Can Dental Emergencies Be Life Threatening?

dental emergency

No one looks forward to a dental emergency. However, they occur more often than many believe. From a broken tooth to severe pain, these oral events are not just discomforting but, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening. 

What Is a Dental Emergency?

A dental emergency is usually an oral health issue requiring immediate dental care professionals’ attention. It includes injuries impacting your teeth and their supporting tissues — the gum tissue or soft tissues like the tongue, cheek and lips. It can also involve severe infections and diseases that can compromise your entire mouth and, potentially, your life.

Potential Life-Threatening Dental Trauma and Emergencies

While most dental emergencies, like a damaged dental restoration, chipped tooth or mild toothache, might not pose immediate threats, certain traumatic events and conditions can rapidly advance to a life-threatening dental emergency.

  • Knocked-Out Tooth: A knocked-out tooth doesn’t just result in an unsightly gap in your smile; if not addressed promptly, it can lead to deeper infections. Always try to save the knocked-out tooth and seek an immediate dental visit.
  • Mouth Trauma: Trauma to the mouth, leading to broken teeth or soft tissue injury, can cause severe bleeding. If not controlled, the patient may lose a significant volume of blood, which can be life-threatening.
  • Severe Dental Infection or Abscess: Dental and periapical or periodontal abscesses are bacterial infections often originating from neglected dental caries. If the infection spreads to other parts, it may lead to severe systemic diseases, including heart problems and sepsis.
  • Post Extraction Bleeding (Dry socket): After tooth extraction, if the blood clot that usually forms in the socket is somehow dislodged or dissolves, it could lead to bleeding, intense pain (dry socket) and is a potential risk for a life-threatening situation.
  • Post-Procedural Bleeding: Uncontrolled post-procedural bleeding after dental procedures, like root canals or surgical management of various dental conditions, can be a grave concern, necessitating an immediate visit to the hospital emergency department.

First Aid Steps in a Dental Emergency

Before rushing to an emergency dental practice or a hospital emergency department, some first-aid steps can potentially save a life, mouth and tooth.

  • Stop the Bleeding: Apply gauze or cotton ball pressure until bleeding stops for soft or gum tissue-related injuries. Remain calm, as elevating your heart rate can intensify bleeding; continue to apply pressure and seek medical attention if bleeding persists.
  • Save the Tooth: Clean a knocked-out tooth gently without touching the root to avoid damaging its fragile cells. Keep it moist, preferably by gently putting it back in the socket or a milk container, and rush to the dentist as soon as possible to increase the chance of successful re-implantation.
  • Pain Control: For any dental pain, over-the-counter painkillers could be used for temporary relief. However, avoid placing aspirin directly on tissues as it can cause a chemical burn, prolong your healing process and worsen the issue. You can also rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to clean it and dislodge any food stuck between teeth. Use dental floss to remove any particles that may be causing the pain.
  • Cold Compress: A cold compress can help reduce swelling, numbing the area to reduce pain. Keep a cloth between your skin and the cold pack to prevent frostbite, and only apply it for 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Avoid Discomfort From Sharp Edges of a Broken Tooth: If your dental restoration is damaged and causing discomfort due to sharp edges, there are a few steps you can take to mitigate the issue until you can consult with a dentist. One recommended method is to use dental wax, which acts as a protective barrier over sharp edges and can prevent irritation and discomfort. Over-the-counter pain medication can also be used to manage associated pain, and rinsing your mouth with salty water may help soothe the area It’s advised to avoid hard foods that could further damage the restoration or exacerbate discomfort.

How to Get Rid of Mouth Infection?

If you suspect a mouth infection, you should seek urgent care from a dentist. Until you can see your dentist, consider rinsing your mouth with warm water as it helps to draw out infection and provide temporary relief.

Also, maintain good oral hygiene by brushing twice daily and flossing regularly. Over-the-counter pain relievers can temporarily mitigate the discomfort. Budget-friendly dental clinics provide affordable treatment options for those who are uninsured. Ensure all prescribed medications are finished to eradicate the infection, even if the symptoms are gone.

What to Do With Teeth if Knocked Out?

