First we should define “dental emergency”. This is a condition involving the teeth or gums or dental appliances or restorations that an individual has no working knowledge of on how to handle the situation. If that happens, again, you should….’Make the Call!’ Sometimes just by having a phone conversation with your dentist, you feel better about the fractured cusp on the molar, the cracked /broken denture or suspected infection and you also know that the dentist will see you on a timely basis, usually the next working day.
I had a call just today during regular hours from a patient who was in Florida for a few weeks and their fixed bridge had come out. Since they had no symptoms or sensitive teeth, they wondered if it would be okay if they just left it out till they returned to see me next month. I was able to inform them that, no, they should not and why they should not. After we talked, they were very glad that they had called and they thanked me for preventing them from making a costly mistake. They decided to see a dentist in Florida immediately. And yes, the advice was free, no charge for the phone call. So, if a dental appliance like a bridge or partial or full denture is changed or damaged, it should be evaluated as soon as possible. If a filling comes out, the tooth should be checked as soon as possible. Delaying or ignoring any changes in the mouth can result in having to have more costly treatment later to remedy the problem rather than just a minor repair done at the time of the change.
Probably, the most common emergency call is for the abscessed/infected tooth or gum. Many people will take a wait and see attitude if dental pain begins to develop, if for no other reason than they are ‘afraid’ to go to the dentist or maybe they are very busy and don’t want to take the time to go. Murphy’s Law then takes effect and Friday night or Sunday morning the pain eventually turns into a swollen gum or worse, a disfiguring swelling of the face or jaw. This requires immediate attention to prevent a truly life-threatening condition from occurring. So again, don’t delay, especially if a pain is severe and or persistent. It may just be a popcorn hull lodged deep in the gum between the teeth or it could be a root abscess that will require hospitalization if left untreated.
Other emergencies I have seen have been from hockey sticks to the face, pool balls thrown by little sisters, slips on rocks in rushing streams. All resulted in fractured or displaced or knocked out teeth requiring immediate attention.