If you experience a dental emergency, be sure to call our practice as soon as possible.
We try to see emergency patients promptly. If you need immediate attention after hours, call the number given to you by our dentists or the Hamilton Dental Association emergency service (telephone number in our after hours phone message).
Fortunately, most dental emergencies are not life threatening, and with some advice you can handle the situation until you can see your dentist.
IMPORTANT: In cases where you have uncontrolled bleeding, you feel you are not able to swallow, you are having trouble breathing, or you have a swelling on your face that is affecting your eyes, make sure you make your way to an emergency room or call 911 if you cannot reach your dentist or an after hours dental service.
What are examples of dental emergencies?
- A bitten lip or tongue
- Swollen face
- Broken or cracked tooth/teeth
- Broken jaw
- Permanent tooth that has been knocked out
- Object caught between teeth
- Severe toothache
What are the symptoms of a possible life threatening dental emergency?
- Bleeding that will not stop, even after putting continuous pressure on the wound for 30 minutes
- Difficulty opening the mouth
- Swelling that is growing rapidly (getting larger or spreading within hours)
- Swelling of the face that is causing the eyelid to feel swollen or eyelid to feel like it is closing
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Severe fever that won’t come down
- Swollen tongue or floor of the mouth that is causing difficulty breathing and/or swallowing
- Swelling of the face that has crossed the midline: eg. swelling starts on the left side of the jaw and now it’s affecting the chin and the right side of the jaw
- Generally feel unwell (in addition to other symptoms on this list)
What do I do if my child’s adult tooth gets knocked out?
Avulsed teeth (teeth that fall out of the jaw completely) are one of the most alarming emergencies for a parent. This is not very common, but if it does happen, here are some tips to help your child have the best chance at keeping their adult tooth:
- Only pick up the tooth by the crown of the tooth, not the root (crown: the portion of the tooth that you normally see outside of the gums); the main reason for this is that you want to leave the root surface intact so as to not damage the cells since they are key to helping the tooth reattach to the bone and gums
- Gently remove any gross debris off the root; do not worry about getting it too clean and definitely DO NOT scrape the root or scrub it or wash it
- Try to place the tooth back into the child’s mouth into the socket (hole the tooth came out off) in the right position; push it until it is levelled with the other teeth or appears to be in its original spot; keep pressure on it using your fingers, or by getting the child to gently bite onto gauze or a cloth
- If you cannot do this, place the tooth into your mouth and hold it there as the saliva will keep it biologically sound longer than if it’s dry (you can also place the tooth in milk or in saline, though saliva is best)
- No matter what, call your dentist or emergency dental service right away; the sooner that tooth can be put back into place, the better chance it has to survive (best is within 30 minutes, though it may still be alright within 1 – 2 hours); and if the tooth is back in place, your dentist will be able to stabilize its position and take x-rays to assess for any other conditions, such as possible bone fractures
- Make sure your child’s tetanus shot is up to date, especially if the accident occurred outdoors
I have a terrible toothache. What do I do?
Toothaches have been described by some as the worst pain, only second to ear aches. A toothache can be very debilitating and affect your ability to work, sleep, or even just be! Call our office right away and we will make time to see you. If the toothache occurs after hours and you are not able to go to an emergency dental clinic, then you can try to manage the pain at home by following these tips:
- Take pain medication of your choice, though a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) like Ibuprofen (eg. Advil) works best for toothaches since not only does it reduce the pain, it also decreases inflammation which tends to be the reason for toothaches; Tylenol can work for some, and if you are allergic to aspirin, or for some reason cannot take NSAIDs (eg. ulcers, bleeding problems, kidney issues), tylenol is your safest bet; for pregnant women, Tylenol is probably the only thing you can take (please check with your doctor)
- Try applying ice to the side of the face where the aching tooth is
- Some find relief in using topical numbing creams from the drug store; this might not do much for the tooth pain itself but might relieve gum pain and if you are desperate it is worth a try since your toothache may also be partly due to inflammed gum tissue
- Do NOT place an aspirin on the tooth directly – this is an old wives’ tale and all it does is kill off your gum tissue
- Try to brush and floss and rinse with warm salt water – keep your mouth as clean as you can so that you don’t have to worry about other areas of your mouth hurting because there is food that has been forgotten
- Try to sleep and know that even at its worst, toothaches don’t last longer than a few days and you will be able to get dental care much sooner than that
- Try to minimize your risk of having toothaches by getting regular check ups and cleaning