How is emergency dentistry different to normal dentistry?
Much the same as commonplace accidents or injuries, dental emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time, requiring immediate attention from a healthcare professional – something that a regular check-up won't provide. Emergency dental clinics are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year – even Christmas Day in most cases, treating any problems with the teeth, mouth, and jaw. An emergency dental surgery is run in a different way to the normal dentists office you might be used to, that's because it is designed to treat patients with much more pressing issues than a brace fitting or tooth whitening procedure. Emergency dentists won't give appointments for a general dentistry consultation after 11pm and they are not going to assess you for orthodontic treatments at night, they only accept patients who are in pain and need help immediately.
Not only are these types of institutes becoming a necessity because of their prompt service, but they also take a great deal of pressure off nearby hospitals, who are less likely to be capable of dealing with specific dental problems such as root canals or extractions. It's comforting to know that there is someone who can help within hours if you suffer an accident, any time, day or night.
When should I give the emergency dentist a call?
First of all, a mild tooth ache is no cause for alarm, it could just be a reaction to an extreme temperature, so don't panic and think you should head to the emergency dentist right away – although you should certainly get it checked out if it persists. Temporary aches and pains are sometimes just a symptom of what we're eating, the weather, our general health, etc, and will only last a few minutes or so, but ongoing discomfort, particularly regular bouts of throbbing toothache, should warrant a visit to your dentist. You can't ignore niggling pain that won't go away, your teeth are trying to tell you that something is wrong; it will only get worse if you dismiss it.
Emergency dental appointments are usually taken up with situations much worse than sensitive teeth, and if you are in need of immediate assistance you will almost certainly know about it. Many patients arriving at the emergency dentist have lost or broken a tooth in an accident and have to be seen by a dentist straight away, this can be quite traumatic and cause a lot of pain, it's lucky that the majority of patients are referred for treatment within twenty-four hours of the injury occurring. If you experience a similar injury, make an appointment straight away, even if the pain dulls after a few hours, there could be significant damage that needs repairing.
How can the emergency dentist help with broken teeth?
Thanks to constantly advancing medical technology, there are lots of ways an emergency dentist can fix or replace broken teeth – if you're lucky, they may be able to reattach the natural tooth before it dies. Rebuilding damaged teeth depends on a number of factors; primarily what state the tooth and its empty socket are in when the patient arrives at the surgery. A tooth that has been completely knocked out but is still in a relatively solid condition can be fixed back into the socket if there is enough time to salvage it, but if the tooth has been out of the mouth for more than an hour then the chances of reattaching it are slim, so the dentist may just repair the damage to the gum in preparation for further treatment after healing. Even in this situation there are still options available, such as implants or dental bridges, you don't have to learn to live with a gap-toothed smile.
If, however, you have suffered gum disease or tooth decay before the breakage, the dentist may not attempt a reattachment, as it's likely that more deterioration will occur without further treatment. Although superficial chips and cracks can be repaired with composite bonding, crumbling or fractured teeth that are in a state of decay are better off extracted, they will eventually fall out of their own accord if left to rot anyway.
Is there anything I can do to help myself while I wait for the emergency dentist to see me?
You can try to alleviate toothache pain whilst you are waiting to see the dentist by taking strong pain killers, but don't attempt any kind or surgery on yourself, as this is invariably a terrible idea. Leave the extractions and fixtures to the professionals, unless you want to end up in more pain than you are already in. If you are experiencing severe pain, don't wait around to be called into the surgery, get there as soon as you can.
For patients who have had whole or parts of their teeth knocked out, hold on to any broken pieces, carefully keep them in a cup of milk – this will keep the tooth alive until it can be reattached. Leave any remaining fragments in the socket, they may serve as a base for fixing the rest of the pieces back in place, or they may need to be removed under anesthetic. If you can, try and replace the tooth in the empty socket as gently as possible, this is the best way to encourage regrowth into the tissue and survival of the tooth, but it's sometimes to painful to keep it there for any period of time without some type of pain relief.
Hopefully, you should be admitted to see a surgeon within hours of your emergency, but some patients can struggle with travel conditions – be it the weather, car trouble, transport issues – which can really cause problems with damage that needs to be dealt with immediately . If there is heavy bleeding, try pressing a small piece of gauze onto the area or biting down on a cotton wad to stem the flow – this is a common occurrence with broken and dislodged teeth. Where the bleeding is accompanied by severe pain, try taking some Ibuprofen to lessen the swelling and help with the discomfort, but be sure to let your dentist know if you have taken any medications.