Dental emergencies can happen when least expected, causing pain, discomfort, and anxiety. Whether it's a severe toothache, a broken tooth, or a knocked-out tooth, these situations require immediate medical attention. Fortunately, emergency dentistry is available to provide prompt and effective care for urgent dental issues.

At Washington Dental, we offer emergency dentistry services to patients seeking help in Carson. In this article, you learn about emergency dentistry, common dental emergencies, available emergency dental services, preventive measures, and finding an emergency dentist when needed.

So, read along and discover how our emergency dental services can be your saving grace in times of dental crisis.

Types of Procedures in Emergency Dentistry

Emergency dentistry is a specialized branch of dental care that focuses on providing immediate treatment for dental emergencies. The branch addresses urgent dental issues requiring prompt attention to alleviate pain, prevent further complications, and preserve oral health. Unlike regular dental appointments scheduled in advance, emergency dentistry caters to unexpected situations that demand immediate intervention.

Emergency dentistry encompasses a range of procedures aimed at addressing urgent dental issues promptly and effectively, including:

Tooth Extractions

In cases where a tooth is severely damaged or cannot be saved, tooth extraction may be necessary. Emergency dentists have the expertise to safely perform extractions to alleviate pain and prevent further complications.

Root Canal Therapy

You could undergo root canal therapy for severe tooth infections or abscesses in an emergency dentist's office. The procedure involves removing the infected pulp within the tooth, disinfecting the root canal, and sealing it to prevent reinfection. Root canal therapy can save an infected tooth from extraction.

Temporary Restorations

Your dentist can also provide temporary restorations, such as fillings or crowns, to protect and stabilize damaged teeth until a permanent solution can be implemented. These temporary restorations help alleviate pain, prevent further damage, and restore functionality temporarily.

Dental Trauma Management

Emergency dentists can manage and treat these injuries in cases of dental trauma, such as fractures, dislocations, or knocked-out teeth. They may reposition dislocated teeth, perform splinting to stabilize loosened teeth, or provide guidance on preserving and reimplanting knocked-out teeth.

Treatment for Dental Infections

Emergency dentists are equipped to address dental infections, including abscesses or severe gum infections. They may prescribe antibiotics to control the infection and provide drainage or other necessary interventions to alleviate it.

What is Considered an Emergency in Dentistry?

Dental emergencies vary in nature and severity but require immediate attention and care. Knowing what a dental emergency encompasses could ensure timely treatment and prevent further complications. Situations that are considered dental emergencies include the following:

An Abscess

An abscess is a serious dental condition that requires immediate attention as it can lead to severe pain, swelling, and potentially life-threatening complications if left untreated. An abscess is a pocket of pus that forms within the tooth or the surrounding tissues. It occurs due to a bacterial infection penetrating deep into the tooth's root or the gums. The infection causes a buildup of pus, a combination of dead tissue, bacteria, and white blood cells.

Symptoms that indicate the presence of an abscess are:

  • Severe Toothache: The affected tooth may exhibit intense, persistent pain radiating to the jaw, ear, or neck. The pain may worsen when biting down or applying pressure.
  • Swelling: The area around the infected tooth or the gums may become swollen, tender, and red. The swelling can sometimes extend to the surrounding tissues, causing facial swelling.
  • Sensitivity to Temperature: The tooth may be highly sensitive to hot or cold temperatures, making it uncomfortable to eat or drink.
  • Fever: In some cases, an abscess can lead to a fever, indicating that the infection has spread and systemic involvement is occurring.
  • Bad Breath or Unpleasant Taste: The buildup of pus can cause a foul smell or taste in the mouth.
  • Difficulty Opening the Mouth: Severe swelling and inflammation may make it challenging to open the mouth fully.

Ignoring an abscess can lead to serious complications, such as the infection spreading to other parts of the body. So, you want to treat the matter and visit a dentist urgently. At the clinic, you can expect the following:

  • Examination and Diagnosis: The emergency dentist will perform a thorough examination, including visually inspecting the affected area and possibly taking dental X-rays to assess the extent of the abscess.
  • Drainage of the Abscess: To alleviate pain and promote healing, the dentist may need to drain the abscess. This involves creating an incision to release the pus and allow the infection to drain.
  • Antibiotic Treatment: Depending on the severity of the infection, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics to combat the bacteria and prevent further spread of the infection.
  • Root Canal Therapy or Tooth Extraction: The dentist will determine the appropriate long-term treatment once the acute infection is controlled. Sometimes, a root canal procedure may be necessary to save the tooth. However, extraction may be recommended if the tooth is severely damaged or the infection cannot be resolved.