If your tooth gets knocked out, carefully handle it to improve the odds of saving it. Avoid touching the root part, as it can get damaged easily. Rinse it lightly with water to remove any dirt, then try to reinsert it back into the socket. Keep the tooth moist, if possible, by placing it in a milk container or a tooth-preservation product. This can protect the tooth until you reach the dentist, who will attempt to replace and save it. Time is critical in these cases – ideally, you should get to the dentist within 30 minutes.

What if My Dental Injury Won’t Stop Bleeding?

Uncontrollable bleeding suggests severe dental trauma and immediate action is vital.

  • First, apply a thick gauze pad to the area and put intense pressure on it.
  • Don’t panic, as elevated heart rates can exacerbate bleeding. If the bleeding continues after 15-20 minutes, seeking immediate medical attention is essential.
  • Visit the nearest emergency room or your dentist immediately. Your dentist will find the cause of the bleeding and give you an appropriate treatment to stop it. Remember, in severe cases, it could be a symptom of a more severe disease, so you should treat it seriously.

Preventing Dental Emergencies

Preventing dental emergencies involves a combination of good oral hygiene habits, regular dental check-ups and being mindful of your diet and lifestyle. Here are some strategies you can follow:

  • Good Oral Hygiene: Brush your teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste and floss daily to remove plaque and bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Regular use of mouthwash can also help keep your oral health in pristine condition.

  • Regular Dental Check-Ups: Schedule regular visits to your dentist for professional cleanings and oral exams. These visits can help catch potential issues early before they become emergencies.

  • Healthy Diet: Limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks which can contribute to tooth decay. Instead, opt for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and dairy products.

  • Wear a Mouthguard: If you participate in sports or recreational activities, protect your teeth with a mouthguard. This can prevent injuries like cracked or knocked-out teeth.

  • Avoid Using Teeth as Tools: Don’t use your teeth to cut, tear, or open things. This can cause them to crack or chip.

  • Notice any Persistent Dental Pain or Changes: Pay attention to any changes in your teeth, gums, or mouth tissues. Persistent pain can be a sign of a more serious issue that needs immediate attention.

  • Don’t Ignore Dental Problems: If you’re experiencing a dental problem, don’t ignore it. Even minor issues can become major emergencies if left untreated.

  • Quit Smoking: Tobacco use increases the risk of gum disease, oral cancer, and other dental problems.

The Importance of Prompt Dental Care

Prompt dental care in emergencies is of utmost importance for several reasons:

  • Prevents Further Damage: Dental problems such as a broken or knocked-out tooth, if left untreated, can lead to further damage to the surrounding teeth and tissues. Prompt treatment can minimize this risk.

  • Preserves Oral Health: Dental emergencies can significantly impact oral health. By seeking immediate care, any underlying issues can be addressed, preserving the health of your mouth, teeth, and gums.

  • Reduces Pain: Dental emergencies often cause severe pain. Prompt treatment can alleviate this pain and provide relief.

  • Saves Teeth: In cases where a tooth has been knocked out, immediate dental care may make the difference between saving and losing the tooth. The tooth must be re-implanted within a specific timeframe to have the best chance of success.

  • Prevents Infections: Dental emergencies like lost fillings, crowns, or abscesses can lead to infections if not treated promptly. Immediate dental care can prevent these infections from spreading.

  • Child Dental Care: In the case of children, seeking prompt dental care from an emergency kid’s dentist is crucial. Their specialized knowledge can help address the unique needs of a child’s oral health.

  • Ensures Effective Treatment: Emergency dentistry plays a vital role in providing prompt and effective dental care. While routine dental visits are essential for maintaining oral health, emergency visits ensure that sudden issues are addressed immediately.

Get Immediate Care for Your Dental Emergencies Only From the Experienced

While successful treatment plans and proactive measures can prevent most dental emergencies from becoming life-threatening, seeking immediate attention during a dental emergency cannot be overemphasized. Remember, your prompt action can significantly prevent severe complications and save a life, even your own.

At North Atlanta Family Dentistry, we provide prompt and professional emergency treatment to address all your dental emergencies. You can rely on our experienced dentists even after regular business hours.

Contact us now for all your dental emergencies and let us help you preserve your oral health!