Dental Emergency

Tooth Abscess :

  • An abscessed tooth is an infection caused by tooth decay, periodontal disease or a cracked tooth. The bacteria that cause decay (cavities) infect the pulp (the nerve and blood vessels within the tooth). This infection eventually kills the pulp and travels down the length of the root to its tip (or apex), where the infection localizes in the bone and surrounding tissues. The body tries to wall off the infection in an effort to contain it producing a pus-filled sac called an abscess. If left untreated an acute dental abscess can cause serious complications including infection of surrounding tissues and even the brain. In its acute phase, the patient will experience significant, constant, pain, swelling, redness of the gum tissue, pain on chewing, a bad taste in the mouth, and fever. In its chronic phase patients may experience pain on chewing, no sensitivity to hot/cold, bad taste, and a “pressure” sensation.
  • Treatment options depend on the extent of the abscess and the status of the tooth and periodontal tissues and include:
    • antibiotics, to aid the body in containing the infection (antibiotics will not cure a dental abscess)
    • drainage of the infection
    • root canal treatment
  • In the case of a cracked tooth, bacterial infection of the pulp occurs through the crack in the tooth, as opposed to decay as noted above.
  • In the case of periodontal disease, the abscess that forms is not related to bacterial infection of the pulp of a specific tooth but bacterial infection of the periodontal (tooth-supporting) tissues – the gums and bone. This abscess can be treated by removal of debris from the tissues, possible antibiotic injection into the site of infection (Arestin), gum surgery, or tooth extraction. Treatment varies case by case.
  • Following good oral hygiene practices and routine dental exams will significantly reduce your risk of developing a tooth or periodontal abscess. If your teeth experience trauma (become loosened or chipped), see your dentist as soon as possible.

Tooth/Jaw Trauma

  • Accidents happen, and knowing what to do when one occurs can mean the difference between saving and losing a tooth.
  • For a knocked-out permanent or adult tooth, keep it moist at all times. If you can, try placing the tooth back in the socket without touching the root. If that’s not possible, place it in between your cheek and gums, in milk, or use a tooth preservation product that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Then, get to your dentist’s office right away.
  • For a cracked tooth, immediately rinse the mouth with warm water to clean the area. Put cold compresses on the face to keep any swelling down.
  • If you bite your tongue or lip, clean the area gently with water and apply a cold compress.
  • For toothaches, rinse the mouth with warm water to clean it out. Gently use dental floss to remove any food caught between the teeth. Do not put aspirin on the aching tooth or gum tissues.
  • For objects stuck in the mouth, try to gently remove with floss but do not try to remove it with sharp or pointed instruments.
  • When you have a dental emergency, it’s important to visit your dentist or an emergency room as soon as possible.

Prevention

  • Wear a mouthguard when participating in sports or recreational activities.
  • Avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels and hard candy, all of which can crack a tooth.
  • Use scissors, NEVER your teeth, to cut things.
  • Most dentists reserve time in their daily schedules for emergency patients. Call your dentist and provide as much detail as possible about your condition.