Oral and facial emergencies are not uncommon and can vary in their complexity. Some patients undergo facial trauma and experience fractured or broken teeth, tooth loss, or broken jaw or facial bones. Others may bite on a hard object and lose, break, or crack a tooth or a crown. It is always best to seek immediate treatment from an oral surgeon to ensure the long-term health of your mouth and teeth and alleviate severe to moderate pain.
Types of Dental Emergencies and How to Deal with Them
Avulsed Tooth (Knocked-Out Tooth)
If a tooth is knocked out of the mouth, it is essential to see an oral surgeon immediately. When a tooth exits the mouth, tissues, nerves, and blood vessels become damaged. If the tooth can be placed back into its socket within an hour, there is a chance the tissues will grow to support the tooth once again.
Here are some steps to take:
- Call the oral surgeon.
- Pick up the tooth by the crown and rinse it under warm water. DO NOT touch the root.
- If possible, place it back into its socket — if not, tuck it into the cheek pouch.
- If the tooth cannot be placed in the mouth, put the tooth into a cup of milk, saliva, or water as a last resort. It is important to keep the tooth from drying out.
- Get to the dentist, quickly and safely.
The oral surgeon will try to replace the tooth in its natural socket. In some cases, the tooth will reattach, but if the inner mechanisms of the tooth are seriously damaged, root canal therapy may be necessary.
Lost Filling or Crown
The most common emergency experience is the loss of a crown or a filling while eating or chewing. Once it is out of the mouth, the affected tooth may be incredibly sensitive to temperature changes and pressure. Crowns usually become loose because the tooth beneath is decaying. The decay causes shape changes in the teeth — meaning that the crown no longer fits.
If a crown has dropped out of the mouth, make a dental appointment as soon as possible. Keep the crown in a cool, safe place because there is a possibility that the dentist can reinsert it. If the crown is out of the mouth for a long period of time, the teeth may shift or sustain further damage.
When the oral surgeon is not immediately accessible, here are the steps to take:
- Apply clove oil to the tooth to alleviate pain.
- Clean the crown and affix it onto the tooth with dental cement. This can be purchased at the local pharmacy.
- If the crown is lost, smear the top of the tooth with dental cement to alleviate discomfort.
- DO NOT use glue to affix the crown.
The dentist will check the crown to see if it still fits. If it does, it will be reattached to the tooth. Where decay is noted, this will be treated, and a new crown will be made.
Cracked or Broken Teeth
The teeth are strong, but they are still prone to fractures, cracks, and breaks. Sometimes fractures are fairly painless, but if the crack extends down into the root, it is likely that the pain will be extreme. Fractures, cracks, and breaks can take several different forms but are typically caused by trauma, grinding, and biting. If a tooth has been fractured or cracked, there is no alternative but to see the dentist as quickly as possible.
Where a segment of tooth has been broken off, here are some steps that can be taken at home:
- Call the oral surgeon.
- Rinse the tooth fragment and the mouth with lukewarm water.
- Apply gauze to the area for ten minutes if there is bleeding.
- Place a cold, damp dishtowel on the cheek to minimize swelling and pain.
- Cover the affected area with over-the-counter dental cement if there is no way to see the dentist immediately.
- Apply a topical pain reliever.
The nature of the break or fracture will limit what the dentist can do. If a fracture or crack extends into the root, root canal therapy may be the only effective way to retain the tooth. In the case of a complete break, the dentist will usually affix the fragment back onto the tooth as a temporary measure.
When a tooth has been dislodged or loosened from its socket by trauma or decay, it might be possible to save it. If the tooth remains in the mouth and attached to the blood vessels and nerves, there is a good chance root canal therapy will not be necessary.
It is important to call an oral surgeon immediately to make an appointment. In the meantime, use a cold compress and over-the-counter medications to relieve pain. The oral surgeon will reposition the tooth and add splints to stabilize it. If the tooth fails to heal, root canal therapy may be required.
Where can I get dental emergencies treated near Philadelphia?
The surgeons at Greater Philadelphia Oral Surgery located in Elkins Park, PA, are specialists in performing oral and maxillofacial procedures and treatments, including the treatment of dental emergencies. Drs. Mogyoros and Funt service the entire greater Philadelphia area.