Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Emergency Dentistry

How can we help you?

We want to make it easy for you to become an informed participant in your oral health care. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to help you feel comfortable asking us whenever you have a question. No question is ever silly, and we are here to help you with any concern you happen to have. 

We've gathered some of our most commonly heard questions here for you to look through. If your question isn't answered here or you'd like more information, don't hesitate to give us a call!

Emergency Dentistry

Dental emergencies involving extreme pain or swelling should be treated as quickly as possible.  During our business hours Monday-Thursday, please call the office and we can typically see you quickly depending on your situation.  For after-hours emergencies, you can obtain the contact information for the emergency line by calling our office and listening to the message.    If it is not a true emergency, we will always respond to messages the next business day at 8am.

Things that can be done at home to help you:

Severe face or head trauma- Do not call our office.  Call 911 or head directly to the Emergency Room.

Severe Pain/Toothache – A toothache can start at any time and become extremely painful.  If the pain is mild to moderate, over-the-counter pain medication can be used to alleviate the discomfort until you can get in to see us.  If the pain is extreme, call us immediately. 

Swelling- This typically indicates an infection, and you should call for an appointment.  Ice packs (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off) placed over the area of swelling can sometimes help reduce pain.

Tooth knocked outNote: If there is a suspected concussion, the patient should head to the ER first, the dentist second.  Teeth can become avulsed (knocked out) from intense trauma to the mouth such as a punch, a fall, or a sports injury.  The tooth should NOT be cleaned or rinsed with water, as this can ruin the ligaments on the tooth.  The tooth can be placed in a special vial of liquid that sports trainers often have on hand called Save-a-Tooth.  If this is not available, place the tooth in a container of milk.  If that is not  available, the patient can place the tooth in their mouth, holding it inside of their cheek (saliva and/or blood are ok and will not harm the tooth).  Call our office or the emergency line immediately.  The tooth or teeth will need to be re-implanted in the gums as quickly as possible.

Crown (Cap) came off – This is not a true dental emergency, unless it is a front tooth and it creates a major esthetic issue!  In many cases, a loose crown can be recemented at our office.  Some patients do place the crown back on their tooth while waiting for their appointment, either with over the counter temporary cements (this can be difficult to do properly) or simply just pressing it into place.  If the crown is at all loose, do not leave it in your mouth since there is a risk of swallowing it. 

Lost filling – In the absence of pain, this is not a true emergency unless it is on a front tooth, and is deemed an “esthetic emergency.”

Front teeth, or incisors, are responsible for biting into foods.  The relatively narrow edges of these teeth make it easy to bite into a sandwich, but also make them prone to chips and cracks.  It is very common to see the corner or edge of an incisors chip.  Most of the time if the chip is small, it can be repaired with a composite filling, which is tooth-colored and seamlessly blends with the rest of the tooth for a highly esthetic repair.  If the chip is extremely small, sometimes the edge can be polished smooth and nothing else needs to be done.  If the chip or fracture is too large for a filling, a crown or veneer may be recommended to provide a long-lasting, esthetic result.  Even if your tooth requires a crown or veneer, we can often temporarily bond the tooth if an important event is approaching soon!  Dr. Wahlers will discuss all of your options with you at your appointment.

A truly severe toothache is debilitating.  The pain can become so intense that it is hard to focus on anything else.  Hopefully, you will call us at the first sign of tooth pain, when the problem is likely less severe.  But sometimes a toothache can seemingly come out of nowhere, either due to an abscess or severe nerve (pulpal) inflammation.  In either case, call the office or the emergency line right away (the number is mentioned in our after-hours voicemail when you call).  We will either give you an appointment as soon as we can, or have you see a local specialist depending upon the issue.  

Over-the-counter ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help reduce pain somewhat.  If you are unsure if you can take these medications, we can discuss it when you call, or you can always ask your pharmacist.   Additionally heat or ice packs can often help reduce the pain (try both- every toothache is different).   Lastly, sleeping upright in a recliner or propped up on pillows sometimes helps reduce the pressure that can intensify when lying flat.

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Coronavirus Update: A Message to our Patients 

We are currently open (starting in June) for dentistry once again, with some modifications to our practice.  Please visit the link above or feel free to email us at [email protected] with any questions.