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What is a dental emergency? 

Dental emergencies require immediate intervention by a dentist. Dental emergencies include:
1. Acute dental infection: Severe sensitivity in a tooth not allowing you to eat or drink anything, severe pain in a tooth not allowing you to carry out routine activities, swelling in the gums of a tooth, swelling on the face or neck, difficulty in opening the mouth or in swallowing are signs of an acute dental infection. 
2. Dental trauma: If a tooth breaks or falls out because of injury or trauma, immediate dental attention is necessary to save the tooth. Any delay reduces the chances of being able to save the tooth. 
3. Broken/ dislodged filling/ crown: If an old filling/ cap gets lost or breaks, it is both a cosmetic emergency if a front tooth is involved as well as the sharp edges from the remaining tooth may hurt the tongue and gums. 
4. Bleeding from the mouth: Uncontrolled bleeding after cheek biting/ tongue biting can be a problem in old people or people on certain medicines. Continued bleeding after a dental surgery has been done also requires urgent care. 
man with acute dental infection

Acute Dental Infection
(Severe Sensitivity/ Pain/ Swelling)

Acute dental infections are extremely painful and discomforting. Acute dental infections most commonly arise when decay/ cavity in a tooth becomes deep enough to reach the innermost layers of the tooth, causing infection in the roots. This kind of infection will cause severe sensitivity, unbearable pain especially in the middle of the night and/or pain on chewing. When this infection spreads further, a dental abscess forms. A swelling may appear near the gums of the tooth first, spreading then to the face and neck regions. A swelling on the face and neck regions can be particularly dangerous and should not be ignored. 
 Acute infection of the wisdom tooth is common in the early 20's and spreads rapidly onto the face/ neck. Other than causing pain and swelling, it also makes closing and/or opening the mouth difficult. 
  DOs and DONTs: With pain/ swelling/ sensitivity in a tooth, schedule a dental visit at the earliest. Do not self medicate or wait for it to subside on its own. Placing cloves near the painful tooth, warm saline rinses and using desensitizing toothpastes are common remedies people resort do, and they frequently do more harm than good. 
  TREATMENT: The acute infection or pus collecting within the tooth or its gums needs to be drained. The dentist will do this either by drilling through the tooth or by establishing drainage through the gums. The tooth will in most cases need to be anesthetized prior to the treatment. However, you must bear in mind that the local anesthesia frequently does not have its full effect in the presence of an acute infection, especially pus. Therefore, it is best not to wait for a simple tooth cavity to turn into an acute dental abscess, and get it attended to at the earliest. 
dental trauma

Dental Trauma

Trauma to the tooth can result from falls, accidents or sudden blow to the tooth. This causes the upper front tooth/ teeth to crack, fracture, become loose in their sockets or completely fall out. Other teeth can also crack, chip or fracture with heavy trauma. Such dental trauma require emergency attention - not only for the pain and bleeding, but also for the importance of time factor. If the nerve of a developing tooth has been exposed by the fracture, if a tooth has become loose or fallen out of its socket, the success of the treatment depends on how early after the injury it is instituted. Otherwise you may end up losing the tooth altogether. 
  DOs and DONTs: If your tooth has fallen out, read knocked out teeth . If dental trauma causes your tooth to fracture, see if you can save the fractured fragment. The fragment can be refixed in most cases. 
  TREATMENT: Knocked out teeth or teeth that have become loose in their sockets from trauma are positioned in their correct place and fixed ("splinted") to the adjacent teeth to keep them in place for 2-4 weeks. This procedure is called "replantation". Root Canal Treatment (RCT) is performed subsequently. For a chipped tooth that does not expose the nerve of the tooth, the fractured fragment can be recemented, or if the fractured fragment is lost it can be built up with cosmetic materials. If the nerve of the tooth is exposed, treatment depends on the state of development of the tooth root inside. For a child till about 10 years of age, the root inside may be developing where treatment is done to allow the root to develop naturally or artificially. If the root is fully developed as in an adult, root canal treatment is performed. A broken tooth is built up with post and core , and a cap/ crown is subsequently placed for strength and cosmetics. 
dental cap come out in hand

Broken/ Lost Filling/ Cap

You get ready for your office with an important presentation on your mind, and just as you are having your breakfast your front tooth cap comes out loose. What do you do? Broken fillings and crowns of the front teeth often leave your smile looking incomplete, and your confidence wavy.  Cosmetic emergencies like these can be fixed in a single sitting in most cases.
  DOs and DONTs:  Do not try to fix the cap or broken piece yourself. If the broken filling has left a sharp edge on the tooth that is hurting your cheeks/ tongue, put some cotton over it and keep it in place till you reach your dentist. 
  TREATMENT: The sharp edges can be smoothened by your dentist. If the dislodged crown or the tooth is not damaged, the cap can be recemented. Damaged crowns can also be repaired. Know more about problems with old cap/ crown and their solutions here


Sometimes a tongue bite continues to bleed and becomes a cause for concern. This especially happens in old people on medications such as blood thinners for heart disease. Uncontrolled bleeding from the site of a tooth extraction or any minor surgery in the mouth can also be hazardous. 
  DOs and DONTs: To stop bleeding from a tongue bite or any traumatic wound in the mouth, apply cold compression. Ice can be used and pressure should be applied. Tea bags can also be used to apply pressure as they contain tannins which help to stop bleeding. Intermittent cold compresses can also be used for post surgical bleeding - apply cold for 20 minutes over the face and then leave it for 40 minutes. Keep an extra pillow under your head to prevent oozing of blood overnight. Blood thinners should have been discontinued prior to the surgery and should not be started atleast 24 hours after surgery. 
  TREATMENT: If bleeding persists uncontrolled, contact your dentist. Stitches may need to be placed or medication to stop bleeding can be applied locally or taken on the dentist's advice.