Don’t let a holiday party send you scrambling for an after-hours dental office’s number!
Ever spent a Christmas day frantically trying to find a dentist who would take an emergency call? If so, you know the pain, frustration, and sheer panic a holiday dental emergency can cause. While we do everything possible to see our patients, even if emergencies strike at inopportune moments, it also pays to know how to approach a chipped tooth at home. With the holiday season fast approaching, we’ve put together a primer for patients interested in a little preparation. And if you’ve already broken a tooth and are frantically searching for what to do next, find your emergency below and follow instructions!
Common Causes of Dental Emergencies – What to Avoid
The easiest way to deal with a dental emergency is to avoid it in the first place. While not always possible, there are always ways to lower your risk of chipping a tooth or losing a filling. Keep these tips in mind to keep your mouth whole, happy, and healthy.
The most common dental emergencies include:
- Knocked-out tooth
- Chipped tooth
- Broken tooth
- Filling loss
- Food or object stuck between teeth
- Tooth pain from an untreated cavity
While the prevention tactics for these issues vary, there’s definitely some overlapping, so we’ve presented a group of tooth safety-oriented practices below.
- Protect your teeth when necessary – We don’t want you to constantly wear a mouthguard. But sometimes it’s a good idea to cover up your pearly whites and keep them safe. For example, if you have problems with teeth grinding at night, which may be worse during the holidays because you can be extra stressed, you should wear a night guard. If you play sports or your family gets together for some football after a big holiday meal, keep your teeth safe! Nobody (yourself included) wants to take a trip to the hospital in the middle of a celebratory day.
- Take it easy at the office’s holiday party – Holiday festivities are a lot of fun, but overdoing it with alcohol can lead to unwanted dental disasters. It’s amazing how often a chipped tooth can stem from clinking teeth against a glass or a bottle. Plus, when you’re drinking, you’re not as aware of the way you’re treating your teeth. If you have veneers or Lumineers on front teeth, this is especially good to remember.
- Don’t overdo the sweets & treats – Sugar! Sometimes it feels like it’s the reason for the season. But it shouldn’t overtake your mouth. And if your kids are getting ramped up on sticky candies, try to steer them toward chocolate. It’s better for teeth and melts in the mouth instead of sticking to smiles. Also, try to have sweets with meals instead of as isolated snacks. When snacking, there is less saliva present in the mouth, so acids don’t get rinsed away and teeth are at a higher risk of decay. Why are we talking about sugar as related to holiday dental emergencies? Because you don’t want a big cavity getting in the way on a special day.
- Try to destress – The holidays are supposed to be an occasion when you get a few days off work and spend some you time. But more often than not, they are even more stressful than regular life. Stress is a big problem for your teeth, especially if you have a history of grinding. You don’t want to wake up on Christmas morning with a broken veneer. Take a little time for yourself in the holiday hubbub.
- Schedule dental exams 2x a year – Staying on your recommended exam schedule will help ensure that your teeth stay strong and disease-free during the holiday season. If you have existing dental work, exams are especially important because we can tell when a filling, crown, veneer, or other dental work is nearing the end of its life. Then we can arrange for a replacement on your preferred schedule, as opposed to work breaking and forcing you into the office ASAP.
What to Do with an After-Hours Dental Emergency
First off: don’t suffer in silence. It never hurts to reach out to our office. We have a dentist on call even during the holidays, and if your office is closed for the day, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get help. Call us (don’t submit a contact form – those won’t get to us as quickly) and follow instructions in the recording for what to do in the case of an emergency. We will hopefully be able to help!
If you’re stuck at home or teetering between emergency status and a not-pressing-but-still-uncomfortable problem, find your issue below for some advice on how to proceed. In all cases, see your dentist as soon as possible.
- Broken tooth – Save any pieces of the tooth, if possible. Rinse your mouth with warm water, and also rinse the pieces of the tooth. If there is bleeding, apply gauze for 10 minutes or until any bleeding stops. Apply an ice pack to the area to reduce swelling and pain.
- Chipped tooth – If there is a large piece of tooth that has chipped off, save the piece. Rinse your mouth with warm water. If the chip catches on your tongue or cheek and causes discomfort, apply gauze over it to protect the inside of your mouth.
- Knocked-out tooth – Retrieve the tooth and rinse the root with water gently – don’t scrub it or remove attached tissue. Try to put the tooth back in the socket with it facing the right way, but never force it. If you’re unable to reinsert it, place the tooth in a cup of milk or saltwater. Because knocked out teeth have the greatest chance of being saved when put back within 1 hour, seek care immediately.
- Serious toothache – Rinse your mouth with warm water and brush and floss to ensure there aren’t any painful food particles. Apply an ice pack to the outside of your cheek in the painful area. Take aspirin to help relieve pain.
- Broken filling or lost crown – Save the piece of the restoration. Cover the area with gauze if the broken restoration is catching on your tongue or gums. Slip the crown back onto the tooth if possible but do not glue it down unless you’re using toothpaste or denture adhesive (never use glue).
- Abscess – If you have a painful swelling on your gum just below a tooth, you may have an abscess. Rinse with salt water to help relieve pain and reduce swelling.
How to Skip a Holiday Dental Emergency
As always, use common sense and treat your teeth with respect. If you ever have questions about your home dental care, don’t hesitate to get in touch! We’re here to help before and after the holidays – and during, if one of these emergencies should arise (fingers crossed that won’t be the case).