Atkins & Anderson DDS Blog

Dental emergencies usually happen without warning and come in many forms – some more urgent than others. Knowing what to do and who to call after an injury empowers you to handle these unexpected emergencies quickly and effectively.

If you live in the Bryan/College Station area and wonder if your pain or discomfort is considered an emergency, Atkins & Anderson DDS is here to help determine if you need to make an appointment.

What is a dental emergency?

When experiencing a dental emergency, people often hesitate to call their dentist because they aren’t sure if the situation warrants urgent dental care. So, what constitutes a dental emergency?

The American Dental Association defines dental emergencies as “potentially life-threatening and requiring immediate treatment to stop ongoing tissue bleeding or to alleviate severe pain or infection.”

Life-threatening dental emergencies include:

  • Uncontrollable bleeding – from accident, trauma, health condition, or other cause
  • Trauma that involves facial bones that may be compromising a person’s airway
  • Soft-tissue infections with swelling could compromise someone’s airway. Tooth infections can spread into the soft tissues and cause swelling without pain.

Non-life-threatening dental emergencies that require urgent care include:

  • Extreme tooth pain from decay
  • Pain from post-extraction surgery or dry sockets
  • Abscesses or other infections causing pain and swelling
  • Third molar/wisdom tooth pain
  • Objects caught under the gums or between teeth causing pain or swelling
  • Trauma to the mouth causing one or more teeth to become loose or displaced
  • Tooth chips, fractures, or lost fillings causing trauma or pain to the soft tissues or teeth
  • Orthodontic wires or other dental appliances becoming loose and cutting into the gums or cheeks

The longer dental issues go untreated, the more likely they’ll cause permanent damage to your teeth – or result in significant and expensive treatments.

How do you handle the most common types of dental emergencies?

Knocked Out Tooth

If a child’s primary (baby) tooth gets knocked out, apply pressure to the bleeding area. Don’t try to place a baby tooth back in the socket because this may damage the permanent tooth growing under the gum. Call your dentist.

If a permanent tooth gets knocked out, follow these steps quickly:

  1. Locate the tooth if possible. If you find it, hold the tooth by the crown, not the root.
  2. Don’t wash or remove any tissue pieces from the root.
  3. The tooth must stay moist! If possible, put the tooth back in the socket and hold it in place. If you can’t do this, keep the tooth in your mouth next to your cheek. A third viable option is to place the tooth in a clean cup of fresh milk or saliva. Do not place the tooth in tap water. 
  4. See your dentist or an emergency dentist within 30 minutes if possible – there’s a chance the tooth can be saved within an hour of being out of the mouth.    

Broken or Chipped Tooth

The most common minor dental injury is broken, chipped, or cracked teeth. However, immediate treatment can help prevent infection and save the tooth. Follow these tips if you have a broken, chipped, or cracked tooth:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water and assess for pain, temperature sensitivity, or rough edges.

  • If a blow to the face caused a broken or chipped tooth, put a cold compress on the area to help reduce swelling.
  • Call your dentist immediately and take the tooth fragment(s) with you if you can find them.

Read More: Did You Chip or Break a Tooth? Here’s What to Do

Painful Toothache 

A painful toothache can indicate an abscess or infection. 

  • Rinse the mouth with warm salt water to clean it. 
  • If there’s any swelling, place a cold compress on the cheek. 
  • Call your dentist to schedule an emergency appointment.

Mouth Injury

If an impact results in a jaw injury, the jawline may appear crooked or dislocated. Keep the injured person’s face as still as possible and get emergency assistance promptly.

Follow these tips if you bite or cut your cheek, tongue, or lip:

  • Stay calm. There are a lot of blood vessels in the mouth tissues, so even minor injuries may look worse than they really are. 
  • Wash the area gently and place moist gauze or a towel on the area to control any bleeding. Keep firm pressure until the bleeding stops. Then, place a cold compress on the area to reduce swelling.
  • Contact your doctor or head to the nearest urgent care or emergency room if the bleeding doesn’t stop in 15 minutes, if the cut is deep, extends onto the face, or if there’s a puncture through the lip or cheek.
  • Most mouth injuries heal properly on their own, but it’s crucial to keep the area clean to avoid infections. Rinse with salt water or a 1:1 mix of water and hydrogen peroxide several times daily to help the wound heal quickly.
  • Contact your dentist or doctor if you see signs of infection, like fever, swelling, pus, redness growing wider around the wound, or the wound remaining tender or painful.
  • Talk to your orthodontist if you or your child have orthodontic braces and a loose bracket or wire cut into gums or cheeks. They can provide dental wax and other ways to temporarily solve the problem until you can get into the office.  

Final Thoughts

Since you never know when a dental emergency will occur, it’s important to be familiar with these helpful tips for the most common dental emergencies. Your dental insurance plan also has information explaining how they cover dental emergencies.

Atkins & Anderson DDS has a dentist on call 24/7 for emergencies outside our regular business hours. Our on-call dentist can speak with you to assess the emergency and meet you at the office if necessary. Contact us today to learn more about the dental services we offer Bryan/College Station residents.


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