Dental Emergency FAQs

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What is the first remedy for a toothache?

If you’re experiencing continued discomfort from a toothache there are some steps you can take to resolve the problem or at least bring temporary relief till seeing a dentist. Brush and floss your teeth to remove any food particles on and in-between your teeth. Then rinse your mouth with warm water. If you notice any swelling on your gums, put a cold compress on the outside of your mouth. Do not put aspirin or any other painkiller against the gums near the aching tooth as it can burn and damage gum tissue. If the pain persists, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.

What's an abscessed tooth? What are the symptoms?

An abscessed tooth is an infection inside your tooth or gum that can be very painful. It’s caused most often by a damaged tooth, an untreated cavity or gum disease. Bacteria moves into the tooth interior “pulp” and starts in infection. Abscess literally means a localized collection of pus surrounded by inflamed tissue. Without treatment you risk the infection spreading which can make you loose the tooth or experience other health problems.

Common symptoms of an abscessed tooth include:

  • Throbbing pain, especially when chewing
  • Moderate to high fever—a severe headache
  • Experience a salty, bad taste in your mouth
  • Gums that are red and swollen
  • A swelled up jaw and face
  • A little bump or gumboil on either side of your gums that resembles the size of a pimple

How do you treat an abscessed tooth? What is a root canal?

Antibiotics administered by your dentist will kill the bacteria causing the infection of an abscessed tooth. However, the abscess—the source of the infection—must still be removed. The dentist will drill into the infected tooth or gum and drain the infectious pus.
Your dentist will also examine the infected tooth to see what damaged has been in its interior pulp. The pulp is the soft tissue that holds the blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue and extends from the tooth’s crown down to the root within the jaw bone.
In the past, an abscessed tooth was almost certain to be removed. Today, a dentist can often do a root canal treatment to remove the infected pulp and save the tooth. If however, the tooth exam reveals that the interior is beyond repair the dentist will skip a root canal and instead remove, or extract, the tooth.

What's a tooth extraction? Does that hurt?

A tooth extraction is another term for having a tooth removed. Your dentist may feel an extraction is necessary if repairing a damaged tooth is not practical, and if a tooth is malpositioned, infected with advanced periodontal disease or is nonfunctional.
Using a local anesthetic, your dentist will numb the area around the selected tooth to avoid pain and lessen the discomfort. After extracting the tooth a small amount of bleeding is normal. In the next 24 hours it is advised to drink from a straw and only rinse gently so not to disturb the clot. You can brush and floss all the other teeth except for near the extracted tooth socket. If you do experience any pain after the extraction apply a cold cloth or an ice bag on the gums near the socket.

How do I know if I have a cracked tooth? What do I do?

A cracked tooth starts to reveal itself when you bite down and feel a sharp pain in your mouth. Then the pain disappears as quickly as it came. So you avoid eating certain foods or especially from chewing on one side of your mouth.
A cracked tooth is caused by a number of reasons, including—
a severe hit to the mouth that impacted one of your teeth
biting on a hard objects such as hard candy, ice, nuts or even a carrot
grinding or clenching teeth (especially when sleeping)
exposing tooth to sudden temperature swings—i.e. from a hot immediately to a cold drink
a severe hit to the mouth that impacted one of your teeth
stress or brittleness of tooth from an earlier treatment such as a root canal
Spotting a crack in the tooth can be challenging as some hairline fractures are small enough to not be seen by the eye or even x-ray. By probing and asking the right questions your dentist can detect if and where you have a cracked tooth. Depending on the size or location of the crack the dentist can treat it with a special bonding. If it appears the cracked tooth has caused the inner pulp to become infected, a root canal may be necessary.

What happens if I have a broken tooth, or worse yet—my tooth gets knocked out?

It can happen in a contact sport, during labor intensive work or sometimes by just a freak accident when a tooth gets broken or knocked out. Seek emergency dental treatment immediately. For a broken tooth, rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area. Use cold compresses on the area to keep any swelling down till you get to the dentist.
When a tooth gets knocked out completely, time is of the essence to get to the dentist. Be careful not to touch the root of the tooth to contaminate it. Hold the tooth by the crown. If the tooth is contaminated, rinse it gently with clean saline or water—don’t scrub it. Put the tooth in a container of milk and try to get to a dentist within 30 minutes. The dentist will want to properly implant the tooth right away. The longer the tooth is out of its socket the more likely your gum may regard it as a foreign object. If you can’t get to a dentist within that time, rinse off the tooth and gently place the tooth back into the socket. Avoid eating and get to the dentist as soon as possible.

How do I remove an object caught between my teeth?

If you should get a piece of food or any object wedged between your teeth, the first remedy is to try to gently remove the object with dental floss. Never use anything sharp like a pin to dislodge the stuck object as they may cut your gums or damage your tooth. If it can’t be removed by dental floss, contact your dentist for advice or to schedule an appointment.

What do I do if I lose a filling?

First step, call to get into your dentist at the earliest time and to consult with them on any specific advice for your situation. In the meanwhile, here are a couple of short-term steps you can take. There are dental cements available over-the-counter that you may be able to use a temporary stop gap. A piece of sugar-free gum can also be applied into the cavity until you see your dentist. Make sure the gum is sugarless as even a little sugar put into the cavity will hurt!