What to do for a dental emergency: urgent help if you’re in pain!

Like all health problems, dental issues can also constitute an emergency. This is not only because they can cause unbearable pain, but also because they pose a serious danger to your health.  

Yes, they can be extremely dangerous but there is no need to worry. In this article, we will examine together what to do if you encounter such a situation. What is a dental emergency? What to do for a dental emergency? Where to go for a dental emergency? Can you go to the ER for tooth pain? 

We will try to answer these and similar questions. So, when you encounter a suspicious situation, we would be happy if we could contribute a little bit by informing you about what your situation is and what to do about it.

What to do for a dental emergency

The first thing that you have to do is to decide if it’s really an emergency. Then you’ll need proper instructions for a well-made diagnosis. Do not try to intervene yourself. They are issues that require urgent professional treatment. If you intervene on your own, you can cause more serious problems.

In some cases, there are methods to prevent infections, such as rinsing your mouth with salt water. You can apply them as a precaution before going to the emergency clinic. But you should not try to solve the situation yourself with deeper interventions.

Before making any contact with the problem area, you should make sure that your hands or the stuff you use are sterile. Remember, infections are very dangerous! This is not just because they can cause pain and fever. If an advanced infection gets into your blood, it can endanger your life. That’s why the most fundamental thing you should avoid is doing anything that could cause an infection.

Normally, you should make an emergency phone call to your dentist. Dentists can inform you about what to do for a dental emergency until you go to a clinic. 

Time may be very important and having the right precautions can create a great difference. You have decided that the situation is an emergency, you have called your dentist and you have taken the necessary precautions. You can reach many dental clinics during working days and hours. However, you will have to find an urgent emergency center outside of working times. You can find suitable places in your area by searching on the internet. If you don’t have a dentist, you can also find a doctor who will provide an emergency service.

What is a dental emergency?

A dental emergency is a situation involving your teeth and their supporting tissues that requires immediate attention by a specialist. You may experience many problems with these hard or soft tissues. Some of these can wait until a suitable time. But sometimes the problems are very serious. They prevent you from doing your daily activities. The pain gets so intense that you cannot even sleep. Or you may be faced with a situation that can make a difference in case of rapid intervention. Or there may be a serious dental injury. These are called dental emergencies. It is important that you can make the distinction correctly. So, below we will take a look at the commonly encountered dental emergencies.

Severe pain

Toothache is not a good sign. However, in some cases, it does not mean that it is an emergency. Minor temporary pains also require a visit to the dentist, but they are not urgent. But sometimes there can be intolerable pain. It gets worse and prevents you from doing your daily work. 

Although this is an intolerable situation, severe toothache also indicates that there is a really serious problem. You may be dealing with a decay or other serious problem that has advanced enough to pressure your nerves. This situation accelerates the amount of pain. So if it permanently takes longer than a couple of days that means an emergency.

Uncontrolled bleeding

Bleeding also always indicates something bad. You can see blood when you’re brushing your teeth etc. This means something is going wrong. But these kinds of situations are not emergencies. However, unstoppable and persistent bleeding may indicate an urgent problem. You should see a dentist as soon as possible in such a situation.

In soft tissue injuries, you can rinse with salt water. You can use teabags or gauze to apply pressure to the area. You can also reduce both pain and bleeding with cold compresses. These precautions will help until you go to your dentist.

Bleeding or pain after tooth extraction

It is normal to experience some pain after tooth extraction. If you follow your doctor’s advice, your bleeding stops by itself. However, if you are experiencing persistent bleeding or severe and persistent pain, there is a problem. This is also a dental emergency and you should go to your dentist immediately.

Abscess and infection signs

Infections are serious problems. Just because it’s in your mouth doesn’t make it any less important. Although they can be quite painful processes, they can progress to the point that they threaten your life. Getting the infection into the blood can be fatal. If you see signs of infection like swelling, bumps, pain, or fever, it is useful to see a doctor immediately. It may also be helpful to rinse with warm salt water before going to the doctor.

