Podcast Episode #3: What to do in a Dental Emergency
What to do in a Dental Emergency
My name is Melody and joining me in this chat is Dr Sam Ooi, the principal dentist and owner of Passion Family Dental North Lakes. Hi Sam!
Sam: Hi, everyone!
Melody: In today’s podcast we wanted to chat about different dental emergencies and how to deal with them.
Sam: I don’t like to think of anyone being in pain when I can help them.
Melody: I know, Sam. Dental pain can be horrible so we always make time to see anyone experiencing dental pain or a dental emergency, even if it means working back late, our hours a pretty flexible.
Before we go any further I need to say that if you are experiencing a dental emergency and the matter is critical please call triple zero.
Let’s talk about the different dental emergencies as there are quite a few. Dental emergencies consist of anything from a lost filling to having a tooth knocked out, the important thing in any case is to keep you head a not panic, help is always at hand.
Sam: And I am always here to help the best I can.
Melody: Let’s start with something easy, a lost filling. If a filling comes out when you are eating there is nothing to stress over. Usually a filling will come out for a reason, the filling might have been loose for some time and you haven’t noticed it.
If you are able to keep the piece that comes out, put it in a small bag or tissue to show your dentist so they confirm that it was a filling and not any tooth structure, and what type of filling it was. Don’t worry if you can’t, we can manage without, this just takes out some of the detective work a dentist does.
Once a filling has come out you will probably notice that you tongue just won’t leave the area alone. Depending on the size of the filling you may not even be aware that you have lost anything until your tongue finds the spot.
Sam: Our tongues can be super annoying sometimes.
Melody: Also remember that the tongue exaggerates everything – to your tongue the hole that the filling has left is massive but in fact it is just small.
Try not to eat anything on that tooth, and if you do need to just stick to softer foods, nothing too hard. The last thing you want is to break some of the remaining tooth structure. Sometimes the tooth can be a little sensitive to cold food or drinks as the more sensitive dentine may be exposed, so test this out carefully.
Give your dentist a call and make an appointment as soon as you can to get the filling replaced. As long as it isn’t sensitive and you are careful with what you eat don’t worry if you can’t make it in for a day or two. In the meantime, keep the tooth as clean as you can as food will want to pack into the hole.
The same situation probably applies if you break a tooth. Depending on the size of the piece that is broken you may not even feel any pain. Chances are that if a tooth breaks, it has been cracked for some time. This is why our teeth sometimes break when we are eating something soft.
Sam: We often have patients say that their tooth broke when they were eating something soft like a piece of bread. They may have forgotten that last week they chomped on a hard bone or unexpected hard seed.
Melody: Yes, the tooth may have had a crack they weren’t even aware of.
Another dental emergency might be the dreaded toothache. There are many reasons that a tooth may suddenly start to ache – an infection, decay, a gum problem or the nerve simply saying it has had enough.
In any case nobody wants to put up with a toothache for long. If you feel a toothache coming here are a few things you can do before it gets too bad. Give the area a good clean, yes this means both with a toothbrush and with floss, you can even try rinsing our mouth the warm water.
Test how your tooth reacts to different temperatures – be aware that it can either help it or may trigger more sensitivity. While cold temperatures make our teeth very sensitive, some toothaches actually feel much better with cold. Occasionally we will have a patient come in who has to keep drinking iced water to alleviate their pain.
Sam: When we see this, we know immediately that our patient is in a bad way and help them as quickly as we possibly can.
Melody: My heart really goes out to these poor people. We have also seen some patients try to help ease the pain by placing an Aspirin directly on the tooth. Please don’t do this one! The Aspirin can really hurt your gums and make the situation a whole lot worse.
Give us a call as soon as you feel the toothache coming on, and we will get you in straight away. If you get a toothache over the weekend and can’t get into a dentist, see if you can go to a doctor and get a script for antibiotics and stronger painkillers.
It will take a little while for the antibiotics to kick in and work but at least you have gotten a head start on them. Even if the tooth then settles down don’t let that fact fool you, you still need to go to a dentist. As long as whatever caused the pain is still there, the pain will come back again, it is just a case of when.
Sam: We also have a better chance at saving the tooth if you come in earlier.
Melody: That’s for sure! A toothache is not a good sign if you want to keep your tooth long-term. It is always better if you do all you can to avoid toothaches, this means regular checks and cleans with your dentist.
