An injury to your mouth or teeth is usually accompanied by shock and pain, and you may think you need to rush to the emergency room. However, many minor dental mishaps aren’t a true emergency, and of those that are, seeing your dentist is highly preferable than sitting in the ER.
Dr. Padmaja Yalamanchili of Fairfax Family Dentist in Fairfax, Virginia, delivers emergency dental services, if needed. Here’s what you need to know about when you need to ask for an emergency dental appointment.
Common dental “emergencies”
What’s a true dental emergency? Typically, it’s any injury to your teeth that requires immediate and proactive care to avoid additional damage, severe pain, or tooth loss. Dental damage can be broken down into roughly three categories:
This can include any of the following:
- Knocked out teeth
- Extruded (partially dislodged) teeth
- Chipped or broken teeth
Knocked out or dislodged teeth can often be saved with quick action, so definitely call your dentist and get an emergency appointment. A broken tooth is one that has cracked deeply or has broken off across its width. This typically exposes part of the root and means quite a bit of pain, and is also a dental emergency. A chipped tooth might not be, if the chip was minor and you only lost some enamel.
You might have what you feel is a borderline case. This can include:
- Soft-tissue injuries to the cheeks, gums, tongue, or lips
- Lost/loose fillings or crowns
- Objects caught between your teeth, or problem with braces or wires
A cut inside the mouth can bleed and swell a lot. If there is debris in the wound, you need medical attention to help prevent infection. A problem with a filling or crown may or may not be an emergency — is it hurting? Can you stick the filling or crown back in place until you can book a regular appointment? If not, or if you’re in pain, you may need to be seen.
Objects stuck between your teeth or an issue with your braces can be subjected to the same metric: Is there a lot of discomfort? If there’s not major strain in the teeth that could lead to cracking, it might be OK to wait until morning or Monday.
Pain and/or infection
If you’re hurting badly, there’s no shame in seeking help. You might wake up with your tooth or gum giving you a hard time due to:
Mild tooth pain that you can be reasonably sure is not caused by an infection or abscess may be treatable at home for a day or two by taking OTC painkillers and rinsing your mouth regularly. Severe pain indicates infection, and you should book an emergency dental appointment.
If you have a badly chipped tooth or other type of dental emergency, you can reach Dr. Padmaja Yalamanchili by calling 703-213-5313, or by visiting the contact page.