Can Your Dental Emergency Wait? 4 Signs You Might Need Immediate Attention

Here are the Major Causes of Tooth Pain and What You Can Do Before Spending Time at the Dental Office

Have you ever experienced pain in your mouth, just to schedule a dental appointment at an office where your dentist tells you it is nothing? 

In the midst of COVID-19, it is important to rule out what is important and what isn’t from the comfort of your home.

4 Signs You Might Need Immediate Attention

So What Technically is a Dental Emergency?

A dental emergency can be defined by a list of signs and symptoms. For the purposes of this article, a dental emergency is something that must be seen by a dental professional in the next 24-48 hours. 

Dental emergencies can also be defined by the TYPE of pain you are experiencing. The quality and quantity is important to let your dentist’s office know once you are able to get a hold of them.

The 2 Types of Tooth Pain: Acute vs. Chronic

Acute (Lightning-Type)

If you are having lightning-type pain, your tooth’s nerve may be exposed to hot and cold food and needs to be addressed. 

Chronic (Dull, Throbbing over long periods)

If you are experiencing a type of pain that is dull and comes-and-goes there is an indication it can be reversed.

A cavity or crack causing recurring pain may be to blame when it comes to chronic dental pain. A filling or crown may be something to discuss with your dental professional to remedy the situation.

Another cause of chronic dental pain is a recent dental filling or dental crown you had placed.

You may need it adjusted to even out your bite if you are experiencing pain-on-pressure, or when eating.

Here are the most common reasons you would want to seek immediate care:

  1. Tooth abscess – 

Likely accompanied by swollen gums or a pustule (looks like a pimple on your gums), a dental abscess can build up and “pop” just like a pimple, usually with an unpleasant taste. 

You will need to get a hold of a dentist to evaluate for possible antibiotics. A root canal or extraction may be in order depending on the amount of tooth structure left. 

Your dental abscess may need to be reduced in size to get you out of pain and stop pain from swelling. Dental abscesses neutralize dental anesthetics. This means you may not be completely numb for your dental treatment – OUCH! 

Antibiotics started a couple of days to a week before your actual treatment may make for a more pleasant visit in which you are completely numb.

  1. Broken tooth

Whether it’s eating at your favorite restaurant or after you’ve been asleep, clenching or grinding on teeth with large fillings leads to skinnier surrounding tooth and risk for broken teeth.

An over-the-counter night guard or an appliance worn at night fabricated by your dentist may be the answer to preventing future dental work from a broken tooth. 

In the meantime, if you are experiencing pain while eating hot or cold food, or pain when applying pressure to the broken tooth, you will need some tests performed at the dental office to find out what the next step will be. 

“Patching” a tooth that has already had a filling on it or a tooth with a substantial crack is NOT recommended.

  1. Traumatic injury

Children injuring their front teeth is the most likely cause for an after-hours call to the dentist for trauma. 

When can my child see the dentist? A child can see the dentist at any point. It helps them acclimate to a new environment and makes the dental office not such a scary place. 

Ideally, this would be for a checkup. However, if your little one is injured, it does not hurt to call the dentist and get in to have your kiddo checked out.

A sporting accident or a slip-and-fall is a definite reason to give your dental professional a phone call. 

Why is my tooth loose? Adults or children experiencing loose teeth are recommended to see a dental professional

Splinting of teeth for tooth avulsion (tooth coming detached from ligament in the socket) or adults with mobile teeth from a chronic issue like loss of bone due to Periodontal/Gum Disease can find alternatives to potentially losing teeth for good.

  1. Large Cavity

The general rule of thumb is that if you can see a cavity with your naked eye when you look in the mirror or feel it with your tongue, it is already quite large from the standpoint of the dentist. 

As there are only 3 layers to teeth (enamel, dentin and the nerve) you most likely are experiencing pain from hot/cold or sweet foods while eating. 

A cavity makes the hard tooth structure soft by bacteria producing acid that make the tooth “mushy”. 

