You may not know what classifies a true dental emergency, but you should be aware of situations that require immediate attention by a dentist so that you can be prepared. You could also create an emergency dental kit at home to be further prepared, but first you should know—what is a true dental emergency?
Injury to the Mouth Resulting in Tooth Damage or Loss
If you’re in an accident in which one of your teeth is knocked out completely, partially removed, or dislodged from its natural position in your mouth, this is a dental emergency and you should get yourself to a dentist within 30 minutes. Getting to a dentist as soon as possible could mean the difference between keeping and losing your damaged or lost tooth. If you have the tooth, take it with you—it’s best if the extracted tooth is kept in your mouth in the socket it was in, but if this is not possible, try to keep it moist with saliva, and never handle it by the root. If your tooth is dislodged or hanging, it’s best not to touch it and get yourself to a dentist.
Cracked or Fractured Teeth
If one of your teeth becomes cracked or is fractured, this constitutes a dental emergency and you should see a dentist as soon as you can. Save any pieces of the tooth and take them with you. Cracked or fractured teeth may indicate damage inside the tooth as well as outside, so in order to prevent further damage to help save the tooth, you’ll need dental attention immediately. If you simply chipped a tooth, this is not technically a dental emergency and not the same as cracked or fractured teeth. If you do chip a tooth, save any pieces, schedule to see your dentist soon, and be careful when chewing to help prevent further chipping.
Situations That Can Wait (But Not for Long)
If you’ve lost a crown or filling, getting yourself in to see your dentist is really important, but this isn’t a strict emergency and you don’t need to rush off there in most cases. For lost fillings, you can use dental cement (available over the counter) until you can get to your dentist. For lost crowns, you’ll need to keep the crown and, if possible, get some dental cement and place the crown back over the tooth. Another situation that can wait is broken or damaged braces. Brackets or bands could be loose or maybe your braces themselves or the wires are broken. You can wait in these situations—although the sooner you get to your orthodontist, the more comfortable you’ll be. In the meantime, apply orthodontic wax over the problem area and never cut the braces yourself!
Dental emergencies are not fun but you can be prepared for them. Keep a list of local dentists in your dental emergency kit, as well as gauze for bleeding, a container with a lid for extracted teeth, and a compress that can be frozen if needed to help with swelling. Remember—getting yourself to the dentist quickly in an emergency can save your teeth!