As a leader in preventive care, our goal is always to prevent emergencies before they arise. This means treating problems early. Unfortunately, problems do occasionally arise which require immediate attention. Our office does provide emergency coverage to patients of record in our office. We also participate in the Penticton Regional Hospital emergency rotation for dentists. Your emergency care may be provided by a dentist other than the one you usually see for normal care. TO ACCESS OUR EMERGENCY LINE, PLEASE CALL THE OFFICE AT 250 493-4155 AND LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE TO GET THE CELLULAR NUMBER OF ONE OF OUR DENTISTS. PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU MUST BE A PATIENT OF RECORD IN OUR OFFICE TO HAVE ACCESS TO THIS SERVICE. IF YOU ARE NOT A PATIENT OF RECORD IN OUR OFFICE, PLEASE CALL THE PENTICTON REGIONAL HOSPITAL.
What is Considered a Dental Emergency?
These types of problems will be assessed by the dentist on call, but will often require immediate attention.
- Trauma resulting in severe tooth breakage or tooth loss. For example, sports accidents, falls or motor vehicle accidents. If this happens, see a dentist immediately. Carry the tooth or fragments in milk or water.
- Severe infection. In some cases dental infections can be medically serious and require treatment immediately.
- Less urgent
- Pain. Toothaches and dental problems can be extremely uncomfortable and may result in loss of sleep or missed work. Pain medications may help but are often of limited benefit.
- Lost dental work. Crowns or fillings falling out of teeth may cause discomfort through sensitivity or roughness, or may change the way the teeth at the front of the mouth look.
- Broken teeth from eating. Weakened teeth can frequently fracture during usage. Roughness, discomfort or sensitivity may result.
- Broken or loose orthodontic wires or appliances.
We understand that when these problems occur it can be uncomfortable and upsetting. However, most of these less urgent problems are best dealt with during office hours. We are committed to taking care of urgent dental problems, and in most cases will see these patients on the day that they call, during regular office hours.
Other Emergency Advice
There is nothing quite like a severe tooth ache. The worst of these are caused by the tender nerve and vascular tissue inside of the tooth being irreversibly damaged by decay or nerve trauma and usually present as a constant dull ache that may radiate to other parts of the face, and throbbing of the tooth. These tooth aches are often worst at night and do not respond well to pain medication. You can try holding ice in the mouth or applying a small amount of oil of cloves to the tooth, but you need to be seen by a dentist to properly deal with the problem. Antibiotic medications are typically not indicated for a "nerve death" type of tooth ache.
Teeth can become sensitive, usually to hot, cold or sweets, for many reasons. Tooth sensitivity that is not prolonged or achy is usually not an urgent situation. Simply avoid the stimulus that causes the problem and have the situation checked by your dentist. "Sensitive tooth" type toothpastes may also help. Cold sensitivity on a tooth, that lingers for a few minutes or causes the jaw to ache, may be an indication of a more severe problem.
Broken Braces and Wires
Remove a broken appliance only if it comes out easily. If it is lodged or painful to remove, cover any protruding edges with wax, cotton balls, gauze or chewing gum. DO NOT REMOVE any wire caught in the gums, cheek or tongue; see a dentist immediately. Emergency attention is usually not required for loose or broken appliances that cause no discomfort.
Broken Tooth from Chewing
Teeth or restorative materials can fracture due to the forces of chewing. This can often occur even with soft foods. The result is a tooth that may be sensitive, rough to the cheek or tongue or a trap for food. Although not generally recommended, you can very carefully smooth a rough edge using a fine emery file, if you cannot see your dentist right away. Usual emergency treatment will involve a temporary patch-type filling, followed by a recommendation for a crown or cap to strengthen the weakened tooth.
Knocked Out Permanent Tooth
As noted above, a tooth "knocked out" of the mouth is an emergency that requires immediate attention. The tooth should be placed in milk, water or simply held in the mouth for transport purposes, and handled as little as possible. The success of re-implanting teeth depends on the degree of injury and the time that the tooth has been out of the socket. The prognosis for such teeth is generally poor, and worsens greatly if the tooth has been out for more than 30 minutes. If the tooth has been out for 60 minutes or more, you don't need to rush. It will not be possible to successfully re-implant the tooth.
Accidents involving the mouth will often result in other types of injury to teeth and jaws. If you have displaced a tooth but it has not completely come out, it is advisable to gently attempt to reposition the tooth back into its proper position. See your dentist immediately. Other problems from trauma will often include broken teeth, torn gums, broken bone surrounding teeth, broken jaw or damage to the jaw joint (TMJ). All of these conditions require immediate emergency care.
If you have recently had surgery of the teeth or jaws, there are possible complications that may occasionally arise.
- Pain – most surgical pain responds well to medications such as Ibuprofen or Acetominophen (Tylenol).
- Swelling – some swelling is normal after surgery, but if it is getting worse you may require an antibiotic and should be seen by your dentist.
- Bleeding – again, some bleeding from surgical sites is normal. Blood in the saliva or on the pillow the next day is not cause for concern. Bleeding that becomes bothersome is best handled by gently biting on either moist gauze or a regular tea bag, moistened. Sit quietly with gentle, steady pressure on the area for a minimum of 30 minutes. Heavy bleeding that persists after repeating this procedure several times will likely require intervention by your dentist.
- Dry Socket – following extraction of teeth, typically lower molars or wisdom teeth, dry socket is a common complication. If you are experiencing moderate to severe pain in your jaw that may radiate up to your ear or head and is getting worse 3 to 4 days after your extraction, then you likely have a dry socket. While not otherwise serious, dry sockets can be extremely uncomfortable. They do go away on their own without treatment, but immediate pain relief is also possible by simply packing the socket with a medicated dressing. Also, oil of cloves may be applied directly to the extraction socket.
Infections of the teeth, gums or jaws are another source of dental discomfort. Infections may range from a small bump on the gums right beside a tooth, to a major swelling of the face, neck or jaws. Usually the key finding is swelling, but you may also notice that a tooth feels very tender, feels like it is sticking up high in your bite, or feels loose. Infections are usually treated initially with antibiotic medications, followed by more aggressive treatment of the cause of the problem once the infection has settled down. Please note that some infections of dental origin can become medically serious. If you have severe swelling of any part of your face, neck or jaws, you should seek care immediately.
Please note that the above advice is intended as general information only. Proper treatment of dental problems requires careful examination and diagnosis by a dentist.