This means the hard enamel “shell” is only providing a form of the tooth and at the slightest amount of give from a hard nut or seed while eating, may break off enough of the tooth that requires removal.   

Can it Wait? Dental Non-Emergencies: 

While not an exhaustive list, here are some dental problems or concerns that could possibly be treated in the following weeks, but not necessarily requiring a call to the dental office within 24-48 hours for a dental examination:

  1. Chipped tooth – When only the edge of a front tooth is rough or slightly uneven, it can be irritating. 

However, it may be possible to hold off on additional costs to the dentists by calling and asking if the dentist performs procedures that file the front teeth. 

Many dentists will want a dental x-ray to ensure the nerve of the tooth will not become involved.

  1. Ulcer – Some ulcers can be quite painful, but the recommendation is typically to go to your local drug store and get some topical ointment to try and alleviate pain. 

In order for it to be effective, it is recommended that it is applied multiple times per day to a dry surface, so the ointment is not swallowing, or diluted.

  1. Temporary crown – Temporary crowns cause bleeding due to the fact that they have irregularities and that they were not fabricated at a dental lab. 

They collect more food than a permanent crown and are made out of a weaker material. 

Use only the best at-home oral hygiene techniques to get your gums healthy while you have a temporary dental crown. 

And keep in mind that your permanent dental crown is only weeks away from being permanently cemented. 

If you are experiencing pain on pressure from a high bite or bleeding that never stops from an irritant like extra dental cement that was not removed or a piece of a broken temporary below the gums, you may need to call the dentist that placed the temporary crown.

Home Remedies If Your Dentist Is Closed

Is your dentist not picking up when you call? Is it after hours? Try one of these home remedies to get you through for the next 24 hours or if you are looking to avoid an Urgent Care for a prescription for antibiotics alone. 

  1. Check the essential oils department of your local organic grocery store or a local pharmacy for CLOVE OIL. 

If you place Clove Oil above the gum area of the bothersome tooth, the active ingredient, Eugenol, has been known to help with tooth pain.

Red Cross makes an ointment as well with Eugenol as the main ingredient called “Tooth Ache Medication”. See the link below for an Amazon link.

  1. Rinses: Listerine Zero (zero alcohol with no burning alcohol sensation) or warm saltwater rinses can help with gingivitis in the short term. 
  1. Sinus pain transferred to upper teeth, specifically molars, is the number one reason for pain in that area during seasonal changes.

You may want to try a decongestant like Allegra D or Claritin D with your pharmacist for recent tooth pain on upper teeth on both sides that has a sudden onset and has lasted for days. 

  1. A different pillow or sleeping position can also change the way your sinuses distribute fluid, leading to a release of pressure over the root of a tooth.
  1. Properly flossing with a knot in the floss can remove popcorn kernels or something buried under your gums around a certain tooth.
  1. For pain, you can also discuss over-the-counter pain medications with your pharmacist if inflammation of the gums is the underlying cause of the tooth ache. 
  1. If your jaw looks noticeably swollen compared to the opposite side when looking in a mirror, ICE PACKS can alleviate pain from swelling on the side of your face. 
  1. How do I get rid of this abscess on my gums? If you have a true infection like a dental abscess and no access to antibiotics like Penicillin, you need to contact a dentist immediately or visit an urgent care facility.

The above remedies will not do much good and a dentist will really be the final source of therapy to get rid of pain by removing the tooth or by performing a root canal.


Amazon link Red Cross Toothache Medication:

Red Cross Toothache Complete Medication Kit 0.12 oz

You Might Be Overlooking the Number One Reason For Dental Emergencies

After you rule out tooth pain as the cause, the most common issue for dental emergencies is PERIODONTAL DISEASE. 

You may be surprised when your dentist asks how long it has been since your last dental cleaning. 

Sadly, exposed roots of teeth from bone loss with inflamed gums gets to a point that often cannot be treated. 

Typically proper flossing and brushing is not enough after dental calculus has built up below the gumline.

Now that you know what a dental emergency is, please contact our office at 972-885-9670 if you need to be seen.

Or, if you are unsure, feel free to book online through our website

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