Common Dental Emergencies

For our valued patients:
We understand that dental emergencies do not always happen when our office is open. To avoid a delay in obtaining relief from pain or infection during hours when our practice is closed, it is advised that you visit your local emergency room. The York Hospital Emergency Department has a dentist on call in case of emergency, but generally the dentist will be called in for cases of infection or dental trauma (injury). In the event that you have noticeable swelling of the cheek or face, you may require an antibiotic. If you are having trouble swallowing or breathing, please call 911 and report DIRECTLY to the emergency department.

Accidents happen, and knowing what to do when one occurs can mean the difference between saving and losing a tooth. Here are some common dental emergencies and how to deal with them.

Q: What do I do if I knock out my tooth?
For a knocked-out permanent (adult) tooth, keep it moist at all times. If you can, try placing the tooth back in the socket without touching the root. If that’s not possible, place it in between your cheek and gums, in milk, or use a tooth preservation product that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Then, get to your dentist’s office as soon as possible (during normal business hours). *Note: The dentist on call at York Hospital can place your tooth back in the socket and splint it to the neighboring teeth if this treatment is indicated.

Q: What do I do if my child knocks out a tooth? If the tooth is a baby tooth, the best thing to do is manage the discomfort with children’s pain relievers found over the counter. Please call the office during normal business hours for an appointment where we will perform an exam and make sure the entire tooth has been removed. Baby teeth should not be re-implanted.
If it is an adult tooth, follow the steps listed in the previous question.

Q: What if I crack my tooth?
For a cracked tooth, immediately rinse the mouth with warm water to clean the area. Put cold compresses on the face to keep any swelling down. You may take an over-the-counter pain reliever like you would usually take for a headache or other common pain. Call our office as soon as possible on the next business day.

Q: If I bite my tongue or lip, how do I treat it?
If you bite your tongue or lip, clean the area gently with water and apply a cold compress. See your dentist or go to the emergency room if there is excessive bleeding, the bleeding won’t stop, or you are in a lot of pain.

Q: How do I treat a toothache? For toothaches, rinse your mouth with warm water to clean it out. Gently use dental floss to remove any food caught between your teeth. You may take an over-the-counter pain reliever like you would usually take for a headache or other general pain. DO NOT put aspirin on your aching tooth or gums; it may burn the gum tissue. If the pain persists, contact our office. NOTE: Ibuprofen (Advil/Motrin) and Acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be combined for significant pain relief in healthy patients. Be sure to stay within the recommended daily dosage as indicated on the bottle. Please contact your physician if you are unsure if you can take either medication.

Q: What if I think my jaw is broken?
If you think your jaw is broken apply cold compresses to control the swelling. Go to a hospital emergency department immediately.

Q: How do I remove an object that’s stuck in my mouth or teeth?
For objects stuck in the mouth, try to gently remove with floss but do not try to remove it with a sharp or pointed instrument. The item might be painful or cause an infection, please call our office during normal business hours for evaluation of the area.

Q: What do I do if my temporary crown falls off/breaks?
Attempt to place the temporary crown back on and call our office first thing on the next business day. Temporary crown cement can usually be found at your local pharmacy. If your temporary crown is broken, rinse the area gently with warm water and call the office first thing on the next business day.

Q: What do I do if my permanent crown falls off/breaks?
Permanent crowns should not be re-cemented without an evaluation by the dentist. Please call during normal business hours to schedule and appointment.

Q: How can I avoid a dental emergency? There are a number of simple precautions you can take to avoid accident and injury to the teeth: Wear a mouthguard when participating in sports or recreational activities. Avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels and hard candy, all of which can crack a tooth. Use scissors, NEVER your teeth, to cut things.
Follow your dentist’s instructions after having dental work and ask questions if you are unsure

Q: What happens if a filling breaks or is lost?
Rinse well with warm salt water and manage any discomfort w/ OTC pain medication. Please call our office during normal business hours to schedule an appointment.

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