When there’s a health emergency, it goes without saying that you should seek treatment from a professional right away. But if the emergency involves your teeth or gums, you might not be sure whether you should call the emergency room or your dentist. Since you can’t afford to lose any time during an oral health crisis, it’s important to have a clear idea of who you should contact in case of a dental emergency. Here’s what you need to know.
When to Call the ER and When to Call a Dentist
The only time you should call the ER for a dental emergency is if there is a potentially life-threatening problem. This includes jaw fractures, oral cuts or lacerations that cause unstoppable bleeding, or swelling that interferes with your ability to swallow or breathe. All of these issues require swift attention, so either call 911 or get to a hospital ER right away.
Meanwhile, there are many dental emergencies that need to be treated as soon as possible but won’t put your life in immediate danger. Such emergencies include cracked teeth, knocked-out teeth, and toothaches. Most of the time, the professionals at the ER won’t be able to treat these issues because they don’t have the right equipment or training. As such, calling your dentist is your best option if you want proper care that leads to lasting relief.
Dealing with a Dental Emergency
You should keep your dentist’s number on your phone so that you can call their office right away if a dental emergency strikes. When you call with an urgent dental problem, a staff member can schedule an emergency appointment for you while also giving you first-aid tips based on your symptoms.
While waiting for your emergency appointment, your goal should be to protect your smile from further damage while keeping your discomfort under control. Common steps you might take depending on the situation include:
- Applying a cold pack to any swollen areas.
- Taking over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen.
- Staying away from hard foods that might injure the teeth further.
- Rinsing with salt water to reduce the risk of infection.
Once your dentist is able to see you, they’ll work quickly to identify the root of your emergency and put a stop to any pain that you’re currently suffering from. Then, they can develop a personalized treatment plan to restore your oral health as quickly as possible.
In summary, the ER is your best option if you have any reason to think your life is in danger, but for most urgent oral health issues, you should reach out to your dentist. You can count on them to provide the compassionate, personalized care you need to repair your smile and prevent the problem from growing worse.
About the Author
Dr. John Russo is an Orlando native who has been proudly serving his local community for nearly 25 years. He earned his Doctor of Dental Medicine with honors from the University of Florida in 1993, and today he belongs to various dental organizations including the Florida Dental Association. His practice offers same-day emergency appointments as well as a comprehensive menu of restorative treatments. If you need emergency dental care, reach out to Dr. Russo by calling (407) 843-2112. You can also contact him through his website.