Determining When You Have a Dental Emergency on Your Hands

Regular dental appointments are a vital part of helping you maintain your oral health, but you don’t have to wait for your regularly scheduled appointment to speak to or see your dentist. At Barr and Diachenko, we want you to feel like you can see us at any time, especially if you’re having a dental emergency. Unfortunately, if you’re shy, you might find yourself unsure about whether your dental “emergency” is really enough of an emergency to warrant a call to our office. Honestly, if you’re asking that, it probably is. If you’d still like to read up on your symptoms before picking up the phone, however, this is for you.

Here’s a breakdown of 5 dental problems and when you should call your dentist.

1. You have a loose tooth.

It almost goes without saying that if you break or knock out a tooth, you should call our office for an emergency visit immediately, but some people try to brush off loose teeth as no big deal. Adult teeth should never become loose, however, so call Dr. Barr or Dr. Diachenko for immediate treatment if your tooth is loose. Loose teeth can result from severe gum disease, cavities, or an injury to your jaw, all of which can cause you to lose your tooth or develop widespread health issues without immediate treatment.

2. You’re suffering from a toothache.

Identifying the type and severity of your pain can help you determine whether or not you need an emergency dental appointment. A dull, persistent ache can be caused by major issues like a cavity, an abscess, or habitual teeth grinding; teeth grinding is the least urgent of these issues, but you should still schedule a dental appointment quickly because it can cause your teeth to chip, crack, or break. If the pain is minor, it may simply be a small cavity or food debris caught in your gums.

Sharp, jabbing pains that aren’t constant or that act up when you eat are often caused by a crack, cavity, or abscess in your tooth, all of which are dental emergencies. Similarly, extreme throbbing pain is a dental emergency because it can indicate an infection or abscess, especially if your jaw is swollen. Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures can be brought on by gum recession, enamel erosion, or naturally sensitive teeth. If your sensitivity is extreme and isn’t relieved by toothpaste designed to relieve sensitivity, however, you may have a cavity or abscess and should call your dentist.

3. You have sores or lumps in your mouth that won’t go away.

Sores in your mouth that won’t heal, thickening cheek tissue, or lumps that won’t go away are all potential signs of oral cancer. Other potential signs include persistent mouth pain, difficulty swallowing or chewing, and white or red patches of skin in the mouth; however, the signs of oral cancer are often subtle, so getting a regular oral cancer screening from Dr. Barr is your best chance at catching it early and receiving successful treatment.

If you notice these symptoms on your own, call Dr. Barr right away for an emergency oral cancer screening. Since early detection is essential, Dr. Barr is performing screenings throughout the shutdown caused by COVID-19. It never hurts to get a screening, so don’t hesitate to call our office right away if you’re concerned about these symptoms.

4. Your gums bleed severely at every provocation.

When gum disease advances and becomes severe, it can cause your gums to bleed at the slightest provocation, such as simply brushing your teeth. Even if it’s virtually painless, ignoring this issue is a mistake; left untreated, severe gum disease can lead to tooth loss, bone loss in your jaw, and can increase your likelihood of suffering from health issues like heart disease. If you’re experiencing severe bleeding like this, scheduling an emergency appointment will likely save your teeth.

5. Your jaw is swollen.

A swollen jaw is often a sign of an infection in one of your teeth or, in rarer cases, a salivary gland infection. As this infection progresses, you may also experience trouble swallowing or breathing, a fever, and a foul taste in your mouth. These infections, like other types of infections, can become dangerous if they’re not treated immediately, so call Dr. Barr or Dr. Diachenko at the first sign of infection so you can receive emergency treatment.

When to Call Your Dentist

Tooth pain can range from mild sensitivity to “I want to rip my tooth out with pliers” (please don’t, though). As a rule of thumb, schedule an emergency appointment any time your pain is severe. Additionally, call if you’re experiencing severe bleeding gums, a swollen jaw, warning signs of oral cancer, a dental injury, or if you have taken a hard hit to your jaw. Even if the blow doesn’t visibly damage your teeth, the nerves of a tooth may be damaged beneath the surface; if this goes undetected and untreated, it can cause your tooth to loosen over a period of days or even months, so it’s always a good idea to get it checked out.

What to Do About an Emergency

If you’re experiencing a dental emergency, the most important thing you can do is remain calm, follow your dentist’s instructions, and get to our office as quickly as you can. Before an emergency happens, educate yourself on how to handle different situations, such as broken or knocked-out teeth. If you don’t have a ride to the dentist, you’ll also need to relieve your pain enough to safely drive yourself to our office. Thankfully, there are many options you can choose from, including over-the-counter pain medications and natural remedies like clove oil, which has been used to treat dental pain for centuries. Simply use a Q-tip or cotton ball to dab the oil directly onto your painful tooth, then wait five or 10 minutes for it to numb your pain. It lasts two or three hours, giving you plenty of time to safely get to our office for your emergency appointment.

While we understand you may be hesitant to call our office and express your concerns about your symptoms, dental emergencies are exactly what they sound like: emergencies. Getting immediate treatment is vital to ensure you get the best treatment outcome, so if you’re still unsure whether or not your symptoms qualify as an emergency, it’s always best to call. Once you describe your symptoms to us, we can help determine whether or not you need an emergency appointment and set you on the path toward reclaiming a healthy, pain-free mouth.