This way we can find problems before they become too big. Of course, going to the dentist is not everyone’s favourite thing, and we totally understand that people put off going to the dentist for as long as they can, just try not to leave your toothache for too long before coming in and don’t stress, we will look after you.
Another dental emergency is facial swelling. If you wake up and find your face or jaw has some swelling please give us a call as soon as you can, if it is the weekend go to a doctor or even the hospital emergency and start taking antibiotics as soon as you can.
This swelling is a sign of a serious dental infection and needs to be treated reasonably urgently. If the swelling is causing breathing difficulties call triple zero.
There are a several reasons why you may have facial swelling, the most common being an abscess on you tooth. A bacterial infection causes a pocket of puss to form and is usually quite painful.
It will probably accompany a throbbing toothache, sensitivity to both hot and cold, a fever, swollen lymph nodes and a foul taste in your mouth. I remember many years ago I had a lady come into the practice I was working at Redcliffe and her face was so swollen even her own daughter couldn’t recognise her.
Dental abscess’ can be a nasty thing to have to deal with. If you are showing any signs of facial swelling please don’t delay getting help.
Sam: Remember that we are always here to help you.
Melody: Another somewhat frightening dental emergency is when someone has a tooth accidently knocked out. Yes, it is possible for a tooth to pop right out of its socket, even an adult tooth, if hit at the right (or wrong) angel and with enough force.
Sam: The first thing to remember is to stay calm, if you know how to handle the emergency there is a good chance the tooth can be placed back in to position and saved.
Melody: Yes, don’t panic, keep calm and follow these steps:
- Apply direct pressure to the bleeding area for about 20 minutes. You can do this by rolling a bit of gauze, or some small clean cloth, into a ball and biting on it. You can also apply a cold pack to the face as there will probably be some swelling of the lips or cheek.
- Find the tooth, very gently rinse it under warm water, if you can gently insert it back into the socket, this might be too much for most people but don’t worry. If you can’t do this then place the tooth in some cold milk preferably or water, or place it in the injured persons mouth, next to their cheek, being careful not to swallow it!
- Go to a dentist as soon as possible, time is critical.
Now all of this only applies to an adult tooth, never try to put a baby tooth back in if it gets knocked out. You may damage the growing adult tooth underneath.
When you get to the dentist they will take x-rays to make sure no damage has been done to the supporting bone. When the dentist is satisfied that the tooth has been placed back in the socket in as close back to its original position as possible, the dentist will splint, or attach, the tooth to the teeth either side of it, sort of like putting a plaster on a broken arm.
You will need to keep this splint on for some time, until the tooth strengthens again. The tooth will need to be monitored for a number of months and probably further treatment will be needed to ensure the longevity of the tooth.
Sam: Yes, possibly a root canal treatment will be needed as the nerve will have been damaged too.
Melody: Root canal treatments are a lot easier these days so don’t stress; I would rather have a root canal than lose my tooth!
Another story from a number of years ago – I was helping in a school in Deception Bay and one of the boys had a couple of his front teeth knocked out playing rugby on the oval.
I happen to be walking through the sick bay when he came in. Knowing I had dental experience I was asked to help; the staff were all in a bit of a panic. I had the teacher get all the kids to go back to the oval to find his missing teeth while I helped young Damien with the bleeding.
The kids found the two front teeth and we placed them in milk from the staffroom and Damien was taken off to hospital. I am happy to say that Damien still has his front teeth to this day! It was all very dramatic at the time but the results were great.
Sam: You never know when you are going to face a dental emergency, from a broken filling to a knocked-out tooth.
Melody: You never know what life is going to throw at you. The important thing is to be prepared. We hope this podcast has given you all you need to know about what to do in a dental emergency, how to manage the problem and when to seek help.
Remember that Dr Sam and all the team at Passion Family Dental North Lakes is here to help and advice you in all aspects of your oral health. Whether your living in Redcliffe, Deception Bay, Kallangur, Griffin, North Lakes, Strathpine or wherever, we are here for you.
Sam: From a broken tooth to a painful toothache my team and I are the ones to turn to.
Melody: Well Sam, I think we have covered most dental emergencies.
Sam: I hope the information will help if anyone finds themselves in one of these situations. Thanks for listening everyone, listen out for our next podcast that will be coming soon.
Melody: Bye everyone, chat with you again soon.