Dental Emergency Guide
Dental emergencies, otherwise known as dental traumatic injuries, are injuries sustained by the teeth and the structures that surround it. They are most common in children aged 8-12, and are usually brought about by sports-related accidents, fights, and accidents while playing. The front teeth, particularly the maxillary central incisors are the most frequently affected due to their prominence. Other teeth that also commonly sustain injuries include the maxillary lateral incisors and the mandibular incisors.
How to know if it is a true dental emergency
Listed below are some signs and symptoms that will help you determine if you are having a true dental emergency.
- Bleeding and severe pain
- Loose or knocked-out tooth
- Severely-damaged tooth
- Swelling in the mouth and/or on the area around the mouth
If any of the conditions above are present, you should contact your dentist right away. If that's not possible, there are also some tips that will be discussed here so you yourself will know what to do until you get to your dentist. However, it is still important to note that being able to go the dentist within 30 minutes is much better.
Types of dental emergencies and the management for each
Chipped, cracked, or fractured tooth
A chipped tooth does not always require immediate dental attention, except of course, in cases that are severe or those which has already affected the pulp. Nevertheless, it is still important to exercise care, as you don’t want the tooth to be damaged even more. When you go to the dental clinic, what your dentist will do is just to smoothen out the chipped tooth surface, and then repair it with the tooth-colored restorative material called composite.
Cracked or fractured tooth is a more serious case that constitutes a dental emergency, since more often than not, the injury has already reached the pulp. Once the pulp is affected, root canal treatment is needed. In severe cases such as root fractures, the tooth cannot be saved anymore and the only option left is tooth extraction. If you suffer from tooth fracture, you should go to your dentist immediately.
Luxation refers to the partial displacement of tooth from the tooth socket. You should call your dentist immediately once this happens. Meanwhile, what you can do while waiting is to try pushing back the tooth to its original position using light pressure only. If you can't push it back, don’t force it. Once you’re in the dental office, your dentist will reposition your tooth and stabilize it by splinting it to the teeth next to it.
Just like luxation, tooth avulsion, or the complete displacement of the tooth out of its socket, is a dental emergency that must be addressed immediately. Once your tooth gets knocked-out, what you should do is to pick up the tooth by holding it on its crown-- you should not touch the roots to avoid destroying the fibers that connects the tooth to the surrounding bone. Then, wash it gently and put it in a storage media. The ideal storage media for avulsed tooth is Hank's Balanced Salt Solution, or HBSS. However, since HBSS will not be always available, the second best option would be milk. Don’t put it in tap water, or else, if your dentist put the tooth back in your mouth, replacement resorption will happen, wherein the fibers that are supposed to attach your tooth to the bone will die and the attachment will be directly between the tooth root and the bone.
After you have stored your tooth to the appropriate medium, go to your dentist immediately so he or she can replant your tooth. The faster your tooth is replanted, the better the healing would be.
Soft tissue injuries
Soft tissue injuries can be in the form of lacerations, abrasions, and punctures on the lips, cheeks, tongue, and gums. Once you suffer from any of these, the first thing that must be done is to clean the area gently with warm water. If bleeding is present, stop it by putting gauze on the area and applying pressure on the wound. To alleviate pain, take paracetamol (acetaminophen). Never use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin, as they will only worsen bleeding. If possible, you should go to a nearby hospital immediately.
Fracture of the alveolar process
The alveolar process is the part of your jaw that holds your teeth. You will know that you are suffering from alveolar fracture when several adjacent tooth move as one. The only thing that must be done when this dental emergency happens is to go to the nearest hospital to have your bone splinted.
How to prevent dental emergencies
Dental emergencies can be prevented by going through dental checkups regularly. Through that your dentist will be able to determine if your mouth is healthy, or if there are treatments needed. Apart from that, it is also recommended to use mouth guards during activities where chances of accidents are very high.
Accidents can happen anytime, so you must always be prepared. Though it may not be easy, just stay calm and don’t panic. Always have an emergency kit with you, as well as your dentist’s phone number, so you can call him/her for help immediately.