If you are unlucky enough to be involved in a dental emergency, there is bound to be some delay until you can get to an emergency dentist. If you are involved in an accident or have a tooth or teeth knocked out in a sporting event, there may be little you can do for yourself. The best thing is to rely on those around you to administer first aid and medical help, and to get you to an emergency dentist or A&E department as soon as possible.
If you have a lesser dental emergency, but still require an emergency dentist, there are plenty of steps that you can take to make yourself feel more comfortable during the time you need to wait.
I have a chipped tooth – do I need an emergency dentist?
You don’t have to have an accident to break a tooth, you can do it by eating something hard, or it happens when you chew harder than usual. A simple chip does not really require a visit to an emergency dentist as the damage usually only extends as far as the surface layer of tooth enamel. It is unlikely to cause you any pain beneath your tooth, as the nerve is still well protected. Until you can see your usual dentist (and you should make an appointment without delay) you just need to be careful about biting your tongue or your lip if the edge of the break is sharp.
I have broken a cusp on a tooth – do I need an emergency dentist?
The cusp of one of your back teeth can break away when you bite or chew. This is a little more serious than a chipped tooth, but it is still not really a reason for a visit to an emergency dentist. Again, you can wait for an appointment with your own dentist, which you should arrange as soon as possible. A broken cusp will leave your tooth exposed to getting trapped food caught within it, which could set up an infection and could leave you in need of an emergency dentist. While you wait for dental treatment, keep the broken tooth as clean as possible by brushing gently after eating anything.
What type of broken tooth requires a visit to an emergency dentist?
A split, broken or badly cracked tooth that results from a knock or a fall may be more serious and you could find an emergency dentist will consider you an emergency case. The thing to look out for is whether the inner pulp of the tooth has been damaged. If it has, you are more likely to be in pain, and any delay in contacting an emergency dentist could leave you open to infection.
While waiting to see your emergency dentist, you need to help yourself to cope with the pain. Take over-the-counter pain relief: paracetamol, paracetamol with codeine, or ibuprofen are all effective pain killers. You just need to ensure you take the correct dose over the correct time period.
If a large section of your tooth has broken away in one piece, and you have to wait more than 24 hours before you can see an emergency dentist, it may be worth using some dental cement from an emergency dental repair kit to fix the broken part back again. Never be tempted to use any other type of glue. Covering the raw, exposed part of the tooth pulp should make you feel a lot more comfortable, and will allow you to take some food and drink.
How can I cope with a tooth abscess until I can see an emergency dentist?
If you have an obvious infection under one of your teeth, and you think you might have developed an abscess, you need to see an emergency dentist urgently. Infections can worsen quickly, and if you experience severe pain and swelling, this is always a dental emergency. If you can speak to your emergency dentist for advice, or to your own dentist, always follow their instructions. If you cannot get hold of them for several hours, or there is another reason for a delay, you can take painkillers as described above, and keep your mouth clean using a warm water mouthwash. You can also use an ice pack or frozen peas to reduce the swelling.
You may feel ill and not that hungry, and eating may also be painful, but try to take some form of nourishment in the form of drinks; soup, fruit juice, or milk for example. Rest as much as possible and look out for any change or worsening in the swelling. If you notice that you are having trouble breathing, or the swelling is pressing on your throat and making it difficult to swallow, you need to go to an A&E department urgently rather than waiting for your emergency dentist appointment.
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