Did you know there are times when a dental plan might just save your life?
Certain dental conditions require immediate attention at the dental office. Below is one user’s story about how a dental plan saved her son’s life:
You may hear that story and worry: What if this happens to me and I don’t know what to do?
In this article, we’ll talk about how to know if you have a dental emergency, steps to take in the midst of an emergency and how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
What Is a Dental Emergency?
A dental emergency involves a dental condition that requires immediate attention by a general dentist or dental specialist. These emergencies can range from oral infections to dental trauma – like tooth fractures or lost teeth.
Common Dental Emergencies
How do you know if you have a dental emergency? The following dental conditions cause the most common dental emergencies:
- Cracked or Chipped Tooth
- Knocked-Out Tooth
- Tissue Injury
- Tooth Abscess
If you experience any of the dental conditions listed above, follow the instructions below to protect your smile and your health.
Cracked or Chipped Tooth
A cracked or chipped tooth will need to be examined by a dental professional. Try to make a dental appointment immediately, and let the dental office assistant know about your situation so they can get you in as soon as possible.
Until you can visit the dentist, here’s what you can do to take care of your dental emergency at home:
- Clean your mouth with warm water
- Apply a cold compress to the outside of your face to reduce swelling
- Take acetaminophen to minimize the pain
Should I Go to the Emergency Room?
No, you shouldn’t need to go to the emergency room for a cracked or chipped tooth. You can typically wait a few days to see a dentist, but you shouldn’t wait longer than that. While you wait for your appointment, be careful when eating or speaking. You do not want to chip the tooth anymore or cause damage to your tongue or other teeth from biting down.
Losing a tooth typically requires immense force and most commonly occurs from playing sports, which is why mouthguards are so important.
If your tooth falls out…
- Pick it up by the top of the tooth (the crown)
- Don’t touch the root of the tooth
- Carefully rinse the tooth off with cool water
- Try to reinsert the tooth into its socket
- If it can’t be reinserted, place it in a small container of milk until you can see the dentist
You’ll want to see a dentist as quickly as possible to save your tooth. When you call the dentist, let them know right away that you have a dental emergency and your tooth has fallen out. It is best if they can see you within the first 30 minutes, but they may still be able to save the tooth if it has been knocked out for one hour or more.
Should I Go to the Emergency Room?
If you are bleeding excessively from where the tooth was knocked out or have other facial injuries, you may need a trip to the ER. If not, getting into a dental office ASAP should be fine. Be sure to let the dental office know all the symptoms you are experiencing when you call and they can let you know if an ER visit might be necessary.
Tissue or Facial Injury
A tissue injury involves puncture wounds to your face or gums or tears in your lips, cheeks, mouth or tongue. Proper care for a tissue injury includes cleaning the area using warm water and seeing an oral surgeon as soon as possible.
Should I Go to the Emergency Room?
If you can’t get into the oral surgeon quickly, you should go to the emergency room, particularly if you experience continuous bleeding or severe pain.
A tooth abscess is an infection that can spread to other areas of your body. It can, therefore, be a very dangerous and potentially life-threatening condition.
How Do I Know if I Have a Tooth Abscess?
An abscess can cause:
- Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages
- Severe and persistent toothache
- Swelling in the face
- Bumps on your gums
How Is a Tooth Abscess Treated?
To treat an abscess, the dentist will need to x-ray the tooth to determine if the infection has spread. Next, the dentist will make an incision to drain the abscess and perform a root canal.
Word of Caution: A tooth that has received a root canal before can become infected with a tooth abscess. Do not think you are immune. In these instances, the endodontist will need to perform a root canal treatment.
Finally, the dentist will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection and help get rid of the pain. While you wait to see the dentist, rinse your mouth with warm salt water, which will help soothe the pain and clean your mouth.
Who Will I Need to See for a Tooth Abscess?
In most cases, a dentist will be able to treat the tooth abscess. However, in some situations, they may refer you to a specialist (like an endodontist), particularly for the root canal after draining the tooth.
Should I Go to the Emergency Room?
If there is excessive swelling and serious pain that acetaminophen isn’t helping, go to the emergency room. Some dental emergencies can wait a few days or so until you can get in to see a dentist. The trick is determining which ones can wait and which can’t. A tooth abscess is one that shouldn’t wait.
How to Know if I Have a Dental Emergency
When in doubt, ask yourself these questions to determine if you are experiencing a dental emergency:
- Are you bleeding from the mouth?
