What is an emergency dentist?
Just like the A&E department, an emergency dental clinic is open twenty-four hours a day to deal with injuries to the teeth, mouth and jaw. They won’t send out an ambulance for you in the same way a hospital would, but they are available day or night, to help you with specific dental problems that most nurses and doctors aren’t qualified to deal with. The Pearl Dental Clinic (Tel: 0208 547 9997), London, provides an emergency service for people in the area, they can usually fit patients in within twenty-four hours of the accident occurring – sooner in most cases. An emergency dentist not only aims to provide fast, effective treatment for those in need, they also help to take some of the pressure off A&E staff, who tend to have their hands full with life-threatening cases most of the time, especially at weekends.
What constitutes a dental emergency?
Any type of pain or injury could be labelled an emergency; the title generally describes a condition that the patient really can’t leave untreated – such as severe toothache, or a broken tooth. A dental emergency isn’t necessarily life threatening, but it does include a whole host of problems that need immediate attention. Some accidents that aren’t particularly painful could also require a visit to the emergency dentist, such as superficial cracks or chips – just because you can’t feel them, doesn’t mean they won’t cause damage that needs repairing further down the line.
A fairly common dental emergency is a knocked-out tooth, or one that’s twisted in the socket, this is pretty much impossible to ignore and even if the patient didn’t care about the appearance, they would almost certainly be in quite a lot of pain. Similarly, the discomfort caused by toothache is often a cause for immediate treatment, there doesn’t have to be heavy bleeding or visible wounds, if you’re in pain and it won’t go away, don’t wait three or four months to see your regular dentist, make an emergency dentist appointment and get some help.
How will the emergency dentist be able to help me?
Even people who aren’t afraid of the dentist’s surgery sometimes put off going because they imagine endless queues and a dentist that can’t really help because they don’t know them personally, but that’s not the case at all. Depending on the nature of your problem, there are lots of ways in which the emergency dentist can help you with the pain and anxiety of dental injuries. Here are just a few of the treatments for common complaints:
Knocked-out teeth – The most careful people can still knock their teeth out with a fall or accident, it might seem like the end of the world, but modern technology is a wonderful thing, even if the whole tooth is removed from its socket, top dentists are pioneering methods to make your smile complete again. Time is of the essence with knocked-out teeth, the sooner you get to the clinic, the better chance you have of saving your tooth. While you wait, try putting the tooth back into the socket – this encourages it to reattach, but often in these cases there is some bleeding, so this is not always possible. A cup of milk is the best place to store your tooth (or teeth) as you make your way to the dentist’s office; this keeps it alive until it can be reintroduced to the gums.
The first thing your dentist will do is try and save the knocked-out tooth, they will do this by fitting it back in the socket and securing it with dental cement. It may be necessary to splint the weakened tooth to one next to it, giving it some functionality, until it is strong enough to stand on its own
Chipped teeth – A small chip probably won’t cause a great amount of pain, because the damage doesn’t penetrate the dentin layer and expose the pulp chamber to infection, but chips can sometimes provide a perfect breeding area for bacteria in hard to reach areas of the mouth. Using composite bonding, your dentist should be able to rebuild the broken enamel and restore it to a natural looking finish.
Cracked teeth – Cracks are usually more painful than chips, and require immediate attention for functional and aesthetic purposes. The nerve chamber of the teeth – known as the pulp – has to be contained and protected from bacteria at all times, cracks allow infection to pass into the pulp and cause it to become inflamed. If the crack is recent, your dentist may be able to patch it up with composite bonding material before infection sets in, but cracks that have been left to deteriorate will probably require a root canal treatment, to remove the inflamed pulp.
Soft tissue injuries – Lacerations to the soft tissues in the mouth – lips, gums, tongue – can be very painful and require attention as soon as possible, otherwise the millions of bacteria in the mouth could cause the injury to become infected. Try to stem any bleeding on your way to the surgery, and carefully clean the wound with some gauze. The dentist will stitch you up if the wound is large, and may advise you to use an antiseptic mouthwash as part of your daily routine, until the injury is fully healed.
General toothache – This might not feel like an emergency, but if you can’t go one more night with that throbbing pain keeping you awake, it’s time to call the twenty-four hour clinic. It’s not always immediately obvious what causes toothache and treating it certainly isn’t easy by yourself, most dentists will take only a few moments to realise what the problem is, because they know what their looking for. It might be necessary to carry out an x-ray to find out the exact cause of the toothache, but once the source is identified, your treatment can begin.
Toothache can be caused by any number of dental problems, most commonly; tooth decay, gum disease, infection, damaged tooth, and jaw injuries. A toothache is your body’s way of telling you that a trip to the emergency dentist is in order, particularly if it’s of a persistent, painful variety.