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What is Considered a Dental Emergency?

Some dental emergencies require a dentist, and others require an emergency room. Knowing which one you need could save your life or someone else’s.

Use this guide to learn what constitutes a dental emergency and whether you need a dental or ER visit.

Dental emergencies for the emergency room

Some dental emergencies are life-threatening. In situations like these, an emergency room is necessary.

For example, if you are in a car accident and your face hits the windshield and causes you to bleed, then you could be losing too much blood. This is an emergency situation requiring more than what a dentist can do. Also, if you experience any swelling in your jaw, chin, or mouth, then you should visit the emergency room, because the swelling could cut off your airway.

Another situation for the emergency room would be if you woke up with incredible tooth pain along with progressive swelling. This is an emergency because rapidly rising pain and facial swelling indicate you have an infection causing facial cellulitis.

If you have tooth pain, a fever that will not subside, and feel fatigued, then you could have a bad bacterial, viral, or fungal infection requiring intravenous, or IV, antibiotics. Dentists are not equipped for this, meaning you need to visit an emergency room.

Dental emergencies for the dentist

The previous information is not to suggest that dentists cannot treat emergencies, because they can. Of course, it just depends on the nature of the emergency.

Tooth trauma 

Tooth trauma is one scenario in which you visit a dentist instead of an emergency room. An example of tooth trauma would be getting hit in the face with an object, causing a tooth to come out. Your dentist will examine the tooth and decide whether or not it can be implanted.

A doctor in the emergency room will most likely never implant the tooth in your tooth socket, even though you bring it to them perfectly preserved. 

Cracked teeth

If you are biting down on something hard and tooth cracks, call your family dentist, and ask if you need an emergency same-day dental appointment. In some cases, they may say you can wait a day or so, and give you instructions on what to do in the meantime.

Tooth abscesses

Abscesses cause a lot of pain. Worse still, they can also spread. Infection in your tooth can spread to other organs, potentially causing heart problems along the way. If you experience symptoms of a tooth abscess, then visit your dentist as quickly as possible. 

However, if you cannot see the dentist, then visit an emergency room. Infection is serious, so do not wait for your dentist for help.

Filling falls out

When filling falls out of a tooth, it exposes either the nerve or a severe cavity, causing intense pain. In some cases, the dentist might perform a root canal. It will, however, be nearly impossible to eat until the dentist sees you. The same applies to a broken retainer or crown that has popped off a tooth.

Pediatric dental emergencies

Many of the previously mentioned scenarios apply to children as well. Some require an emergency, and some require a dentist. 

Remember that children’s teeth hurt too. If your child complains about a toothache, do not wait to take action. Depending on the circumstance, take them to a dentist or emergency room for treatment right away.

Contact your family dentist if your child cracks or breaks a tooth or gets one knocked out. However, if your child experiences swelling or heavy bleeding, then visit an emergency room as quickly as possible.

For more information

Do not wait to decide what to do after a dental emergency happens. Contact Arkansas Family Dental at (501) 883-8886 today to schedule an appointment.


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Tina Nichols

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