Ever wake up in throbbing pain that pounds with every heartbeat, then look in the mirror and find your face is swollen on one side and a little distorted? If you have, you’ve experienced the distress of a dental emergency.
Here’s a fact for you. We use our teeth every day, mostly without thinking about the real work they’re doing. We bite and chew our favorite dark chocolate, nutty granola snacks, or veggie-smothered grilled chicken dinner, and our teeth quietly do their work to get the digestive process started.
We only really notice them when they can’t do their work — when chewing that delicate chocolate, nutty snack, or scrumptious chicken becomes a pain. Literally!
What are some of the most common dental emergencies that cause us pain? We hope you never experience them, but here are some that we see most often along with the first aid needed to take care of them.
Have you ever scraped your gum with the hard edge of a chip or gotten a small piece of that chip wedged next to your teeth? When you wake up the next morning, your mouth feels a little achy and you notice your gums are red and swollen. It feels a lot like a toothache, and you wonder whether or not to schedule your next TrueCare Dentistry appointment.
Even the smallest gum irritation feels uncomfortable, but those can often be treated at home with gentle care, soft foods, and over-the-counter pain medications.
Toothaches that require an emergency appointment are more painful, grow worse (not better!) even with gentle care, and can sometimes produce drainage and bad odors.
Here are some symptoms to watch out for — they’re signs your toothache needs more first aid than home remedies can offer:
- Tooth pain that doesn’t go away after a day or two
- A headache or fever that accompanies the tooth pain
- Facial swelling
- Other indications of infection — pain when you bite down on food or drainage that smells and tastes bad.
Be sure to call your dentist right away if you have any of these symptoms.
If the pain from the toothache becomes severe, it may be the sign of a major dental emergency — an abscess.
While anyone can have an abscess almost anywhere on their body, those with tooth abscesses have them in and around their gums, at the root of an infected tooth, or in the tissues that support their teeth. Abscesses are pus-filled areas that build up as the result of some type of bacterial infection.
How do you know when you have an abscess? You may experience these symptoms and more:
- Severe, radiating pain that hurts constantly
- Facial swelling
- Tooth sensitivity with heat and cold
- Painful biting and chewing
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck or jaw
Taking an over-the-counter pain medicine can help with the pain of an abscess, but it’s no substitute for treatment at the dentist’s office. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of an abscessed tooth should call right away to prevent further infection and complications.
One of the most famous of all tooth injuries happened during the filming of “The Two Towers,” the second installment in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Viggo Mortensen, who played Aragorn, chipped his tooth during a fight scene, and he was so committed to finishing the scene that he asked the film crew to simply glue it back on. Thankfully, director Peter Jackson sent him to the dentist to have the tooth properly treated.
Chipping is just one kind of tooth injury that qualifies as a dental emergency. Like Mortenson, you may chip a tooth when you’re actively engaged in physical exercise or sports. Sometimes people chip a tooth when they fall and hit their mouth on a hard surface.
A chipped tooth may or may not be painful, depending on how big the chip is and whether any nerves become exposed from the injury. Whether or not it causes you pain, though, you should have it checked as soon as you can to prevent further injury.
Here are some other tooth injuries that qualify as dental emergencies:
Cracked and broken teeth
Are you one of those people who’s always crunching on ice? Know that you’re taking a risk when you chew ice — well, and hard candy, nuts, popcorn kernels, too. If it’s hard to crunch, it’s hard on your teeth. Clenching and grinding can also add stress to teeth and eventually lead to cracking and breaking.
How do you know if you have a cracked tooth? This injury can be a little harder to recognize because you may only feel pain when you’re eating. The pain you feel when biting down may go away when you’ve stopped chewing.
But you may also notice more sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks. If eating is painful and you suddenly feel more sensitive to temperatures, pay attention. Remember that any change in how your teeth feel — even if the pain is intermittent — is worth a call to the dentist to be sure all is well.
This injury is self-explanatory, and the American Association of Endodontists tells everyone exactly what to do if an accident or injury knocks one of your teeth completely out of your mouth:
- Act fast! Get to TrueCare Dentistry or the dentist nearest you as fast as you can — preferably within 30 minutes.
- Pick the tooth up by the crown without touching the root and wash it off with only water. No soap!
- See if you can fit it back into the socket. If you can, place it there gently and hold it in place until you get to your emergency dental appointment. (If you can’t get the tooth back into the socket, put it in milk or hold it in your mouth just next to your cheek until you can get to the dentist’s office.)
When you’re facing a dental emergency, reach out to TrueCare Dentistry so we can get you the first aid you need in time to save your teeth and keep you smiling.
Exceptional Is Not Uncommon
At TrueCare Dentistry, you will experience exceptional dental care that is focused on maximum patient comfort. We offer the best chair-side manner from check-in to check-out. Contact us for an appointment or to learn more: 919.859.1330