Problems with our teeth are very upsetting, especially when an accident of some kind has led to broken or missing teeth. We know that it requires immediate intervention, but is it the type of emergency that justifies a call to 911?
While every situation is different, there are some common characteristics of dental emergencies that can at least provide some guidance as you consider the best option for immediate treatment of a dental problem.
A lost or broken tooth is often the most obvious result of an injury. It is painful, visible, and can be a very upsetting surprise when the patient realizes what has happened. However, it may not be the only injury, or even the most serious one. Any accident serious enough to dislodge a tooth could have also caused fractures in the jaw or face, and possibly other injuries elsewhere in the body. If you have any concerns that there could be such injuries, call 911.
Every dislodged tooth will bleed, but excessive bleeding could be a sign of a more serious health condition. Any type of dental bleeding that does not respond to direct pressure is cause for a call to 911. In addition, some patients may bleed more heavily after a dental injury because they are taking blood thinners or other medications that interfere with the normal clotting process. The same is true for hemophiliacs, who lack clotting factors in their blood and will likely need immediate medical care to limit blood loss.
Late at night or on weekends, there may be no way to contact the dentist. While a visit to the emergency room will not provide any dental care, it can at least manage pain, address bleeding, and potentially help preserve a dislodged tooth until you can get to the dentist. Minor problems like broken teeth or dislodged fillings cannot be treated in the emergency room, but any of the major issues we have already discussed could be at least stabilized at the emergency room. Even so, an ambulance may not be necessary.
The moments immediately after a dental injury are usually the most painful. In time, the sharpest pain should fade, and even though the affected areas will still be sore and tender, the patient can usually get relief with over-the-counter medication, cold compresses, or a combination of both. Should this strategy not prove effective, or if the pain at the time of injury is severe, the patient may benefit from emergency room care that will provide more aggressive management of pain as well as investigating the injury to confirm there are no other significant injuries.
Many times we can fall or otherwise injure our teeth while alone, leaving us unable to examine our injuries in order to determine if medical care is necessary. If we’re having to hold a dressing on the injury, we may also be physically unable to drive ourselves anywhere. In these cases, a call to 911 could be justified to at least get someone to help assess the situation and, if transport is not necessary, to aid you in contacting other resources.
Everyone values their teeth, whether they’re cavity-free or if they’ve had fillings, bridges, or crowns. When something goes wrong with them, it’s natural to worry or even panic. Like any other unexpected medical event, it may or may not be an emergency. It’s important to stay calm and consider the situation, then decide whether it is necessary to call 911.