In some situations, it is not always easy to decide whether you should be going to the dental clinic or the hospital to get treatment after an accident; for example, if you have suffered serious dental trauma, this can make it difficult to decide if a clinic or a doctor’s office is the best place to be. Most people would probably recommend a trip to the hospital if you have suffered any sort of accident or injury, but that might not actually be the best course of action if your symptoms are dental in nature, rather than medical – you could find yourself sitting in the waiting room behind people with much more difficult conditions that need immediate treatment.
Although you don’t necessarily need to learn about emergency dental treatment in great detail, you could save yourself some time and effort by finding out a little about what symptoms represent a dental emergency; this could help you decide who to approach for treatment when you need it.
What are some obvious signs of a dental emergency?
Toothache – This might not seem like a huge problem when it first becomes apparent but without the right treatment you could be looking at infection or tooth loss further down the line; a toothache is typically related to decay that is affecting the inner pulp and causing pain through the roots. The condition may be quite mild to start with but could become very painful and debilitating if it is not addressed during the early stages. If you are tempted to ignore the problem and mask the discomfort using painkillers, you should take into consideration that a toothache is not going to get better by itself; without the right treatment it could become more problematic and infection may set in.
If your toothache is the result of dental trauma, you will probably already be aware that emergency care should be applied as quickly as possible to make sure that the permanent damage is kept to a minimum.
Dental abscesses – There are two types of abscess that might affect your dental health and both of them should be treated as an emergency condition; abscesses are related to infection that can affect the gum tissue and may lead to tooth loss without dental care at some stage. Periodontal abscesses develop around the base of the teeth as a result of gum disease that has been left to deteriorate further, periapical abscesses are found inside the tooth structure due to tooth decay that has eaten through the minerals and exposed the inner pulp to bacteria.
Without the appropriate dental treatment, abscesses will only get worse over time; emergency surgery needs to be applied and antibiotics may be necessary to fight the infection from inside the body.
Enamel damage – Although chips and cracks to the enamel layer might not be painful in the first instance, they do change the way the teeth look in an instant, which is not something that would be left untreated by most people who have to deal with it. Slight damage to the enamel should be relatively simple to treat using composite bonding material and possibly porcelain restorations, like veneers or crowns. Even if this is the only noticeable damage after you have suffered dental trauma, you should still get your teeth assessed as soon as you get chance because there could be underlying problems that might become difficult later on.
Dental breakages – Teeth that are broken or badly damaged after an accident definitely qualify as a dental emergency; especially if the inner pulp has been penetrated and the root structure is exposed to infection. Breakages can be repaired, but if the damage is too extensive the tooth or teeth may have to be removed to prevent other conditions from developing – infection, in particular, could be a problem for remaining healthy teeth and this is something that should be avoided wherever possible. If you have teeth that do ultimately have to be removed, there are still treatment options available to you – products like implants, dentures, or bridges could replace your missing teeth, so you won’t be stuck with a gap-toothed smile permanently.
Broken braces – The real issue with broken braces is that if they are fixed to the teeth, they could still be putting pressure onto them even when the teeth are damaged or twisted in the sockets; this might lead to further injury and could cause the teeth to heal in the wrong position. In order to stop this problem from seriously hindering orthodontic treatment, it is important to get the damage assessed at the earliest possible juncture. The braces may have to be removed so that the teeth can be treated properly and any breakages repaired to prevent infection – then the dentist can ascertain how much progress has been undone with regards to the brace-wear. This is not usually a problem with removable braces because aligners should still come away relatively easily even if they have been damaged whilst in place over the teeth.
Extruded teeth – Teeth that have come out of their sockets will definitely need dental treatment as soon as possible because they are unlikely to reattach naturally without being cemented and held in place for a certain length of time. If you still have the tooth, you should store it in a cup of milk until you get to the surgery; this will keep the minerals alive and functioning until the dentist can attempt repair. Unfortunately, if you have lost the tooth or it is badly broken due to the impact, you will have no choice but to replace it with a synthetic replica, such as a bridge or an implant – you will need to discuss this with your dentist after the initial healing has taken place.
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