Unlike most medical emergencies, dental emergencies in most cases aren’t life-threatening and won’t limit one’s ability to function properly. This is why there’s no clear and exact definition of the term. However, patients often feel pain, abrupt tooth discomfort or tooth loss, and some other circumstances requiring them to seek urgent dental help.
A dental emergency is thus rather patient-defined. It’s up to each person to determine if they have an emergency. For example, you may wake up and feel strong pain in a tooth. The first thing – you grab a Nurofen or a similar painkiller and wait for an hour or two to see if it works. But if it the toothache remains in place or bounces back once the drug effect ends you will seek medical help.
Pain to the area may happen for various reasons. The most common reason is a tooth cavity. You can seek immediate relief in painkillers, but once they stop working pain will be back. You will have to visit a dentist who will fix the issue as soon as possible. Another very common reason for sharp mouth pain is pulp infection. Painkillers often don’t help at all and you have to visit a dentist as soon as possible for root canal treatment and administering an antibiotic drug topically.
Another reason why we would need dental emergency is dental or oral trauma. It happens when your jaws or teeth sustain a mechanical damage. Dental trauma is not uncommon in contact sports, and can even happen in some non-contact sports, especially auto racing, motorbike racing, downhill cycling and similar.
You can, and are often strongly advised to use mouthguard, but sometimes even these can’t help if the pressure from the hit is too strong. Most oral/dental trauma caused by hit requires some form of dental and reconstructive surgery, and sometimes are accompanied with actual medical emergency.
Besides sports, dental trauma can happen at work, in traffic and during recreational activities. Children are especially vulnerable to dental trauma while playing. Some of the most common dental injuries include:
- Dental Fracture: The bone tissue of one tooth or more is broken. Requires thorough cleaning, placement or capping materials. There are differences if the pulp is damaged too. Tooth fractures where the pulp is damaged will require a much longer recovery and repeated treatments.
- Luxation and Subluxation is when teeth come loose after a trauma but their bonding with the jawbone remains. This often requires a splint which looks and works similarly to a retainer. Sometimes root canal therapy is needed to heal and prevent possible infections to the wound.
- Tooth avulsion is a complete loss or knocking out of a tooth. If immediate replanting is possible, the tooth can be replanted successfully. After one hour, replanting may be way less successful. Without an emergency replanting, the tooth is lost forever and the only good solution in this case is getting expensive dental implants or crowns.