You should see a dentist any time you have unexplained tooth pain or other possible symptoms of a problem, but some conditions need more urgent care than others.
Dental injuries and other problems that come on suddenly may be considered an emergency if you are experiencing severe pain, there is a risk of infection or the problem is likely to get worse without immediate treatment.
Our dentists at Face Value Dental keep appointments open during office hours for emergency patients. Call (07) 3221 0677 to book a same day appointment with an emergency dentist in Brisbane.
What is considered a dental emergency?
A dental emergency is any situation involving your teeth, mouth or jaws that requires urgent attention from a dental professional. Emergencies may arise for many reasons, including:
- Biting down on something hard
- Using your teeth to tear or open objects
- Impacts to the mouth or jaw during sports, fights or falls
- Motor vehicle accidents or other collisions
- Complications of a dental procedure
- Sudden pain, bleeding, infection or other unexpected symptoms
In many situations, not seeing a dentist can leave your mouth vulnerable to further injury or infection and could make a problem worse. When you call your dental clinic, they will advise you about whether you need immediate care or if you may be able to manage your symptoms at home until you can see a dentist.
Following are some of the most common dental emergencies and tips for what to do if you or a family member are in these situations.
Loose or knocked out tooth
Losing a tooth can be worrying, but it's important not to panic. Staying calm and knowing what to do if a tooth comes out can lower your risk of further injuries. There could even be a chance of the tooth being reattached, if it's still in good condition and you can see a dentist straight away.
If you want to try to save the tooth, you should:
- pick up the tooth by the crown (the biting or chewing surface), don't touch the roots
- gently rub off any dirt or debris, but don't immerse it in water
- try to place the tooth back into its socket, biting down on gauze or a clean cloth to hold it in place
- if the tooth doesn't fit, hold it in your cheek or place it in a sealed container or plastic wrap with milk or saliva to keep it moist (not water)
- see a dentist immediately for an emergency appointment
Your dentist will let you know if they are able to reattach the tooth once they have examined it and your mouth.
If your tooth is not suitable for reimplanting, your dentist will treat any injuries and discuss options for replacing the tooth once your mouth has healed. These treatments may include a dental implant, dental bridge or partial dentures.
Baby teeth that fall out early can't be reattached, as this can affect the permanent tooth growing beneath.
Chipped or cracked tooth
A damaged tooth isn't always a dental emergency, but it's still recommended that you see a dentist as soon as possible. Damage that exposes the interior of the tooth can lead to infection or damage to the pulp, which may require root canal treatment.
Your dentist may be able to reattach a large piece of tooth that has broken off, but in most cases they will recommend repairing a tooth with bonding or placing a crown or other natural-looking restoration to restore its function and appearance.
You should avoid eating with a chipped or cracked tooth before you can see a dentist. If the edge of the tooth is sharp and may injure the soft tissues inside your mouth, you can create a temporary seal using sugar-free chewing gum or paraffin wax.
Toothache can happen for many possible reasons, and it may be temporary or a symptom of a serious problem. If a toothache comes on suddenly, or the pain is severe, it's recommended that you see an emergency dentist – especially if you also have swelling.
Your dentist will examine your mouth so they can identify the cause of the tooth pain and recommend suitable treatments. This may include a filling or crown to repair a damaged tooth, root canal therapy if you have an infected tooth or extraction for an impacted tooth, such as a wisdom tooth.
If your dentist can't see you right away, they may recommend using over-the-counter painkillers, a cold compress or other home remedies to help ease your pain before your appointment.
Loose or damaged crown, filling or veneer
If a filling, crown or other dental restoration is damaged, feels loose or falls out, this could also damage the tooth underneath or expose it to bacteria. See your dentist as soon as possible so they can check the condition of your tooth and discuss new restoration options.
If you're replacing a damaged or lost filling, this may require placing a crown or inlay/onlay if the tooth has less of its original structure remaining. Dental veneers are a cosmetic option that can improve a tooth's appearance and may also offer some protection.
If you rely on dentures to eat and speak normally, denture repairs or replacement can be as important as repairing natural teeth. Bring your dentures along and your dentist will let you know whether they can be repaired or if you need new dentures made.
Loose or broken braces
A damaged or dislodged brace can affect the success of orthodontic treatment the longer it's left untreated. Loose brackets and wires may also cut the lips or the inside of the mouth, which needs urgent care. Your dentist or orthodontist will see if they can repair the braces or if you need a replacement.
When should I go to the emergency room?
While a dentist is the best person to treat injuries to your teeth, you should visit an emergency room (ER) for other emergencies or general care. You may also be directed to the emergency room if your dentist does not offer appointments outside of office hours.
Visit your nearest emergency care facility if you have any of the following problems:
Swollen face or neck
Swelling of the face or the lymph glands in the neck can be a sign of an infection or a dental abscess. These are serious conditions that need professional care.
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to fight an infection, but a dental abscess will also require treatment from a dentist. Painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication and home remedies may also be recommended to help reduce pain and swelling.
Cut or bleeding cheeks, gums or lips
Cuts, bites or other injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth are not always serious, but they will need urgent care if the pain or bleeding is severe or if bleeding doesn't stop after firm pressure is applied for 10 minutes. Without treatment, a wound may become infected.
For less serious injuries, swelling may be reduced by applying a cold compress to your cheek, or you can try to help your mouth heal by adding half a teaspoon of salt to lukewarm water and holding it in your mouth several times a day.
Injuries to the jaw
Seek medical attention if your jaw is broken, dislocated or suddenly painful. You can relieve pain and swelling in the short term with over-the-counter medication and applying a cold compress.
If your jaw hurts, locks or clicks when you chew or open your mouth, this could be a problem with the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) on the sides of the jaw. Dentists can diagnose TMJ dysfunction and recommend treatments, which may involve muscle relaxation or exercises or wearing a bite guard.
How to avoid dental emergencies
Many people experience dental emergency at some point in their lives. It may not be possible to avoid dental accidents and injuries entirely, but you can reduce their effects and avoid the need for serious treatment by making sure you're prepared. This means:
- maintaining good oral hygiene for strong and healthy teeth
- wearing a custom mouthguard during contact sports and other risky activities
- avoiding very hard foods that can chip or crack teeth, fillings and veneers
- not using your teeth as tools for opening packaging or other purposes
- choosing a reputable dentist for treatments
- visiting the dentist for regular check-ups to catch and treat problems before they develop
Need an emergency dentist in Brisbane?
If you need to speak to a dentist urgently, call our team at Face Value Dental on (07) 3221 0677.
We'll ask about your situation and can arrange a same day appointment during office hours if needed. Our dental clinics in Brisbane are open from 8:00am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday (until 8:00pm Tuesday and Thursday).
We can also give you advice over the phone about what to do in a dental emergency before you see a dentist to improve your chances of a fast and full recovery.
For less urgent cases, we will see you as soon as possible or you can book online. We have 5 convenient locations in Adelaide Street, Albert Street, Helensvale, Toowong and Albany Creek.
Queensland Government. Emergency dental [Online] 2015 [Accessed December 2021] Available from: https://www.qld.gov.au/health/services/oral-eye-ear/emergency-dental