Knowing When A Dental Problem Becomes An Emergency

Many dental issues can wait until you can get in to see your family dentist. You may have a little discomfort, but you won't experience any additional problems. Some issues are an emergency because delaying could cause more pain, an infection, or the loss of a tooth. Here are some ways to identify how serious your dental problem is and whether you should pick up the phone and call your dentist right now.

First Signs of a Dental Emergency

If you have any of these signs, something serious is going on. A call to your dentist will verify that you need to go in soon.

  • bleeding from any teeth, gums or other soft tissues in your mouth
  • sharp pains in any teeth where the pain radiates into your jaw
  • swollen lips, cheeks, gums or jaw
  • pain and tenderness along your jaw line outside of your mouth

Specific Dental Problems Requiring Immediate Care

Some dental issues look like an emergency, but they won't cause you more problems if you wait. For example, a chipped tooth that results in a jagged edge looks severe, but it won't get worse if it takes a few days to see your dentist. The following examples are more prone to developing greater problems if you don't get help soon.

Soft Tissue Emergencies

Abscesses - This is an infection around the base of the tooth, in the gum or deeper in the jaw. You'll have pain and swelling in the area and can have noticeable inflammation on your jaw outside of your mouth. It is painful to push on the swollen areas. The infection may drain into your mouth causing a sour taste. This level of infection can cause damage to teeth, bone and the soft tissues in your mouth if not treated quickly.

Mouth injuries - An accident that causes injury to your lips, cheeks, gums or tongue is serious. It may have caused damage to your teeth or jaw bone that is not obvious because of soft tissue swelling. When the inflammation goes down, you may discover loose teeth or a fractured jaw.

Tooth and Bone Emergencies

Broken tooth - If you break a tooth below the gum line, pain and swelling can occur quickly. The broken tooth repair requires cleaning out the socket and jaw bone to prevent infection.

Loose or missing crowns and fillings - These are usually not an emergency unless the tooth is cracked or broken down to the root. This can allow an infection to set in causing pain and swelling. If the tooth is very painful when you bite down, you may have such a crack under where the crown or filling was located.

Loose tooth - A tooth that you can move with your tongue or finger should be looked at right away. Your dentist may be able to stabilize the tooth and save it from coming out completely.

Knocked-out tooth - Should you have a tooth come out due to an accident or trauma, save the tooth and get into an emergency dentist. The sooner you see a dentist, the better the chances are that they can put the tooth back in and save it for you.

If you suspect that you have an emergency dental problem, call your dentist immediately. Quick attention to the problem can save teeth and prevent you from having a lot more pain.