According to the American Dental Association, dental emergencies are potentially life-threatening and require immediate treatment to stop ongoing bleeding, or to alleviate severe pain or infection. This definition covers a wide variety of serious dental issues, many of which require urgent care. Read on to learn about specific types of dental emergencies and dental conditions that require urgent care.
Types of Dental Emergencies
Dental emergencies include any accident resulting in trauma to the facial bones. Trauma to the bones of the face, including the jaw have the potential to block your airway, which is why they need immediate emergency dental care.
Severe bacterial infections in the soft tissues of the mouth are also considered dental emergencies. Severe infections require immediate treatment, to prevent potential fatalities. Likewise, swelling in the gums or mouth due to infection has the potential to block your airway, and needs immediate treatment.
Uncontrolled bleeding is also categorized as a dental emergency. Uncontrolled bleeding may result from facial trauma or may result from an underlying systemic disease. Uncontrolled bleeding requires emergency treatment.
A knocked-out tooth is also considered a dental emergency. If you can put the tooth back in its socket, you should try to do so. If you cannot, put the tooth in a small cup of milk, and bring it to your dentist immediately. In some cases, a tooth that has been knocked out can be reattached if you can get to your dentist in an hour or less.
Conditions Requiring Urgent Dental Care
Urgent dental conditions also need to be treated as soon as possible. Though these conditions may not put your life at risk immediately, failing to treat these urgent conditions can result in severe pain, infection, or loss of teeth.
- Severe Pain: Pulp of Tooth
Severe pain caused by inflammation or infection in the pulp (interior) of the tooth requires urgent treatment, in the form of a root canal. If left untreated, the infection can spread to your jaw bone. You are also at risk of losing a tooth that has severe decay in the pulp.
- Severe Pain: Abscess
An abscess is a pocket of pus that develops as the result of a bacterial infection. An abscess is also called an oral abscess or tooth abscess. An abscess can form in a variety of locations in and around the teeth. Symptoms include pain and swelling. An abscess requires urgent dental treatment to prevent the infection from spreading into the jaw or throughout the body.
- Cracked or Broken Tooth
A crack in your tooth may require urgent dental care. A tooth that has broken off should be treated immediately, to preserve the tooth. If the crack extends beyond the gum line, you may need an extraction. Visible cracks warrant a trip to the dentist as soon as possible. Small chips in the tooth don't necessarily require immediate treatment, but you should see the dentist soon.
- Bridge or Crown that Comes Off
If a bridge or a crown comes off, you need to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Both protect against infection and need to be replaced as soon as possible.