How to Know When It's a Dental Emergency

Many of us find ourselves unexpectedly in the dentist’s chair, which may seem like an emergency. However, not all dental situations are emergencies. Knowing when it's time to see a dentist because of a dental emergency is essential in keeping your mouth healthy and free of serious complications. Here's what to know about dental emergencies and when you should make an appointment at UNO DENTAL San Francisco.

What is a dental emergency?

A proper dental emergency usually occurs when a tooth or supporting tissue is so damaged that it cannot be saved or will result in further damage to the teeth or surrounding tissues. A proper dental emergency may also include injuries such as lacerations (cuts) and fractures that require immediate care from an oral surgeon. Severe and painful infections are also serious dental emergencies. While these instances are not common, they are severe and can affect your mouth's (and your body's) overall health if not dealt with immediately.

What happens if I don't see a dentist right away?

First, it's essential to see your dentist right away because the damage can be very severe. If you don't seek dental care quickly, you may lose the tooth or teeth and damage additional healthy teeth. You might also experience serious complications like jaw swelling, appetite loss, and jaw pain. Eventually, this will lead to bone destruction and loss, resulting in infections and other oral diseases.

The second reason it's essential to see your dentist is that the longer you wait in extreme pain, the more uncomfortable the dentist visit. Relaxing and focusing on your dental health when worrying about your pain and symptoms is complex. Actually, patients who experience long-term dental issues are more likely to develop anxiety and fear in the dentist’s office, regardless of whether they are experiencing an emergency.

Finally, if a dental emergency is not addressed promptly, infections can spread to blood vessels or the tooth's nerves and lead to even more serious (and expensive) complications. Serious infections can also spread to other parts of the body where they can become life-threatening, such as the brain, heart, and other major organs.

Common dental emergencies

  • Traumatic tooth loss is commonly caused when you experience too much force in an injury. Teeth can become cracked, chipped, or broken entirely and will need to be treated with restorative treatments. Tooth loss should be treated right away to reduce damage and shifting of the other teeth. With the gums exposed, it can also place you at greater risk of infection.
  • Tooth decay is one of the most common oral health problems. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. The longer you wait to treat it, the more damage will be done (such as inflammation in the jaw). Serious tooth decay can lead to infection and require extensive medical treatment, not just dental treatment.
  • Broken or misplaced restorations should be promptly fixed by your dentist to reduce the chances of damage or infection of your teeth. Broken or misplaced restorations can include chips, cracks, or breakages in your crowns, bridges, or dentures. If your restoration comes loose or shifts out of place, it should also be fixed by your dentist.
  • Severe pain can be a sign that something is seriously wrong in your mouth. If you have a severe toothache that doesn't go away, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.
  • Abscesses are the result of severe infection and need to be treated by a medical professional - ideally a dentist. Your dentist can ensure the infection doesn't spread and compromise your overall health.
  • Noticeable swelling can also be a sign that something is wrong. If you notice new swelling in areas like your gums, jaw, or cheek, you should see your dentist right away.

Schedule a Consultation

If you think you have a dental emergency, you can schedule an appointment online for fast, professional care. Give us a call at our San Francisco office if you have questions and our team will be happy to help.

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