What Qualifies as a Dental Emergency?
May 22nd, 2020 by Catherine Marqueses
An emergency is generally considered an event with blood gushing, extreme pain, or broken bones. For ourselves, emergencies are simply a matter of hitting the ER. When our children are involved, though, we panic and call in everyone of which we can think.
Dental emergencies are no different. To us, broken or missing teeth and blood are the hallmarks of a dental emergency in NYC. Are those the only symptoms of a dental emergency? What do dentists consider an emergency?
How Can A Dental Problem Be An Emergency?
Dental emergencies can happen in traumatic accidents, sporting accidents, biting into something hard that breaks a tooth, or sustaining an abscess. The American Dental Association describes a dental emergency as one that can potentially affect the patient’s breathing.
The ADA also considers the swelling of abscesses an emergency, because the bacteria causing the abscess can poison the system. Uncontrollable bleeding, as well as broken facial bones that could potentially affect the breathing, are also considered an emergency.
How Are The Airways Cleared?
Dentists will put back in place any broken bones, wiring them in place since a facial cast can’t be applied. Bone fractures may also be repaired using resorbable or microplates. Broken teeth will be repaired using titanium screws and crowns. These clear the airways.
How Do Abscesses Poison The Body?
If it’s in your mouth, it can develop an infection. The pulp of the teeth and the gums can develop an infection which often ends in abscesses. During an infection, bacteria moves out of the affected part of the mouth and settles into the bone and tissue, causing an abscess. This is a pocket of pus attached to the infected item.
Once the immune system detects an infection, it swings into action to kill it. Sometimes it goes into hyperdrive, flooding the body with too much infection-killing white blood cells. This is called sepsis. The body can and does go into septic shock, with drastic drops in blood pressure, rapid heart beat, hyperventilation, fever, and more. Sepsis is often fatal.
How Can Uncontrollable Dental Bleeding Happen?
In this case, uncontrollable means the blood isn’t stopping. There are several reasons for this, including not taking your blood pressure medicine before the dental procedure. Blood thinners in the case of heart attack patients can also cause uncontrolled bleeding. You’ll need to tell your dentist every single medication you’re on, so he’ll know how to handle the bleeding if any.
Another but just as serious reason for uncontrollable bleeding is fear of the unknown. Lots of people are afraid of dentistry, because they’re trapped in the chair. If the dentist could knock them out, they wouldn’t fear it so much. This fear makes the heart beat faster, pumping more blood into the area in question.
When Is Dental Pain A Matter Of Urgency?
An abscess isn’t the only cause of tooth pain. Sometimes a tooth will break off as a result of biting into something (and it doesn’t have to be something hard.) This exposes the pulp of the tooth which contains the nerves, blood vessels, and the root. Air as well as hot and cold things touching these cause pain.
A cavity is a hole in something. When the hole is in a tooth, a filling is required to make it whole again. These come out for various reasons in addition to the pain of the cavity to begin with. If cavities are left too long without filling, the tooth is further damaged which causes additional pain.
Getting popped in the mouth with a baseball or hitting the steering wheel in an auto accident causes teeth traumatic damage. Until a dentist can examine the teeth to find the cause of the pain, the pain can drive you around the bend. If you have the teeth, put them in milk until you can see the dentist. Keep a gauze pad on the area to absorb the blood. Rinsing the mouth with warm salt water helps the pain until you can get to the dentist.
A temporary crown used to be cemented into place back in the day. If the temporary crown was lost, the remaining repair could cause dental pain. Nowadays crowns are screwed in with permanent implants, but this is one cause of dental pain.
Other causes of dental pain include wires and braces pinching, faulty dentures, tooth repairs come undone, the eruption of wisdom teeth, and the replacement of temporary fillings.
What makes dental pain a matter of urgency is the tendency of most people with tooth pain to self-treat. In the case of fever and swelling, an antibiotic will be necessary to stop any infection that might be present. Otherwise, until you can get to a dentist, these things are recommended:
- Take only ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain
- Bite down on a gauze pad or cotton ball soaked in oil of cloves (this is available at most pharmacies)
- Don’t eat or drink hot or cold foods or drinks due to their irritation of the tooth
In these days of coronavirus worries, dentists only take emergency cases. We’ve outlined for you what constitutes a dental emergency. If you or someone you love has tooth pain, has had a traumatic experience, or has an abscessed tooth, call the dentist immediately. Chances are good they’ll see you that day or as soon as possible.