Dental emergencies happen all the time. In fact, dental-related visits to the hospital emergency room for tooth pain or other dental emergencies account for over $2 billion in hospital costs for patients nationally each year. But what can the ER do for tooth pain and do hospitals have dentists that can treat dental emergencies? The truth is a visit to the ER for your dental emergency is likely not to help the underlying issue because most hospitals do not have dentists on staff and only a dentist can address dental issues. While there are some emergencies when an ER visit may be necessary, your better option is to call an emergency dentist, such as the emergency dental team at New Leaf Rohnert Park.

Should you visit the ER for dental emergencies?

When it comes to dental emergencies, your best course of action is to call your dentist first. If it is after office hours, and depending on your dental emergency, your dentist may recommend a trip to the ER to address pain or persistent bleeding. In cases where an injury may have damaged your teeth and facial bones, an ER trip may also be necessary. However, ER doctors will not be able to do anything to address tooth complications. In fact, they can’t even pull a tooth.

What can the ER do for tooth pain?

When you go to the ER for a dental emergency, the hospital staff are limited in what they can provide for treatment. A dentist is the only professional that can treat and address dental concerns, such as pulling teeth or filling cavities, and most hospitals do not have a dentist on staff. When you go to the ER for a dental emergency, ER physicians are only able to address pain by numbing the area or providing a prescription for pain medication, or treating a potential infection with antibiotics. You will still need to see a dentist to address the underlying problem.

Consider these ER alternatives

When you experience a dental emergency, it is best to first contact your dentist and see what course of action they recommend. What you need to do will depend on the nature of the emergency and, in many cases, treatment can wait until regular dental hours.

Here we look at some of the common causes of dental emergencies and what may be recommended.

Tooth pain

If tooth pain is your main dental concern, a trip to the ER can help reduce the pain, but it also comes with a high hospital bill. If your dentist is unable to see you immediately for the pain, there are some things you can do at home that will help reduce the pain until you can get to the dentist. First, brush and floss your teeth to remove any possible food debris that may be contributing to your pain.

You can take over-the-counter pain relievers to address the pain, but DO NOT apply these pain relievers directly to the infected gum or tissue and this can cause tissue damage. Apply a cold compress to the side of your face where you are experiencing tooth pain. Additionally, an over-the-counter numbing solution can also provide relief until you can get to the dentist.

Knocked-out tooth

Whether you were playing sports or took a nasty fall, having a permanent tooth knocked out can be a traumatic event that is considered an emergency that requires treatment as soon as possible. Returning a tooth to the socket has the best results when performed within an hour of injury. If you can retrieve the tooth, pick it up by the crown to avoid possible damage to the root. Rinse the tooth in plain water. If possible, you can try and reinsert the tooth into the socket until you see the dentist. If not, place the tooth in a cup of milk or a water solution with a pinch of salt. Head to your dentist or emergency dentist immediately.

Tooth abscess

An abscess is an infection around the root of a tooth or in between the tooth and the surrounding gums. You may see a pimple-like swelling near your tooth or experience red, swollen, and painful gums. Infections can spread quickly and cause damage to the tissue and, in the worst-case scenario, can spread throughout the body. If you suspect an abscess, it is important to contact your dentist immediately. Until you can see your dentist, you can help reduce the infection and relieve any pain and swelling with a saltwater rinse a few times a day.

Chipped or broken tooth

When you chip or break a tooth, the level of dental emergency depends on the damage. Small chips or breaks often do not cause any pain, except for some possible tooth sensitivity. You can wait to schedule an appointment where your dentist will provide a filling to replace the missing or broken portion of your tooth. If the break is more extensive, it can cause bleeding, swelling, and pain. Gauze can help stop the bleeding, while over-the-counter pain meds and a cold compress can help reduce pain and swelling. In the case of a larger break, your dentist may need to apply a crown to save the tooth.

Foreign body reactions

Sometimes, food gets stuck in between the teeth and causes pain and inflammation. This is what we call a foreign body reaction. It is common when you have larger spaces in between your teeth. Until you can get into a dentist, your best course of treatment is regular brushing and flossing to try and dislodge the food particles.

Bleeding

Bleeding in the mouth is not uncommon after brushing, flossing, or a dental procedure. However, this bleeding typically stops within a few minutes. Prolonged or unexplained bleeding in the mouth can often be a sign of a serious problem. If you experience unexplained bleeding, contact your dentist immediately. If the bleeding does not stop or becomes excessive and your dentist is not available, you may need to visit the ER to get the bleeding under control.

Lost filling or crown

While losing a filling or dental crown may seem like an emergency, it is something that can wait for a dental appointment as long as you take precautions to protect your tooth. If you have the filling or crown, keep it safe and clean, and bring it with you when you see the dentist. Immediately call your dentist and schedule the first available appointment. While you wait for your appointment, it is important to protect your tooth and keep it clean. Regular brushing and flossing are essential. Talk with your dentist about the use of over-the-counter dental wax to cover and protect your tooth or the use of dental cement to temporarily replace the crown at home.

When should you visit the emergency room?

If you are unable to make an emergency dental appointment, there are some instances when you should visit an emergency room for dental concerns. This can include persistent bleeding that you are unable to stop or progressively gets worse, you are experiencing intense pain that is not manageable by over-the-counter pain relievers, or you have sustained an injury to your teeth that also includes your facial bones.

Regular dental care can help reduce dental emergencies

While not all dental pain or tooth damage is an emergency, it sure can feel like it. While a trip to the ER may be beneficial, it will not really address the true dental concern. Making an appointment with your dentist or an emergency dentist is your best course of action. At New Leaf Rohnert Park, we understand dental emergencies happen and that is why we offer a 24/7 dental team that is on-call to address any dental emergency you may experience. To learn more about how our team provides dental care and is always here to help when emergencies arise, contact us today to schedule an appointment.