Pain in the mouth and teeth is hard to bear at the best of times, and it’s hard to watch in a child. But how do you know when it’s actually a true emergency? At Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA, we have listed five scenarios that often require emergency dentistry.
Scenarios Requiring Emergency Dentistry Care?
As we grow older, our teeth become softer and weaker, making them easier to break when we eat hard foods. And, unfortunately, accidents do happen, especially when small children are involved. Broken teeth are often caused by fists, baseballs, and even hard floors.
Minor chips do not usually require immediate attention. In contrast, a dislodged tooth or half of a tooth cracked away could be a serious problem and should be evaluated immediately. Small chips are relatively harmless and often more of a cosmetic issue than anything else. However, a deeper chip can damage inner layers of the tooth and create a cascade effect that causes more problems down the line. If you’re unsure of how bad the chip is, or if the chipped tooth is causing pain or making eating difficult, this should be considered a dental emergency.
How Should I Care for a Broken Tooth?
A dislodged or broken tooth is very time-sensitive: you have limited time to get the tooth to re-integrate into the mouth. Adults should hold a dislodged tooth carefully by the crown, return it to its place if it has come out entirely, and lightly bite down on it to prevent it from falling out again while en route to the dentist. By doing so, the tooth and socket will not dry out.
It is recommended that dislodged teeth be preserved in milk or lightly salted water for little children. It could be a choking hazard for them to attempt to hold a dislodged tooth in their mouth.
Athletic injuries are fairly common. When you play sports, you are usually advised to wear a mouthguard, which protects your teeth and absorbs the shock of impact. Despite this, mouthguards may be knocked out at times or the impact may be so violent that damage occurs.
Even if you don’t see obvious chipping or loosening of the tooth, there could be a fracture that’s not possible to see by a quick visual inspection. If your child has been hit hard in the mouth playing sports, it’s always a good idea to get checked out.
Pain That Doesn’t Resolve Quickly
It is incredible how well the human body can adapt to chronic pain. It becomes easier to ignore the pain as we become accustomed to it. In the end, however, this might not be the best decision when it comes to pain in the mouth, however, as the chronic pain could indicate something more serious, such as an infection or gum disease. You could put yourself at risk of a much more serious issue if you put off having your painful mouth condition looked at.
What Mouth Pain Can Indicate
The health of your mouth can affect the rest of your body even though many people are unaware of this. A deep tooth or gum infection can spread throughout the body via the bloodstream, wreaking havoc on other bodily functions. Believe it or not, issues with your oral and dental health can directly impact all the following conditions:
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Respiratory disease and issues
- Heart disease and inflammation
Incessant Gum Bleeding
Many factors can lead to bleeding gums, such as brushing too hard and eating hard foods. If you haven’t flossed in a while, you might experience bleeding after flossing. If your gums bleed regularly, the problem could be gum disease, like gingivitis.
The condition generally does not require emergency dentistry, but it can gradually become more serious. In the long run, it could harm your overall health and permanently damage your teeth and gums.
When Gum Bleeding Is an Emergency
You may need an emergency dentist if you are experiencing excessive bleeding that won’t stop. It may be a sign of an underlying infection or injury to the gums or teeth and you should seek treatment immediately.
A tooth abscess is caused by an infection that has invaded the root of the tooth. A dental infection within a tooth can cause the root to be damaged, or a tooth injury can do it. In most cases, people seek emergency treatment due to painful symptoms. Many people, however, are not aware they have an abscessed tooth until the symptoms become severe. You should always seek emergency dentistry if you have an abscessed tooth.
Signs to Watch for
While major cavities and abscessed teeth can both present similar symptoms, the abscessed tooth’s symptoms are generally more severe. An abscessed tooth can cause severe pain radiating to the jaw, neck, and even up to the ear.
There may also be swelling, severe headaches, swollen lymph nodes, and a fever. It is common for a small lump on the gums of the affected tooth to be seen as well.
It is important to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect an abscess. Under the root of the tooth is a pocket filled with bacteria, which can quickly spread through the bloodstream to the rest of the body. Infection and inflammation can result if this bacteria is not removed immediately. The infection may even become life-threatening.
Treatment of an Abscessed Tooth
In most cases, the infection can be drained out and rinsed, but in some cases, a root canal may be necessary. A severe infection may even require that the tooth be extracted. Antibiotics are prescribed for several days or weeks to reduce inflammation and infection.
Many adults and children are unaware they have cavities because they do not show symptoms. A minor cavity may not be a medical emergency, but it should be addressed as soon as possible to prevent further damage and future medical emergencies. Here’s how cavities form and when an emergency situation can develop:
Grooves and fissures in the tops and bottoms of the teeth are the ideal spots for food and plaque to collect and create cavities. The molars are especially likely to develop this problem because they are harder to clean thoroughly. The easiest way to detect these cavities is when black dots or lines appear in the grooves of the teeth. At this point, there is no emergency, but the cavities need to be seen to sooner rather than later.
Smooth Surface Cavities
Cavities with smooth surfaces usually occur on the sides of teeth or on their backsides, where they face the inside of the mouth. Often, these cavities go undetected. Regular dental checkups will help you catch any difficult-to-spot cavities. Unless they have progressed into a major cavity, causing significant pain and possibly further damage to teeth or gums, they don’t typically require emergency treatment.
This type of cavity occurs around the roots of teeth. A cavity like this can also go undetected until it has reached the point where it causes significant decay and discoloration near the gum line. Cavities of this type can cause health problems and require emergency dental treatment.
When Cavities Are an Emergency
If a cavity spreads to the pulp of the tooth, it’s time for emergency treatment. Due to the fact that the pulp of the tooth is not visible, we often have to rely on the symptoms to alert us to the need for emergency treatment when a cavity has become severe. These symptoms may include the following:
- Chronic pain in the jaw or gums
- Random onset of pain that comes and goes in one spot
- Sharp pain around a tooth
How Should Cavities Be Treated?
As long as the decay has not reached the pulp of the tooth, most cavities can be treated, removed, and filled. If the decay does reach the pulp, however, a root canal may be needed, which is a much more serious treatment. That’s why it’s so important to seek treatment when you suspect a cavity.
Get Emergency Dental Help
If you’re experiencing any of the issues listed above, or if you or a child are simply in pain and unsure what to do next, get peace of mind by seeing an emergency dentist at Southside Medical Center. Contact Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA today or come by our location at 1046 Ridge Avenue, SW to get the help you need as quickly as possible.