Severe Toothache

A toothache can be an excruciating experience, making even simple tasks like eating or speaking unbearable. A toothache is often a sign of an underlying dental problem that requires urgent attention. Factors that contribute to a toothache include:

  • Tooth Decay: The most common cause of toothaches is tooth decay, which occurs when bacteria erode the tooth's enamel, leading to cavities.
  • Dental Infections: Infections like dental abscesses can cause severe toothaches. These infections typically arise from untreated tooth decay or gum disease.
  • Tooth Fracture: A cracked or fractured tooth can result in persistent pain, especially when biting down or consuming hot or cold substances.
  • Gum Disease: Advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, can cause toothaches as the gums recede, exposing the tooth roots and causing sensitivity.
  • Impacted Wisdom Teeth: When wisdom teeth do not have enough space for emerging or growing in a proper alignment fully, they can cause pain and discomfort.

The symptoms experienced during a toothache may vary, but they commonly include:

  • Sharp or Throbbing Pain: The toothache may range from a mild, intermittent ache to a sharp, constant pain that is difficult to ignore.
  • Sensitivity: The affected tooth may become sensitive to hot or cold temperatures, making consuming certain foods or drinks uncomfortable.
  • Swelling and Redness: Inflammation and swelling of the gums surrounding the affected tooth can occur, accompanied by redness and tenderness.
  • Foul Taste or Bad Breath: If an infection is present, you may experience an unpleasant taste in your mouth or persistent bad breath.

While awaiting your dental appointment or during off-hours, you can take the following steps to manage the toothache at home:

  • Continue practicing good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth gently and using an antimicrobial mouthwash to reduce bacterial growth.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Follow the instructions on over-the-counter pain relievers to relieve the toothache until you can see a dentist temporarily.
  • Steer clear of foods and drinks that aggravate the toothache, such as hot or cold substances or sugary items.

Remember, home remedies can provide temporary relief but do not address the underlying dental problem.

Cut or Bitten Tongue, Lip, or Cheek

Accidents happen, and one common dental emergency is sustaining a cut or bite to the tongue, lip, or cheek. While these injuries can be painful and alarming, they can usually be managed with immediate care and home remedies.

When you cut or bite your tongue, lip, or cheek, you can do the following before rushing to the dental clinic:

  • Gently rinse your mouth with warm water to cleanse the area and remove debris or blood. This will help you get a clear view of the injury.
  • Look closely at the wound to determine its size, depth and if there are any signs of infection. If the bleeding is profuse or the injury appears severe, it may require immediate medical attention.
  • If bleeding, gently use a clean cloth or sterile gauze pad to pressure the injured area for 10-15 minutes. This will help stop the bleeding.
  • To reduce swelling and numb the area, apply a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the affected area for about 15 minutes. This can also help alleviate pain.
  • After the bleeding has stopped, rinse your mouth with a warm saltwater solution (1/2 teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces of warm water).

While cuts or bites to the tongue, lip, or cheek can often be managed at home, there are instances when you should seek emergency dental care. These include:

  • If the injury is deep, extensive, or does not stop bleeding after applying pressure, immediate medical attention is necessary.
  • If the injury involves an embedded foreign object or results in a fractured tooth.
  • If you notice signs of infection, such as increasing pain, redness, swelling, or discharge.

Remember, it is always better to err on the side of caution and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or doubts about the severity of your injury.

Broken Tooth

A broken tooth can be a distressing dental issue, causing pain, sensitivity, and aesthetic concerns. While not all cases of broken teeth require immediate emergency care, there are certain situations where prompt dental attention is crucial. Understanding when a broken tooth is considered an emergency can help you make the right decision and seek appropriate treatment.

