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When to Seek Help for a Dental Emergency in Northern Virginia

How Do I Know If I Have a Dental Emergency?

Being able to understand the differences between a dental emergency that requires immediate treatment or a less urgent issue that can wait a few days until you can be seen by your dentist is important. If you’re experiencing mouth pain that’s affecting your ability to sleep or other areas of your life, and the pain isn’t relieved by over-the-counter pain medication, you should seek the help of an emergency dentist. Most oral health professionals also recommend seeking emergency treatment for any injury that affects the mouth’s soft tissues, including the cheeks, tongue, or lips.

Don’t wait to call us if you suddenly develop these signs of a dental emergency in Northern Virginia:

  • A knocked-out tooth
  • A mouth injury with excessive bleeding
  • Fever or chills associated with mouth pain
  • Loose, cracked, or chipped teeth

While not considered an emergency, these situations can be treated by a dentist offering walk-in dental services:

  • Damage to a dental bridge
  • Losing a porcelain veneer, crown, or filling
  • Bleeding gums while brushing and flossing
  • Sudden tooth sensitivity

7 Signs of a Dental Emergency in Northern Virginia

These seven signs of an emergency should not be ignored and require urgent treatment from your dentist:

1. A fractured jaw: If you’ve sustained a serious injury to your jaw, you should seek emergency treatment from a dentist to prevent permanent alignment issues and tooth damage.

2. A knocked-out tooth: Losing a tooth is certainly a traumatic experience, but if you visit a dentist immediately, your chances of successfully reinserting the tooth are quite high. In fact, receiving treatment within the first hour of the injury offers the highest chances of success, according to the American Association of Endodontists. In addition, keeping an American Dental Association (ADA)-approved emergency tooth preservation kit with your first aid supplies can be helpful if you regularly play high-impact sports.

3. Dry socket pain and infection after extraction: Dry socket is a complication associated with tooth extraction, and it typically affects between 2 to 5 percent of patients. This condition develops after a blood clot dissolves or dislodges in the open area before it has completely healed, exposing the vulnerable bone and nerves. It’s common for the pain to be so intense that over-the-counter pain relievers are ineffective. Symptoms of a dry socket include bad breath, unpleasant taste in the mouth, pain that spreads to the neck and ears, and headache.

4. Excessive bleeding that won’t stop: Any injury to the mouth that causes bleeding that you can’t stop on your own requires emergency treatment.

5. Injury to the gums: A mouth injury that results in cuts or gouges to the gums or other soft tissues requires an emergency visit to your dentist. Your dentist will work quickly to treat the wound and make sure that the surrounding teeth are undamaged.

6. Facial swelling: Pain and swelling that affects your face or jaw can indicate a serious problem, including inflammation, an abscess, TMJ dislocation, or infection. These are problems that shouldn’t be ignored, so it’s important to see your dentist right away if you develop facial pain or swelling.

7. A fractured or dislodged filling: There are two main concerns associated with a broken or chipped filling. The exposed tooth is much more vulnerable to damage, and your teeth or cheek may rub against the jagged edges of the filling, causing irritation or injury.

Why a Tooth Abscess Requires Emergency Treatment

An abscessed tooth is a dangerous condition that develops when a pocket of pus forms in different parts of the tooth, usually near the tooth’s root. It’s a bacterial infection that may occur as a result of an untreated cavity, periodontal disease, or a cracked or fractured tooth.

Serious complications can develop if a tooth abscess remains untreated, but treatment has a very high success rate when diagnosed promptly. The mortality rate for an untreated abscess can increase to 40% if mediastinitis, a complication caused by irritation and swelling developing in the mid-chest area between the lungs, occurs. Some patients could develop sepsis if the abscess remains untreated for a long period of time.

A tooth abscess typically has these signs and symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Swelling in the face or cheek
  • Throbbing tooth pain
  • Pain that spreads to jaw, neck, or ear
  • Pain when chewing or biting

Emergency dental care should be sought out as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms. Treatment is generally focused on resolving the infection and involves your dentist draining the pocket of pus and prescribing antibiotics. Your dentist may perform a root canal in an effort to remove infected pulp and restore the natural tooth. If the root canal is unsuccessful in saving the tooth, your dentist may need to extract it.

Is a Cracked Tooth an Emergency?

Tooth enamel is one of the strongest substances in the body, but it can still be damaged, resulting in chips or cracks in your teeth. Common activities such as engaging in sports, eating hard candy, and grinding your teeth can cause a cracked or chipped tooth. If you develop a cracked or fractured tooth, this is an emergency situation, so please call our office right away. We’ll walk you through the next steps to take and work with you to restore your tooth as quickly as possible. After calling our office, it’s important to rinse your mouth with warm water to flush out debris or bacteria.

If the area surrounding the chipped or cracked tooth is bleeding, or if you’re feeling a lot of pain, you should immediately seek urgent treatment. You most likely won’t require emergency treatment if you’re not bleeding or experiencing intense pain. In this situation, you can follow self-care measures at home until your scheduled appointment at our office. This includes maintaining good oral hygiene at home and applying a cold compress to the facial area to minimize swelling.

For patients who have bruxism (teeth grinding) or who play contact sports on a regular basis, our dentists recommend wearing a mouthguard to protect your teeth from this type of emergency. Most mouthguards are made of flexible materials and can be designed for a custom fit.

While our team of dentists is dedicated to protecting the health of your mouth and preventing a dental emergency, sometimes an urgent issue is unavoidable and you’ll need emergency services. If you’ve suffered an injury to the mouth or other dental emergency in Northern Virginia, we encourage you to call our office as soon as possible.

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