Dental Emergency: When you experience trauma to your teeth and supporting tissues it is important to act accordingly to avoid long term consequences to your teeth and the supporting tissues. The amount of damage that occurs varies from as little as a chipped tooth to enough force to actually knock the tooth out of the socket!
Here are some information on what to expect in these situations:
1. Chipped Tooth:
When your tooth chips due to trauma the amount of sensitivity may depend on the depth of the chip. If the chip is within the enamel, the outermost layer of the tooth, you are unlikely to feel sensitivity to cold foods, but you may still be sensitive to touch due to the trauma experienced and may feel a sharp edge. If the chip if deeper into the second layer of the tooth, the dentin layer, you can expect to feel sensitivity to cold and/or hot foods in addition to touch. In these cases, we recommend a filling or a crown depending on the size of the chip. This tooth may darken in color over time and this is normal due to the trauma experienced. If the tooth develops an abscess or the pain does not subside, you may require a root canal on this tooth to remove the damaged nerve.
2. Exposed Nerve:
If the chip is quite large you may go beyond the dentin layer and expose the nerve within the tooth. This can be very painful, as the nerve does not have any insulation around it. You will feel pain upon temperature changes and if anything touches the tooth in the area of the exposure. Such an exposure of the nerve will result in the need to remove the nerve through a process called a root canal because the nerve has been exposed to the oral environment. We recommend getting a crown in these cases to prolong the life of the tooth.
3. Loose Tooth:
The tooth may appear longer if pushed forward or shorter if pushed backwards. The sooner that the dentist can reposition and splint the tooth, the easier the correction will be. When we splint your teeth together we are trying to to stop these damaged teeth from experiencing pressure and movement during the healing phase. The dentist will reassess these teeth after a period of time, depending on the amount of trauma experienced. This type of trauma can also cause nerve damage leading to need for a root canal as well.
4. Dental Avulsion:
If a tooth is knocked out of the socket it is important to first and foremost care of the individual that has experienced trauma. It is important to note that the tooth has live cells on the outside of the root. These are very important when it comes to replanting the tooth into the socket. You want to avoid touching the root surface if possible to keep the surface clean. If it is dirty then gently wipe the tooth clean and rinse with clean water or milk. Try to replant the tooth within the socket to the original position as close as possible before seeing your dentist. Otherwise, place it in a clean container filled with milk. This is the best way to transport your tooth on your way to your dentist office and they will replant the tooth for you if possible.
The longer the tooth is out of the socket the lower the prognosis for the tooth; ideally the tooth should be replanted within one hour of trauma. The long term goal is for the tooth to make a healthy connection with the supporting bone and gums. Since the tooth has been severed from the blood and nerve supply it will require a root canal to remove the remaining severed nerve tissue. It is key to note that we only replant adult teeth, not primary teeth.
When experiencing a dental emergency, you should definitely make an appointment as soon as possible. Here are some things to do immediately upon experience an emergency dental situation:
- Apply ice to the area to minimize pain and swelling in addition to avoiding the area to allow it to heal
- Keeping the area clean with salt water rinses will help to minimize chances of infection and speed up the healing process as well
- Make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible; x-rays and an exam will will allow the dentist to assess the potential damage to the tooth and supporting tissues.
As well, click to learn about how to handle a dental emergency situation.