Many dental practices offer after hours emergency services. Smaller towns may even have a dental on-call service for emergencies administered by the local hospital or by a dental co-op group. There is usually an emergency fee associated with afterhours treatment of dental problems, just like plumbers and locksmiths.
A dental emergency is a subjective situation and will mean different things to each individual. A lot of what constitutes an emergency is based on the tolerance level of each patient. A chipped tooth, broken crown or lost filling may be an emergency to one person; a toothache to another; and a massive swelling with fever to the next.
So what is considered a true dental emergency?
There are only three true dental emergencies that require immediate attention by a dentist:
Major dental infection with swelling, severe pain and possible fever. This is a potentially life threatening situation where a dental abscess has developed and broken through the jaw bone into the spaces around the muscles and tissues of the jaw. This is a condition known as (facial) cellulitis. When an infection enters the interstitial spaces of the jaw, it can spread rapidly and cause death if not treated with heavy doses of antibiotics and drainage of the abscess. Severe cases may require hospitalization. These infections are usually due to an untreated tooth where a tooth has "died" due to dental decay or trauma. The debris from the dead nerve travels into the jaw from the tooth. If the person's immune system cannot contain the infection, the abscess will break through the jaw bone and potentially cause a cellulitis situation. If you are suffering from this situation and cannot get to a dentist, please go to your local hospital IMMEDIATELY for attention.
An avulsed tooth or teeth is another true dental emergency. An avulsed tooth is different from a fractured tooth. A tooth is avulsed when the entire tooth, including the root, has come out of the mouth. This is most often due to a traumatic incident, like a punch to the face, an accident or a sports injury. For more information, please read the article here on wichDOC.com for the management of avulsed teeth. An avulsed tooth needs to be attended to immediately as the time window of successfully saving the tooth is small. Anything over 30 minutes before dental attention is usually considered too late.
The third true emergency is an accident involving teeth. In a life over limb scenario such as a motor vehicular accident ( MVA), the teeth may be sacrificed over life preservation. Dental reconstruction is secondary to life. However, sports injuries may involve only teeth and this is where a dentist can help. Since sport injuries may include loose or avulsed teeth, this is considered a true dental emergency.
A lost crown, broken or lost filling and even a toothache ( as long as there is no fever or swelling involved) is not considered a true dental emergency. As uncomfortable as a sharp edge cutting your tongue or a toothache may be, these situations can usually wait till regular hours for the attention of a dentist. Just because these situations are not considered a true dental emergency does not mean that they should not be attended to! If you are in severe pain or discomfort, please contact your dentist and they may come in to see you after hours at their discretion or professional judgement.
If you are suffering from a true emergency and do not have a dentist, CLICK here and wichDOC.com can help you find one near you. However, if you do not get a response in time, please go to your local hospital immediately!