Broken, chipped, or loose teeth

It may still be possible to prevent loose teeth from falling out. Therefore, it would be beneficial to go to your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist can perform an operation to save your tooth and correct the situation. Broken teeth or chipped teeth are not always considered an emergency. However, if the broken nerves have reached the pulp, you may face the risk of serious infection. In such cases, you should not delay going to the dentist.

Fallen tooth

A missing tooth is definitely not a normal condition. It can cause bone loss or disrupt your tooth alignment. That’s why you need to see a doctor and get an implant if necessary. But it can wait a proper time. But if your tooth has just fallen out, it may be possible for the dentist to save the natural tooth.

It will be useful to rinse with pure warm water in such a case too. If you can save the parts, you can put them in your own saliva or milk and keep them until you go to the doctor. If possible, you can try to put the tooth in its place but you should never force it into the pocket. 

Lost filling or crown

Fillings and dental crowns fill the gaps in your damaged teeth and protect them while maintaining the beauty of your appearance. If these fall or move, infections can occur inside. This is a very dangerous problem, so you should see your dentist as soon as possible and get the area refilled. For lost fillings, you can squeeze sugarless gum on the area until you go to your doctor. So you can keep it close.

Where to go for a dental emergency?

Since this is an emergency situation, you may have to make do with what you have at the moment. You should never waste time if situations endanger your life or if you have serious injuries, a fracture, or a dislocation of your jawbone.

Since these are more general problems, hospital emergency services can help you. You too need to get help as soon as possible but keep in mind that when it comes to issues that are solely in the field of dentistry, the staff, probably, will not have enough knowledge and equipment to offer the full necessary solution to your situation. However, going there is better than doing nothing if you have no alternatives.

In such cases, the places you should go are emergency dental care or dental emergency rooms. Call your dentist and explain your situation and say you want to talk. If appropriate, he will arrange a meeting as soon as possible. If this is not possible, you should call a dental emergency clinic or room. 

Many people want to go to emergency centers for pain. So can you go to the ER for tooth pain? As we said above not each tooth pain requires emergency treatment. Sometimes all you have to do is to take some counter-pain medications and wait until the next work day. But if you’re experiencing extreme pain with some other symptoms which can indicate serious problems such as infection, you can even have to look for an emergency room. 

Would the insurance cover the dental emergency?

Actually, there is no clear answer to this. It totally depends on your health insurance coverage and what kind of problem you have. Despite this, we can say that most health insurance fully or partially covers dental emergency care. Because these are serious and dangerous situations. If left untreated, they can cause more serious problems. This information changes regarding where you live and which company you’ve made a deal with. However, we’ve listed some dental urgencies that you’re insurance most possibly covers:

Dental traumas: These kinds of injuries are serious problems that require immediate interventions. There could be a lot of blood or the bone structure might be affected. 

Dental abscess: Abscess is also a very serious situation that requires treatment as soon as possible. They generally are covered by insurance fully or partially. 

Root Canal Therapy: Root canal treatments are necessary applications in some cases in order to save the tooth and prevent infections from the spread. They are mostly covered by insurance.

You might face post-op complications. The insurance does not cover it because the clinics cover them as the complications are mostly the dentists’ fault. But the point you should never forget is that the coverage by insurance may change due to many factors. So, for certain information, you must check your insurance plan or talk with your insurance company and consult with a dentist.

Does my travel insurance cover dental emergencies? 

Many travel health insurance plans also cover dental health. This means that they are also inclusive of dental emergency care. It is still useful to make a detailed examination and be sure, but these situations are usually covered by travel health insurance. Make sure you talk to your travel health insurance agency for detailed information as it can vary from agency to agency.

References:

Roberts G, Scully C, Shotts R. Dental emergencies. West J Med. 2001 Jul;175(1):51–4. PMCID: PMC1071467 link

Roberts G, Scully C, Shotts R. ABC of oral health. Dental emergencies. BMJ. 2000 Sep 2;321(7260):559-62. doi: 10.1136/bmj.321.7260.559. PMID: 10968824; PMCID: PMC1118447.

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