|Dr. Benjamin Coon, D.D.S.|
As a dentist, it is ideal to meet my patients for the first time during a routine visit for an exam or teeth-cleaning. Very often, however, the first patient-dentist contact takes place because of a dental emergency. That's okay too: like most dentists, I reserve some time in each day's schedule for emergency patients. Emergency visits are usually preceded by a phone call from the patient or family member, and this communication is extremely helpful, so I can receive as much advance detail on the emergency condition as possible.
Often, patients aren't sure if the dental problem they're experiencing is an emergency. I offer this advice: If it hurts, it's an emergency. Remember, pain is a signal that something is wrong; a problem that will not disappear even if the pain subsides. This is because even injuries that seem small can affect the living tissues inside the teeth. Any obvious damage to a tooth should be treated as soon as possible. Chips or fractures can affect the living tissue inside the tooth, causing more problems in the future. In rare instances, infection can occur and be serious enough to be life-threatening. An immediate visit to your dentist nearly always prevents the damage from getting worse.
Quick treatment is also essential for a lost filling or crown. Even if you don't have any pain symptoms, if you have lost a restorative device the tooth has lost its support and it could easily become damaged. Pieces of tooth often break off or crumble later, making even more extensive treatment necessary. If you see your dentist right away, there's a good chance he or she will be able to repair the damage more easily--and affordably.
There are a number of simple precautions you can take to avoid accident and injury to your teeth. One way to reduce the chances of damage to your teeth, lips, cheek and tongue is to wear a mouthguard when participating in sports or recreational activities that may pose a risk. Avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels and hard candy, all of which can crack a tooth. And although it may seem obvious, it's important to cut things using scissors, rather than your teeth!
Accidents do happen, and knowing what to do when one occurs can mean the difference between saving and losing a tooth. These are some common dental injuries, with advice on how to deal with them:
- Knocked-out tooth: Do not scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. Put the tooth in a cup of milk and get to the dentist as quickly as possible. Remember to bring the tooth with you!
- Bitten lip or tongue: Clean the area gently with a cloth and apply cold compresses to reduce any swelling. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, go to a hospital emergency room immediately.
- Broken tooth: Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area. Use cold compresses on the area to keep any swelling down. Call your dentist immediately.
- Possible broken jaw: Apply cold compresses to control swelling. Go to your dentist or a hospital emergency department immediately.
- Objects caught between teeth: Try to gently remove the object with dental floss; avoid cutting the gums. Never use a sharp instrument to remove any object that is stuck between your teeth. If you can’t dislodge the object using dental floss, contact your dentist.
- Toothache: Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean it out. Gently use dental floss to ensure that there is no food or other debris caught between the teeth. One old home remedy for toothaches called for putting aspirin against the gums near the aching tooth; we recommend against this because it may burn the gum tissue. If the pain persists, contact your dentist.
Today, dentists have many options for dealing with dental emergencies. There are advances in pain management and ways to restore teeth. Teeth can be repaired with synthetic materials that are strong and look as good as your natural teeth. Your dentist has the training and skills to identify what the problem is and how serious it is. He or she can almost always reduce or eliminate your pain within a few minutes.
If you’re concerned about visiting the dentist because you have limited or no dental insurance, ask if the practice offers an outside monthly payment plan; most do. If the answer is yes, you can submit an application online and get an immediate credit decision—and the emergency care you need.
Dr. Benjamin Coon, D.D.S.
Glenwood Meadows Dental
40 Market Street, Suite A
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601