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Which Oral Pains Are a Dental Emergency and Which Can Wait?

Dental problems cause some of the most uncomfortable and debilitating pains in your teeth, gums, and jaw. If you are one of the thousands of Americans who suffer from toothaches constantly, you agree with us. We’re sure you’ll agree with us if you’ve ever had a toothache! Oral pains are distracting and debilitating. While it may be tempting to contact the dentist right away for immediate help, not all cases of oral pains are dental emergencies and can wait. 

We’ve compiled a list of the major problems where you should see a dentist straight away and minor ones that can be addressed later. You should still visit a dentist if you suffer from any oral pain, but these are minor issues that do not require immediate medical attention.

Along with our guide to what is and isn’t a dental emergency, we’ve included some tips on how best to look after your dental health and keep your teeth looking and feeling their best.

Some oral pains are signs of serious problems that should be addressed by a professional as soon as possible.

1. Agonizing Toothache

You shouldn’t ignore any toothache, but some pose a more significant threat than others. A toothache with a deep and ceaseless pain can be an indicator of severe tooth decay. Here’s how you know if a toothache needs to be treated right away: 

Pain is continuous and throbbing, even when no pressure is applied to the tooth. 

Discomfort continues for more than one day

Your toothache is paired with fever, earache, or any other symptoms. 

After a thorough physical examination, the dentist will determine the best treatment to ease pain and treat the condition. These may include: 

Filling in a cavity 

Extracting the damaged tooth entirely

Performing a root canal 

2. Oral Abscess

An oral abscess is another reason for calling the dentist straight away. An abscess occurs when an infection forms a pocket of liquid around the root of the tooth, causing severe discomfort in the jaw and gum. An oral abscess cannot be left untreated, as this will lead to the infection spreading to other teeth or into the jaw and neck bone.

When your gum is swollen and red, you are experiencing pain in your tooth, gum, or jaw, and/or you’re having trouble breathing and swallowing, you may be suffering from an oral abscess. Visit a dental expert immediately to get it sorted.

3. Severely Cracked Tooth

The moment a tooth is severely cracked or fractured, you are at risk of developing an infection and may find it painful to chew or swallow. It can happen as a result of a tooth cavity, a fall, or another accident. These large cracks in your teeth don’t just put your oral health at risk, but any infection that develops will have a substantial effect on the health of the entire body. 


4. Knocked Out Tooth

If your tooth has been knocked out, you need to act quickly. Get to the dentist as soon as possible – ideally within 30 minutes of the incident – like every minute can make a difference between saving and losing your tooth. To maximize the dentist’s chances of saving your tooth, here are a few steps to follow: 

Pick up the tooth by the crown, the surface that you chew with, not by the root. 

If it’s dirty, lightly rinse it with water, do not use any chemicals or soap. 

You need to keep the tooth moist, so either reposition it within the socket or put it in a bag filled with a small amount of milk inside. 

Get to the dentist as fast as you can, within 30 minutes if possible. 

Minor Problems – The Dentist Can Wait

These oral problems might be disconcerting or painful, but they are not dental emergencies. Book an appointment to see your family dental team and get these sorted, but there is no need to stress and head right over to the clinic. 

1. Mild Toothache

Toothaches are never a pleasant business, but there are many causes for toothache, not all of which require urgent medical attention. Unless the toothache is: 

Causing you serious ongoing pain 

Showing other symptoms of being unwell such as fever or jaw pain 

Preventing you from eating

You do not need to rush straight to the dentist’s, although you should see them in the future for a checkup, so the problem doesn’t grow into something worse.

2. Chipped Tooth

A chipped tooth can happen for a variety of reasons. Whether from a sporting accident or from eating something crunchy, it’s a common dental issue, and it does not call for an emergency trip to the dentist. The enamel that coats your teeth provides a strong protective layer, but if enough force is placed upon it, pieces can break off. The likelihood of this happening increases as you age and your tooth enamel wears down.

Wash your mouth out with salt water to prevent infection, and eat soft foods so as not to damage the tooth any further. Your dentist at Sheehan Dental will be able to repair, fill or smooth off the chipped tooth to prevent any future problems from developing.

3. Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums are among the most common issues affecting oral health. Whether accompanied by pain or not, bleeding gums can be a sign of the early stages of gum disease. Bleeding gums are often caused by the buildup of plaque and can be treated by improving your dental hygiene.

Make sure to talk with your dental team during your next checkup if you are experiencing bleeding gums. However, if you notice a little bit of blood while you brush your teeth, there is no need for rushing over to your local clinic. 

Tips for Healthy Teeth and Gums

Most oral pain and dental emergencies can be prevented by practicing good dental hygiene and keeping your teeth healthy.

Brush your teeth thoroughly at least twice – before breakfast and before you go to bed. Replace your toothbrush regularly. If you use an electric toothbrush, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for replacing the head. 

Floss and use a dentist-approved mouthwash once a day to remove food and plaque that can get trapped between teeth

Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco as this can lead to discoloration and gum disease.

Protect your teeth during sports using a dental shield

Avoid damaging drinking liquids, such as fruit juice, coffee, and alcohol. Drink through a straw to help protect your teeth

Visit your dentist regularly – at least once every six months for a checkup and professional clean.

There is a fine line between what is and isn’t a dental emergency, so it’s important that you’re informed before contacting your dentist if something doesn’t feel right. We hope this list helps clarify the different grades of oral problems and helps you make the best decision for your teeth if you ever have an issue.

by Dental House

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