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A dental emergency can strike at any place and at any time. You may encounter tooth and gum issues from a variety of sources, including trauma, infection, or neglect. A damaged or broken tooth can lead to further complications, necessitating immediate attention to preserve your healthy smile. When something unusual or unexpected happens, many people wonder what constitutes an actual dental emergency. 

Can you wait until your family dentist has an open appointment, or should you seek the help of an emergency dental professional? In this guide, we’ll explore dental emergencies and what you should do to find help. 

Is It Really an Emergency?

Before discussing the specifics of dental emergencies, it is a good idea to learn what a dental emergency is – and when a tooth issue is not an emergency. In general, any damage to the teeth or gums that results in cracked or broken teeth, severe pain, and excessive bleeding is a dental emergency, and those affected should seek help as soon as possible. 

Parents with small children may become alarmed when a baby tooth is loose but refuses to fall out. While bleeding and soreness may result from a loose tooth, these situations are not generally emergencies and can be handled by a routine dental office visit. Another troubling encounter that is not seen as an emergency is when an aesthetic issue arises, such as when a tooth veneer comes loose right before a big event. Emergency dentistry is designed to help people with oral health-threatening issues, and aesthetic concerns are better handled during a regular office visit. 

Common Dental Emergencies

As stated earlier, teeth can become cracked or broken, especially in sports-related accidents and routine slip-and-fall incidents. Trauma is the leading cause of dental emergencies – anything from a playground fall to a car collision or bicycle accident can lead to severe and painful damage of the teeth and gums.

Here is a closer look at several common conditions which are dental emergencies:

Broken or cracked teeth – any trauma that results in a cracked or broken tooth should be evaluated by an emergency dentist immediately. Bacteria can attack the delicate inner tissues of the teeth, leading to more severe oral health concerns. Superficial chips of the tooth surface are generally not seen as emergencies unless the inner pulp is exposed.

Knocked-out teeth – if trauma results in a complete loss of a tooth from its socket, emergency attention is warranted. To preserve the tooth, it is a good idea to keep it moist by placing it back in the socket, placing between cheek and gums, or to place it in a small container of milk until the dentist can evaluate the situation. 

Severe dental pain – pain from trauma is common, but pain of the gums and tooth tissues can indicate a more serious problem, such as a crack exposing nerves or a bacterial infection. Seek emergency treatment immediately if the pain worsens or continues for more than a few hours. 

Bleeding – certain conditions may lead to bleeding of the gums and around teeth, such as aggressive brushing or flossing. If the bleeding is accompanied by swelling and pain, however, this may suggest a more serious condition like a tooth abscess. Swelling without pain is another condition that requires quick dental attention. This swelling may indicate an underlying condition that can damage oral health. 

Emergency Dentistry: The Key to Preserving Oral Health

If you are faced with a dental emergency, it can be a traumatic experience and one where you don’t know where to turn to for help. Not all dentists offer emergency treatment; this is a specialized field of dentistry. 

Luckily, emergency dentists are available 24 hours a day in most cities. It is a good idea to locate the contact information of your nearest emergency dental clinic before an emergency strikes. With that advanced preparation, no time will be wasted if you or a loved one experiences the pain and fear associated with a dental emergency.