- Is the tooth causing you severe pain?
- Is the tooth causing you persistent pain and possibly making you sick?
- Are any of your teeth loose?
- Have you lost an adult tooth?
- Have you been hit in the mouth or face?
- Is there swelling in your mouth or face? It could be from a serious infection like a tooth abscess
- Do you have any bulges, swelling or knots on your gums?
What Should I Do in a Dental Emergency?
To preserve your teeth and overall health, follow the instructions above that match your dental condition. Then, to minimize costs, follow the steps below to get dental treatment needed at an affordable cost.
1. Sign Up for a Dental Savings Plan
Our dental savings plans can be used immediately! If you need immediate dental care and a plan to help minimize the cost, sign up for a dental plan. A temporary ID will be sent to your email after signing up with one of our respresentatives so you can use the plan right away.
Which Plan Should I Get?
Both the Cariengton Care 500 plan and the Dental Access Plan powered by the Aetna Dental Access network offer excellent savings. While many of our members choose the Careington plan because it often gives higher savings at general dentists, others select the Dental Access plan because it has more dentists near them (especially in rural areas).
General dentists should be able to help with most dental emergencies, but you may need to see a specialist (like an oral surgeon or an endodontist) for some dental conditions.
If so, our Dental Access Plan may be the better option, as it typically offers more significant savings at specialists than the Careington Care 500 plan.
Not sure which plan might be best for you? Give us a call at 1-800-372-7615. We are available Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CST, and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays. There are also some phone-only specials we can offer if helpful for your situation.
2. Find a Dentist Near You
If you need a new dentist (or your dentist isn’t open during your dental emergency), you can use Emergency Dentists USA to find a dentist near you who is open 24 hours – including weekends, nights and holidays.
Select your state and look for nearby emergency dentists.
You can then search those dentist names in 1Dental’s provider search to find an emergency dentist near you who accepts our plans.
To find a dentist near you who participates in the plans we offer at 1Dental, visit: www.1dental.com/dentists/.
Select both plans, or your current plan, and enter your zip code.
Our dentist search tool will pull up a list of dentists near you where you can go to get treatment. You can then search for the specific names you found on Emergency Dentists USA.
Once you’ve found a few dentists nearby, search their name in Google for reviews, business hours and a phone number to schedule an appoitnment or call for help with your dental emergency.
Our list of dentists will also show “Dentist Type” beneath their name so you can see if the dentist you’re viewing is a genearl dentist or dental specialist.
What Should I Do if I Can’t Get into a Dentist Right Away?
Often dental emergencies come at the worst times – during work, over the holiday, in the middle of the weekened or late at night.
If your dental emergency has occurred at one of these times (particularly during after-hours), try some of the steps below. The steps will vary based on whether you already have a dentist or are finding one for the first time:
- Call your dentist and see if there is someone available after-hours for you to talk to. Ask them to advise you on next steps.
- They can usually get a message to the dentist outside of normal business hours. The dentist may be able to prescribe you with pain medication after-hours, until you can get in to see him.
- Schedule an appointment ASAP.
- Use toothache home remedies or over-the-counter pain relief until your dental visit to minimize the pain.
- If the situation is dire (fever is spiking, face is swelling, pain is intolerable), visit a hospital emergency room. In cases of tooth abscess, you don’t want to wait! Get treatment you need as soon as you can.
- Use 1Dental’s provider search or Google search to find a dentist open on weekends or after-hours and give them a call right away.
- Try to make an appointment and/or consult with the on-call dentist for advice and next steps.
- Use home remedies or over-the-counter pain relief until your dental visit to minimize the pain.
- If the situation is dire (fever is spiking, face is swelling, pain is intolerable), visit a hospital emergency room immediately. In cases of tooth abscess, you don’t want to wait! Get treatment you need as soon as you can.
How Can I Prevent a Dental Emergency?
The best way to prevent dental emergencies is to make sure you see the dentist regulalry and stay proactive with your at-home dental care. You should also work to protect your teeth when playing sports that could result in a tooth injury.
During your regular dental visits, the dentist can check for loose teeth, potential infections, signs of tooth decay and gum disease.
And if a dental emergency does occur, having a dentist you regulalry see will help you get into the dentist faster and get treatment quicker.
A dental emergency is scary, but having an action plan in place and a dental first-aid kit can help prepare you should it ever arise.