recommended to reinsert the tooth into its hole. The ideal is to apply pressure with a gauze on the gum to stop the bleeding and go to the dentist urgently. The earlier treatment is received, the better the prognosis of the situation, so in these cases acting with speed is essential.

The dentist will assess the damage. If possible, the tooth will be reimplanted in place, immobilizing it with splints for a time. In case this is not possible, he will explain to the patient other alternatives to solve the loss.

Loose tooth

After receiving a blow in the mouth, it may happen that the piece does not break or come off, but it does loosen. In these cases it is also necessary to go urgently to the dentist.

It is important do not touch or move the tooth with your fingers or tongue. It is also not a good idea to squeeze it with the opposing pieces or place a gauze.

It is advisable to visit the dentist as soon as possible. The professional will take X-rays to evaluate the damage, immobilize the piece and give the necessary indications for subsequent care. A root canal may be required over time if the dental pulp was compromised.

Infections and abscesses

Dental infections and accumulation of pus cause pain and complications that need to be treated as soon as possible. Abscesses can be located in the roots of teeth, damage the gingiva and even spread to other neighboring tissues.

It is important to go to the dentist to take care of the situation and prevent it from progressing. The spread of infection and the spread of microorganisms to other parts of the body can have serious consequences.

If the abscess is large, involves the neck, the floor of the mouth or the cheeks, it is essential to go urgently to a health center. Also if it causes fever or difficulty moving the tongue, speaking or breathing.

Wounds in the mucous membranes

Injuries to the lips or tongue from accidental bites cause bleeding and pain. In any case, generally resolve themselves and they do not mean a dental emergency.

But there are cases of larger trauma from accidents or in the practice of some sports that generate extensive injuries. Before going to the dentist, an attempt should be made to stop the bleeding by applying pressure to the wound with a sterile gauze.

In case that the bleeding does not stop, the wound is very large, or the pain is very severe, It will be necessary to go to the dentist to evaluate the damaged tissues. In some cases, stitches will be necessary.

Mucosal injuries can also be caused as a result of the use of orthodontic appliances. The ends of the arch can move and irritate soft tissues.

In these cases, orthodontic wax or gauze is placed to prevent further trauma until the dentist can be visited. If a piece of the appliance breaks or a bracket, it is important to recover and save it to take the fragments to the professional.

In cases where orthodontics penetrate soft tissues, such as the tongue, cheeks or gums, it will be necessary to go immediately to the orthodontist to resolve the situation.

Mandibular fracture

Jaw rupture is not something that happens frequently. A car accident or a very violent blow to the bone can cause a fracture.

This is a serious dental emergency and you need to go to the hospital urgently. The assessment will be made by a maxillofacial surgeon, who will be in charge of performing the necessary interventions.

Post-surgical complications

The appearance of postoperative complications is another type of dental emergency. After having undergone dental practices, symptoms may appear that involve returning to the professional.

Severe pain or swelling of the face after a root canal or having received a tooth extraction, periodontal surgery or implant placement, will require a consultation with the dentist. Bleeding or a socket are also possible complications after dental surgery.

The loss of a filling or the removal of a crown is also a possibility of requiring the intervention of a dentist. Unless it is an anterior tooth and the person's appearance is severely affected, immediate attention is generally not required. In any case, It is a situation that must be resolved as soon as possible to avoid complications.

Dental surgical procedures can lead to complications that require emergency consultations.

How to Identify a Dental Emergency

We have already mentioned the most common dental emergencies. As you have seen, they do not all have the same severity.

Although it is indicated to seek timely attention as soon as possible, there are situations that warrant acting more quickly. Here are symptoms that indicate that you need to contact medical attention immediately:

  • Heavy bleeding that does not stop.
  • Severe pain that does not calm with painkillers.
  • Strong punch on the face, mouth or teeth.
  • Loss or breakage of any dental piece.
  • Fracture or dislocation of the jaw.
  • Inflammation and edema on the face or mouth.
  • Difficulty speaking, swallowing, open your mouth or breathe.

In these cases, it is suggested to seek urgent attention and, if it is not possible to contact the dentist, you should go immediately to the nearest hospital. It is important not to waste time in situations that can be life threatening.

What to do if you have a dental emergency?

As we already mentioned, when suffering a dental emergency the most important thing is to seek dental care. Communicating immediately with the dentist allows the professional to guide the patient on how to proceed with the problem.

The dentist will schedule an immediate appointment if necessary or will indicate what medication to use. You can also calm the patient and suggest postponing care if the problem does not warrant rushing.

The sooner you try to solve the problem and get a professional opinion, the better the results. Therefore, beyond the type of dental emergency, the best solution is to find a dentist.

How to prevent dental emergencies?

In some cases it is not possible to avoid a dental emergency, as it appears accidentally and unexpectedly. But other times simple measures can reduce the risk of suffering from acute oral problems:

  • Do not use teeth to open packages or cut objects.
  • Avoid eating hard foods.
  • Wear a mouth guard for contact sports.
  • Always wear a seat belt.
  • Maintain proper oral hygiene.
  • Visit the dentist regularly to treat any present pathology and keep the mouth healthy.

And in the event that it cannot be avoided and a dental emergency occurs, act calmly and quickly. Seek support from your dentist to resolve the situation and restore your smile.