When a tooth breaks, you want to assess the severity of the break to determine the level of urgency. Below are some factors to consider:

  • The size and location of the fracture. This plays a significant role in determining the urgency of the situation. A minor chip or small crack may not be an immediate emergency, while a large fracture that affects the tooth's structure or exposes the nerve is considered an emergency.
  • Level of Pain. Severe or throbbing pain, especially when biting down or applying pressure, indicates immediate dental care is necessary.
  • Bleeding or Swelling. Excessive bleeding from the broken tooth or surrounding gums, and significant swelling, may indicate a more severe injury requiring emergency treatment.

While every case is unique, the following scenarios generally warrant emergency dental care:

  • Intense, persistent pain that hinders normal functioning or interferes with sleep. It may suggest nerve involvement or an underlying infection.
  • If the broken tooth is causing significant bleeding that cannot be controlled with gentle pressure or continues for an extended period.
  • When a break exposes the tooth's nerve or pulp, causing excruciating pain and heightened sensitivity.
  • If the broken tooth is accompanied by signs of infection such as swelling, pus, foul odor, or a fever. Emergency dental care prevents the spread of infections to other areas of the mouth or body.
  • If the broken tooth is the result of trauma or a facial injury.

If you determine that your broken tooth requires emergency care, below are the steps to take before visiting the dentist:

Manage Pain

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help alleviate pain temporarily. Follow the instructions on the packaging and consult a healthcare professional if needed.

Rinse Your Mouth

Gently rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to keep the area clean and reduce the risk of infection. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water and swish it around your mouth without vigorously spitting or gargling.

Protect the Tooth

Cover the broken tooth with dental wax or sugarless chewing gum to provide temporary protection and prevent further damage.

After arriving at your dentist’s clinic, below are the procedures that are performed:

  • Evaluation and Examination: The dentist will thoroughly examine the broken tooth, assess the extent of the damage, and check for any associated injuries or complications.
  • Pain Management: Immediate pain relief is a priority. The dentist may provide local anesthesia or prescribe pain medications to alleviate discomfort and ensure you're comfortable throughout treatment.
  • Treatment Options: The appropriate treatment for a broken tooth depends on the extent of the break. In severe cases, it may involve procedures such as dental bonding, crowns, root canal therapy, or tooth extraction. Your dentist will discuss the options and recommend the most suitable action based on your situation.
  • Preventing Infection: If signs of infection, such as swelling or pus, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics to combat the infection and prevent its spread.
  • Advice on Long-Term Care: After addressing the immediate concerns, the dentist will provide instructions for ongoing care and follow-up appointments. They may also discuss measures to prevent future dental emergencies and protect your oral health.

Knocked Out Tooth

While every knocked-out tooth situation requires immediate attention, there are specific cases where it is considered a dental emergency. These include:

  • When the knocked-out tooth is a permanent one. Permanent teeth have the potential to be reimplanted successfully if immediate steps are taken.
  • Avulsion of a baby tooth. The dentist will assess the situation and ensure there is no underlying damage or risk of infection.

If your tooth is knocked out, the immediate steps to take before visiting the dentist are:

Handle the Tooth Carefully

Avoid touching the root of the tooth. Instead, hold it by the crown (the visible part) and rinse it gently with milk or a saline solution to remove any dirt or debris. Do not scrub the tooth or use soap, water, or cleaning agents.

Reinsert the Tooth, if Possible

If you feel comfortable doing so, try to reinsert the tooth into the socket. Gently push it back into place, taking care to align it correctly. Hold the tooth in place by gently biting on a clean cloth or gauze.

Store the Tooth Properly

If reinsertion is not possible, place the tooth in a milk container or a tooth-preservation solution recommended by your dentist. These solutions help keep the tooth cells alive and increase the chances of successful reimplantation.

Control Bleeding

Use a clean gauze or cloth to gently press on the socket to control bleeding.

After taking immediate steps, seek emergency dental care as soon as possible. The dentist can provide the necessary treatment and increase the likelihood of saving the knocked-out tooth. Here's what you can expect during your visit:

  • The dentist will examine the knocked-out tooth, assess the condition of the surrounding tissues, and determine if there are any other dental or facial injuries.
  • If the tooth is successfully reinserted, the dentist will evaluate its position and stability. They may secure the tooth in place using splints or wires to allow it to heal properly.
  • If reimplantation is impossible, the dentist will discuss alternative treatment options such as dental implants, bridges, or dentures to replace the missing tooth.

