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What Issues Call for Emergency Dentistry?

Aug 01, 2023
By their very nature, emergencies are neither convenient nor planned, and dental emergencies are particularly troublesome. How do you distinguish between an emergency dentistry issue and a problem that can wait for a scheduled appointment? 

Few things tend to disrupt that long-planned family outing or the hard-to-find-the-time date night like a dental emergency. You’re having a great time, and you bite down on something hard, or trip as you walk through the restaurant’s dining room, and so much for the rest of the evening.

Don’t panic, says our own Scott McPherson, DDS, here at Ballpark Heights Family Dentistry in Des Moines, Iowa. We’re specially trained to handle the unexpected through emergency dentistry services. 

Whether you have a scheduled appointment for general dentistry, like a routine dental exam or cleaning, or you call us in the middle of a holiday weekend with an agonizing toothache, you can count on us to be there for you.

Bad timing versus true emergencies
The best place to start is by differentiating a dental emergency from a situation that’s more inconvenient than urgent. Typically, a dental emergency evolves from trauma or impact from an accident, such as a sports injury, car accident or perhaps a trip and fall.

Or maybe a seemingly innocent action like chewing on ice cubes or biting into hard foods or an unseen, unpopped popcorn kernel turns into a dental emergency. One bite and the pain tells you right away — you know you need help.

Common issues that require emergency dentistry
In the heat of the moment, the difference between a badly timed accident and a true dental emergency can blur. Here are some of the more common dental emergencies we see at Ballpark Heights Family Dental.

Broken or knocked out teeth
Avulsed teeth, more commonly called knocked out, are a particularly common dental emergency, as are broken teeth. The No. 1 priority is to keep the tooth viable. If part of the tooth breaks off, keep the broken part moist in transit to your dentist’s office by placing it in a small container or baggie with milk, water or saliva.

Similarly, if the entire tooth is knocked out, gently rinse it off, taking great care not to touch the tooth’s root while doing so. 

Place the tooth back into its socket if you can. Hold it in place by gently biting down on a clean tissue, cloth or gauze. If the tooth won’t fit back into the socket, don’t force it. Instead, keep it moist and viable by placing it between your cheek and gums, or put it in a small container of milk. 

Fever or signs of infection

Another common dental emergency scenario is triggered by symptoms like a fever, swelling or severe pain. These symptoms generally signal that your body is fighting an infection.

In some cases, an abscessed tooth may be the culprit. With a tooth abscess, an infection occurs inside layer of the tooth’s dental pulp, where the blood vessels and nerves are.

An abscessed tooth is not only painful; it can be dangerous. If you experience pain, inflammation and a fever, this isn’t the time to take a pain reliever and wait to see if it gets better on its own. Contact us right away. 

Untreated tooth infections can spread to other parts of the body, including the jawbone, neck and face. In rare cases, dental infections can even travel to the heart and brain.

Lacerations and mouth or jaw injuries
If you experience an accident that results in severe bruising, bleeding and lacerations to soft tissues like the tongue, cheeks, or jaw, contact us right away. 

The goal here is not only to stop the bleeding and repair the wound, but also to mitigate the damage to reduce the likelihood of permanent gum, tooth, or jaw damage.

Other scenarios that may initiate an emergency dental care visit are damaged fillings or crowns or broken dentures. If you have a dental emergency, contact Dr. McPherson and the team at Ballpark Heights Family Dental right away to determine your next steps. 

We offer same-day visits and will be here for you and your family when the unexpected happens. Call our office in the Grand View University area of Des Moines or request an appointment online.