Dental emergencies

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Accidents happen. Sports injuries, falls, and accidents can be dental emergencies. Generally, any dental problem that results in facial trauma or that requires immediate treatment to stop bleeding, alleviate severe pain, or save a tooth is considered an emergency and requires a trip to the ER. A wire that is “poking” into tissue and causing pain or discomfort, or any pain or discomfort related to an expander or bonded appliance, is uncomfortable, and we want you to contact us. However, sometimes a problem that can seem critical can actually wait until the next business day. The information below explains the most common dental-related emergencies. Contact the dentist the patient sees for regular check-ups and exams for dental emergencies unrelated to your orthodontic treatment. 

The American Dental Association (ADA) shares information on recognizing dental emergencies and gives first aid tips in this 60-second video:

Toothache: It is common to experience discomfort during the start of treatment, after adjustments, or when new aligners are delivered. Switch to a soft diet, rinse the mouth with warm saltwater and give an over-the-counter pain reliever if needed. If the pain results from material caught between the teeth, try using dental floss to remove it. However, go to the ER when the toothache is accompanied by swelling, difficulty breathing, bumps on the gums, headache, or fever. These symptoms could indicate an infection or dental abscess. A serious infection in your mouth can be potentially life-threatening. If the mouth or jaw suddenly becomes swollen for no apparent reason, it could indicate an infection, an irritation of the lymph nodes, or some other factor that requires medical intervention in the ER.

Tongue bitten or bleeding lip: Clean and apply a cold compress to the injured area until bleeding subsides. If bleeding is heavy, does not stop, or parts of the lip or tongue are missing, or sutures are needed to close a gap, proceed to the ER. If elements of your orthodontic treatment are affected, contact our office.

Broken Tooth: Rinse your mouth with warm water if you break a tooth. Apply a cold compress and contact the dentist you see for your regular cleanings and exams.
Dislodged Permanent Tooth (knocked out): Likely, your orthodontic treatment will protect your teeth by preventing teeth from being completely dislodged during a trauma, usually as a result of a sports contact or accident. We can provide an orthodontic mouthguard for all patients who engage in contact sports to decrease the likelihood the patient will experience trauma. Trauma to the mouth or jaw usually requires a trip to the ER. If a permanent tooth is knocked out, it is time to take immediate action! First, locate the tooth, if possible. Then, carefully pick it up by the top, being careful not to touch the roots. Do not rinse the tooth with water but place it in a cup of milk. If milk is not available or injury occurs in a sports field or away from home, take care not to rinse the naturally occurring enzymes on the root surface but clear any debris and place the tooth back into the socket and hold it in place. Response time is critical. Often, a tooth is successfully replanted when the patient seeks medical or dental attention within an hour. Go to the closest ER with an emergency dental team. The ER doctor will advise you on when to follow up with us.

Broken retainers, loose wires, brackets, and missing ligatures (bands) or an issue with an expander that causes pain or discomfort: A loose or broken wire that is causing pain and discomfort, or a problem with an orthodontic expander that is causing pain or discomfort, are emergencies. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our office during after-hours. A loose wire that is not causing discomfort, lost retainers, missing brackets, and ligatures can wait until the next business day.

Lost filling or dislodged crown: Contact the dentist whom you see for your regular cleanings and exams for more information and instructions.



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