How to Handle the Most Common Dental Emergencies En Route to Our Office

No one wants to find themselves dealing with a chipped tooth, severe toothache, lost crown, or some other unanticipated dental emergency. But when it happens, there’s nothing better than having excellent on-the-spot emergency dental care nearby, and there’s nothing more important than knowing exactly what self-care measures you should take en route to the office. Dr. Haidy Messih and Dr. Basma Armanious of Loudoun Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Leesburg, Virginia, offer the following guidelines.

A dental emergency — or any mouth injury or acute oral pain that you can’t effectively treat on your own — typically arrives unexpectedly, but it always requires immediate attention. In most cases, the steps you take to manage your problem before you receive professional care can make an enormous difference in your treatment outcome. Here’s what you need to know.   

Common dental emergencies

It can be easy to second-guess the seriousness of your problem when you’re in the midst of a dental emergency. After all, you may hold out hope that your throbbing toothache will simply disappear as quickly as it emerged, or you may underestimate the urgency posed by a hairline crack in your tooth enamel.

Even though it may seem obvious, the first step in treating an urgent dental problem is recognizing what constitutes a dental emergency. Common dental emergencies include:

In general, any oral injury or acute mouth pain that you can’t resolve or relieve on your own should be considered urgent.

Step-by-step self-care strategies

If you experience a dental emergency during normal business hours, give us a call right away. We always do our best to provide same-day appointments for urgent need patients.  

Before you arrive for your appointment, however, you’ll want to take any necessary steps to keep your problem under control. The following self-care strategies can go a long way in helping you optimize your treatment outcome:  

Knocked out tooth

If one of your permanent teeth has come out, taking immediate steps to keep it safe and viable can mean the difference between saving your natural tooth or ending up with an artificial replacement.

After you rinse your tooth in warm water, gently place it back into its socket to keep it moist. Be very careful not to push it down into the socket, however, as you may unintentionally damage the delicate tissues that will help encourage future bone reattachment.

If you can’t put your tooth back in its socket, you can simply hold it in your mouth, between your cheek and gums. If you’re worried you might swallow it, try wrapping it in sterile gauze and immersing it in milk or water. The most important thing is to keep it moist.

Cracked or chipped tooth

Any time you crack or chip a tooth, you can begin immediate self-care by rinsing your mouth with warm water. If your tooth is broken and you have the missing fragment, rinse it off and store it in a clean container with milk, water, or your own saliva; it may be possible to reattach it to your tooth.   

To protect your cracked or chipped tooth from further trauma, you should avoid chewing on that side of your mouth. If you’re in a substantial amount of pain, take ibuprofen, not aspirin, and place an ice pack or cold compress over the area to reduce swelling.

Severe toothache

A throbbing toothache may be an indication of deep, untreated decay or an abscess, which is a painful infection at the tooth root or between a tooth and the surrounding gum tissue.  

If you’ve got a persistent toothache, you can begin immediate emergent care by swishing warm water in your mouth to soothe the area and rinse away unseen food particles. Although gently flossing around the sore tooth can also help provide relief, don’t use extra force or a sharp object to remove food particles that won’t come free with normal rinsing or flossing.

Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever (again, you should choose ibuprofen over aspirin) and holding a cold compress or ice pack over the area can ease discomfort and minimize swelling until you reach our office.  

Lost crown or filling

Although dental crowns and fillings are designed to be durable and long-lasting, they can come loose and fall out. While you don’t always need a same-day appointment to remedy the problem, getting it fixed as soon as possible is the best way to reduce your risk of tooth decay, infection, and pain.

If you can’t make it in to see us within a few days, you can apply an over-the-counter temporary filling material to keep food and germs out of the exposed area until you arrive for proper treatment. You can even use over-the-counter dental cement to temporarily secure your lost crown. Before applying either product, however, make sure your exposed tooth is clean.

Urgent dental care you can trust

Scheduling routine cleanings and exams is by far one of the best ways to avoid dental emergencies, simply because regular care can prevent excessive tooth decay, painful infections, and other common emergent problems.

When you come in to see us every six months, we’re more likely to spot a loose crown before it falls out or detect signs of abnormal wear and tear that indicate your teeth are more susceptible to chipping or cracking.

Here at Loudoun Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we’re proud to offer a comprehensive menu of dental services, including as-needed urgent care. If you’re in the midst of a dental emergency, call our office as soon as possible at 703-659-2805 to schedule an appointment or book an appointment online.

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