Now and then, you may experience an accident or mishap that could lead to a dental emergency. When this happens, it’s important to know the difference between what is considered an emergency and what isn’t, so you’re prepared to call your dentist if needed.

So what exactly is a true dental emergency? Many different scenarios could be classified as one, so to help you out, we’ve put together a list of true emergencies and what you can do to avoid them.

What Is Considered a Dental Emergency?

A telltale sign that you may be experiencing a dental emergency is if you have symptoms that can negatively impact your life. These may include a knocked-out tooth, severe pain, uncontrollable bleeding, an infection, facial bone trauma, and many others.

If you are experiencing any symptoms—especially any discomfort, pain, or swelling, it’s best to see your dentist as soon as possible. They can provide you with the care and treatment you need to resolve the issue.

7 Most Common Dental Emergencies

There are many types of dental emergencies, with some being more common than others. Keep in mind that not all dental situations can be constituted as an emergency, so it’s important to know the difference. Here are the most common dental emergencies to look out for.

  • Toothache

Many factors can cause a toothache, but typically, the most common culprit is plaque buildup and tartar on the teeth. Without proper dental care, the presence of these substances in the mouth can lead to cavities and potentially cause severe pain.

Minor toothaches can usually be resolved by maintaining good oral hygiene. However, if the pain persists, you may need to see a dentist to have the affected tooth checked for decay or infection.

  • Cracked Tooth

A cracked tooth can be caused by biting down on hard objects, grinding your teeth, or trauma to the mouth. If you have a cracked tooth, it is important to see a dentist right away. Depending on the severity of the crack, the dentist may be able to repair it with a filling or crown. In some cases, however, the tooth may need to be extracted and replaced with an implant.

  • Lost Filling

A lost filling can occur when the filling material comes loose from the tooth. This can be caused by biting too aggressively, especially on hard objects, grinding your teeth, or a mouth injury. If you have a lost filling, it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible so that they can replace it.

  • Broken Crown

A crown is a dental prosthetic used to cap a damaged or decayed tooth. Sometimes, biting on something too hard or experiencing trauma to the mouth or jaw can lead to a loose, broken, or missing crown. Fortunately, these crowns can easily be replaced by your dentist, who you’ll want to see as soon as possible to avoid an infection.

  • Swollen Mouth or Jaw

If your mouth or jaw suddenly swell up with no apparent cause that you can identify, you’ll want to see your dentist right away. You may be experiencing an infection or lymph node irritation that must be treated by a professional dentist.

  • Exposed Nerves

An exposed nerve will typically cause excruciating pain that will only get worse over time. You should visit your dentist as soon as possible to prevent infections and avoid additional nerve damage or extensive emergency treatments.

  • Dental Abscess

A dental abscess occurs when a pocket of pus forms in the tooth or gums and leads to an infection. This situation can be severe and life-threatening if the condition isn’t treated right away. Other symptoms to watch out for include hot or cold sensitivity, persistent pain, fever, tender lymph nodes, swelling in the face, and a pimple-like bump near the affected tooth.

man with toothache and hand on jaw- Rhoades Family Dental

What Isn’t a Dental Emergency?

While we always encourage our patients to seek out professional advice from their dentist on any situation considered abnormal, some may choose to wait and address certain issues at their next teeth cleaning and checkup appointment.

Chipped teeth or small cavities are usually not an emergency since they don’t necessarily have life-altering symptoms. Additionally, gum irritation may not necessarily be an emergency either. Excessive bleeding may need to be addressed sooner rather than later, but oftentimes, maintaining your oral health is the best way to allow symptoms like pain and swelling to resolve on their own.

How to Avoid Dental Emergencies

When dealing with dental emergencies, time is of the essence. The sooner you seek treatment, the better the outcome will be. If you wait too long, you may end up losing the tooth or causing further damage to your mouth.

Dental emergencies can be painful and inconvenient, so you’ll want to do as much as you can to avoid them. Some simple steps you can follow to avoid a dental emergency can include:

  • Brushing and flossing regularly to remove plaque and bacteria known for causing tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Avoiding hard objects, like ice or candy, when chewing, since this can crack or break a tooth.
  • Wearing a mouthguard while playing sports to avoid a knocked-out or damaged tooth.
  • Seeing your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings so that any problems can be identified early before they become an emergency.
  • Avoiding bad habits like chewing on your fingernails, biting your lip, or using your teeth to open packages, since these can all damage your teeth.

It is always best to err on the side of caution and consult with your dentist if you are unsure whether or not your situation is an emergency. They will be able to assess the situation and provide you with the appropriate treatment.

If you’re wondering where to go for a dental emergency, Rhoades Family Dentistry is here for you. Phone calls to our office are monitored 24/7 in case you experience an accident or mishap, so give us a call at 913-782-8900.