It’s easy not to think much about your teeth: They’re there for you all the time, looking great and painlessly helping you to speak and chew your food. Except, of course, when they’re not. If you find yourself with a tooth problem, you’ll quickly notice that that’s about the only thing on your mind. Whether you have to wait a few hours or a few days to see the dentist, here are some things you can do when you have an unexpected dental emergency.
Have you ever bitten down wrong on a popcorn kernel or a piece of ice and broken a tooth? This is a potentially very painful pitfall of chomping on things that you shouldn’t! Your immediate reaction will be to first gauge whether you are in pain; if you’ve cracked the tooth or otherwise impacted the pulp area in the middle of your tooth, you might be in quite a lot of pain.
First, take a deep breath. Call your dentist for an immediate appointment if possible. Go ahead and take a couple of ibuprofen if you can take this medication; it will temporarily dull the pain within a half hour or so. If you cannot get to your dentist because you are away from home, go to any dental clinic or office that you can. If it’s at night or on a Sunday, your regular dentist might recommend that you go to the emergency room if the tooth is very painful.
If you have a piece of tooth wiggling in the socket, be extremely careful not to crunch down on that side again while waiting for dental care!
Less traumatic and dramatic than a broken tooth is a lost or chipped filling. Fillings, particularly the tooth-colored ones, tend to wear out and chip over time. If you end up with decay growing under an existing filling, it can make the whole thing loose and cause it to fall out.
The best-case scenario with a lost filling would be that you have no pain. Don’t be tempted to let this situation go, however: once you lose a filling, you raise the possibility that the tooth will break or develop a bigger cavity in the hole. So even if it doesn’t hurt and isn’t bothering you a bit, call your dentist and get an appointment as soon as possible.
If the area is rough on your tongue or is painful, try going to the pharmacy for a temporary filling material to help tide you over until you can see the dentist. One brand is Dentemp, but there are others available over-the-counter. Follow the directions carefully.
Having a tooth knocked out is a true dental emergency, and in order to save the tooth, you need to see a dentist as quickly as possible. If the tooth is still in your mouth, you can try gently putting it back in the socket. If you can’t do that, try holding it in your mouth, but you need to be careful not to rub the roots with your tongue or teeth, as this can damage them.
If the tooth fell out of your mouth, try rinsing it off with cool milk or cool water before placing it in your mouth. If you cannot hold it in your mouth for some reason, you can keep it in a cup of milk or rinse it with the milk and then put it in a ziplock bag to keep it moist.
On weekends or at night, head to the emergency room; otherwise, head to the dentist and have someone call while you are on the way. The odds of the tooth being able to be reattached decline after about a half hour, so time is of the essence.
If you experience any dental emergencies, please give us a call right away. Even on the weekends or during the night, someone will get back to you quickly.