Broken Jaw

A broken jaw, or mandibular fracture, is a serious injury requiring immediate medical attention. If you notice a visible deformity or misalignment of the jaw, such as a noticeable change in the shape of the face or an inability to close the mouth properly, it is an emergency. These signs indicate a severe fracture that requires immediate medical intervention.

Severe pain, swelling, or bruising around the jaw area can indicate a fracture. The pain may worsen when attempting to move the jaw or speak. Immediate medical attention is necessary to manage the pain and assess the extent of the injury. It is an emergency if there is significant bleeding from the mouth, especially if a broken jaw accompanies it. This indicates a severe injury that requires immediate medical evaluation and treatment.

A broken jaw can cause breathing difficulties, especially if there is a significant misalignment or displacement of the jaw. Additionally, speaking may become challenging due to pain and limited jaw movement. If you experience numbness or tingling in the jaw, chin, or lower lip, it could indicate nerve damage associated with a broken jaw. Nerve injuries require immediate evaluation and treatment to prevent long-term complications.

Call emergency services or visit the nearest emergency room for immediate attention if you suspect a broken jaw.

The Basics of Preventing a Dental Emergency

Dental emergencies can be painful, inconvenient, and potentially costly. While it's impossible to eliminate the risk of dental emergencies, several preventive measures can be taken to minimize the likelihood of experiencing one. Essential tips to help you prevent dental emergencies are:

Do Not Chew On Anything Else Other Than Food

One common cause of dental emergencies is using your teeth for purposes other than eating. Chewing on non-food items like pens, ice, or hard objects can lead to cracked or broken teeth, jaw injuries, and other dental problems.

Avoid using your teeth as tools or biting down on objects not meant for consumption. Instead, reach for the appropriate tools, such as scissors or bottle openers, to perform tasks that require manipulation or the opening of objects.

Watch What And How You Eat

Your diet plays a significant role in maintaining good oral health and preventing dental emergencies. Avoid consuming overly hard, sticky, or chewy foods that can damage your teeth. Examples include hard candies, popcorn kernels, ice cubes, and sticky sweets. Be mindful of the way you eat as well. Take small bites, chew slowly, and avoid biting down on tough foods with excessive force.

Additionally, be cautious when eating foods that contain bones or pits, as accidentally biting down on them can cause tooth fractures or other dental injuries. Exercise caution when eating tough cuts of meat or fibrous vegetables, and cut them into smaller, more manageable pieces if necessary.

Use A Mouthguard

Wear a mouthguard if you participate in sports or activities with a risk of dental injuries. A mouthguard acts as a protective barrier, absorbing and dispersing the force of impact, reducing the likelihood of broken teeth, lip injuries, and other oral trauma.

Custom-fitted mouthguards from your dentist offer the best protection because they are designed to fit your mouth and provide optimal comfort and support. However, over-the-counter mouthguards can protect if properly fitted and used according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Maintain Regular Dental Check-ups and Cleanings

Regular dental checkups and cleanings are essential for preventing dental emergencies. These routine visits allow your dentist to detect and address potential issues before they escalate into emergencies.

During these appointments, your dentist will examine your teeth, gums, and overall oral health, looking for signs of decay, gum disease, or any other problems that may lead to dental emergencies.

Make sure to follow your dentist's recommended schedule for check-ups and cleanings, typically every six months or as advised based on your individual needs. By staying on top of your dental health, you can catch any concerns early on and take proactive measures to prevent dental emergencies.

Find an Emergency Dentist Near Me

A dental emergency should never be taken lightly, regardless of its severity. You want to take immediate action by visiting your dentist without delay and taking precautions at home to prevent the situation from worsening. With advancements in emergency dentistry, treating dental emergencies has become fast and comfortable.

At Washington Dental, we understand the urgency of dental emergencies, so we provide specialized services to address such situations. Our services include tooth extractions, broken tooth replacements, and dental trauma treatment. When you turn to us with a dental emergency, we prioritize your needs and allocate dedicated time to address your problem promptly. Moreover, our services are designed to be affordable, efficient, and highly effective.

If you need emergency dental services in Carson, we invite you to call us at 310-217-1507 for a consultation. Reach out to us; your oral health and well-being are our top priorities.