Most people have dealt, at one time or another, with a cavity or minor gum disease. It’s common. Also, most of us understand that these types of problems generally develop after months or years of neglect. That is why we go to the dentist for our regular check-ups and cleanings.
Sometimes pain or sensitivity can come on suddenly, or emergency situations can arise due to trauma (sports/work related injuries, accidents, etc). What then? Here are a few ideas that may help.
Broken or cracked tooth: This usually occurs either because of trauma or to a broken filling. This weakens the tooth and it is surprising how little it takes to break it further. Once a tooth is cracked it is even more likely to break again. I call this the “windshield effect” because, like a small ding in your car windshield, it can lead to further cracks down the road if not taken care of. Until you can get to the dentist, rinse your mouth with warm water and apply a cold compress outside the affected area. Applying clove oil to the sensitive areas in your mouth and dental cement from the drug store on your tooth’s surface can help with discomfort. Check with your dentist before doing these things.
Loose or knocked out tooth: This is almost always due to trauma, and an immediate trip to the dentist may just save your tooth. Time is of the essence in this situation. If the tooth has been completely knocked out, hold it by the crown (the top) and clean it off. Then, place it in milk which will help preserve it until you can get to your dentist. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever and apply a cold compress if needed.
Toothache: First, try rinsing your mouth out with warm water and gently flossing to dislodge food that may be stuck. It is surprising the amount of discomfort that a small piece of food can cause. If that doesn’t help, then go see your dentist. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. A toothache can be caused by cavities, infections or even gum disease. Some of these things can lead to serious systemic infections. Until you are able to see your dentist, try using over-the-counter pain relievers, warm saltwater rinses, or cold compresses to help reduce swelling or pain.
Lost crown: Occasionally a crown can fall off. This is not common, but it does happen. In many of these cases your dentist can simply cement the crown back onto the tooth. Sometimes, however, the shape of the tooth underneath has changed, and the crown will need to be remade. If your crown falls off, it can often be TEMPORARILY put back with drug-store dental cement, but talk to your dentist before doing this. This cement is not made to keep out bacteria, and leaving it there for a long time is almost always detrimental to the tooth.
Some dental emergencies can lead to life-threatening infections or permanent damage, so if you’re in doubt, always call your dentist. Seek treatment early to improve chances for a full recovery and continued dental health.