Dental emergencies are urgent dental concerns that need to be taken care of immediately. Waiting a few weeks-- or even a few days-- can mean the difference between saving a tooth and losing a tooth. But what exactly is considered a dental emergency? Let's consider four examples below:
Missing filling. Sometimes, fillings-- and particularly old fillings-- fall out and need to be replaced. Most of the time they fall out for a reason. Decay has occurred and the filling has failed. When this happens, it's a good idea to contact your dental office immediately and let them know you lost a filling. Your dentist will usually be able to get you in right away to at least put something temporary on the tooth to prevent further damage and bacteria infiltration.
Lost crown. Occasionally, dental crowns can fall out. If possible, save the dislodged crown and bring it with you to your dentist's office. Often the old crown can be easily re-cemented. But don’t wait too long! Even a few days without the crown in place can mean the old crown no longer fitting properly.
Dislodged tooth. If your tooth becomes dislodged-- either partially or completely-- contact your dental office and tell them you need to be seen immediately. If the tooth is replaced within an hour of becoming dislodged, it has the best chance of surviving.
Chipped tooth. It's not uncommon to chip or break a tooth; this frequently happens due to sports-related injuries or even chewing on hard candy. If possible, save all of the pieces of the damaged tooth and contact your dentist immediately. The sooner a dentist can at least place something temporary on the broken tooth the better. In the meantime, if the tooth chipped to trauma, try to minimize swelling by using an ice pack on the face immediately outside of the affected area.
Dental Infections. Swelling of the jaw or face due to a dental infection should never be taken lightly. If left untreated it could potentially land you in the hospital. If you cannot be seen immediately by a dentist it may be wise to go to an emergency room for evaluation.
Peter J. Samuels, DDS is a local Gettysburg dentist and a clinical instructor at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry.