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10 Signs You Need Emergency Dental Care

Tuesday - September 20th, 2022
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We all have aches and pains from time to time, but how do you know when your toothache or the pain in your mouth is something more and needs immediate treatment?

A dental emergency consists of any dental health concern that involves bleeding, severe pain, infection, or a tooth that’s at risk of falling out. However, unless you know exactly what to look for, it can be hard to tell if you need emergency dental care.

Here are 10 signs that your toothache requires immediate emergency dental treatment:

1) You have a loose tooth.

Adults with good oral health should never experience loose or wiggly teeth. Healthy mature teeth that have erupted properly and are structurally sound allow you to eat and speak normally. If you’ve noticed a tooth is starting to feel loose or wiggly in its socket, there could be a few things going on.

You may have sustained a tooth injury, such as from a sports injury or car accident, that has damaged the tooth or your jaw and loosened the tooth from its secure socket.

You have a severe localized infection, such as from gum disease or untreated cavities, that has deteriorated or weakened the nerves and tissue surrounding your tooth, allowing it to wiggle.

Whatever the reason for your loose tooth, it will not resolve on its own. You should seek emergency dental care as soon as possible. A dentist can perform an exam and x-ray to determine the cause of your loose tooth and the appropriate treatment. If not addressed, the tooth will only continue to get looser, eventually resulting in infection, tooth loss, and/or tooth extraction.

2) You have a severe toothache.

Mild to moderate tooth pain that only occurs occasionally is usually not an emergency, but it should be looked at by a dentist at your next appointment. A persistent toothache that lasts more than 1-2 days, wakes you up at night, and is accompanied by severe pain and discomfort, difficulty swallowing or breathing, and/or fever is cause for concern. This may indicate that you have substantial damage from an untreated cavity or an infected tooth, both of which require immediate professional dental care. 

You should also seek emergency care for a toothache if you notice swelling that spreads to other parts of your face, such as your eye or below your jaw, or if you have bleeding that doesn’t stop or slow with pressure.

3) Your gums are bleeding and in pain.

Gums that are swollen or bleed when brushing or flossing can be signs of early gingivitis or gum disease. While this isn’t an emergency, it is an important health condition that needs treatment as soon as possible. If your gums are bleeding as a result of oral trauma or lacerations, you need emergency dental care, especially if you are having trouble stopping the bleeding. You should also see a dentist as soon as possible if you begin to notice an increase in the amount and frequency of bleeding from your gums, as this could also be a sign of a bigger health concern.

If your gum pain cannot be managed with over-the-counter pain medication and is accompanied by chills, vomiting, swelling, or a fever, you may have a more serious infection, such as a dental abscess, and should seek emergency dental care.

4) You have a swollen jaw.

Swelling of the jaw–especially if you have not recently had any dental procedures–can indicate a serious sign of infection, such as infection of the salivary glands. If you are experiencing a swollen jaw coupled with a bad taste in your mouth, fever, and have trouble breathing or swallowing, seek emergency dental care immediately.

A salivary gland infection is a bacterial infection caused by a blockage in your salivary glands. This blockage can prevent your saliva from doing its job, which is to help break down food so you can eat and swallow properly and to wash out bacteria from your mouth. While this type of infection is uncommon, it is serious, and you should be examined by a dentist as soon as possible.

5) You have a dental abscess.

A dental abscess, or abscessed tooth, is a painful infection that develops at the root of your tooth. A dental abscess is usually caused by severe gum disease or a cavity that has gone untreated, but it can also develop as a result of trauma or damage to your tooth, such as a break or a chip. 

An abscessed tooth will not heal on its own and requires professional dental treatment like a root canal. Otherwise, the infection will spread to the gums and jaw, and the tooth will continue to decay and deteriorate and eventually either fall out or need to be extracted.

Symptoms of a dental abscess can range from a fever or a foul taste in your mouth to pus and swollen glands along your gum line. You should take these symptoms seriously and seek emergency dental care to make sure the infection is properly drained and treated.

6) You have a canker sore that won’t go away.

Canker sores are small white mouth ulcers that develop on the soft tissues of your mouth, including your cheeks, gums, and tongue. Though painful, they are fairly common and usually go away within a week or two.

However, you should be concerned about your canker sore if it:

These could be signs of a larger health issue, such as an infection or a chronic condition that is affecting your immune system.

7) You have constant headaches.

Chronic headaches–or even the sensation of “pain in the head”–that are accompanied by a toothache, sore jaw muscles, pain behind your eyes, or a jaw that pops and clicks could be caused by dental issues. Pain from an infection, damaged tooth, muscle overwork from bruxism (teeth grinding), or a misaligned bite can cause nerve and muscle tension in your shoulders, neck, and jaw that lead to severe headaches. If your normal over-the-counter pain relief isn’t taking care of your headache, then it may be dental-related, and you should seek professional dental care as soon as possible.

8) You have a numb tooth.

If you had been experiencing tooth pain and then suddenly feel nothing at all in that tooth, it could be a sign that an infection has spread to the root of the tooth. An abscess may have reached your root where your nerves are, damaging or destroying them so that you no longer feel the pain of the infection. You should seek emergency dental care–likely a root canal–before the condition worsens.

9) You have constant and persistent fatigue.

Most people are tired from a busy schedule, but constant fatigue and exhaustion may be a sign that your body is fighting off an oral infection. It could also be a sign of bruxism or sleep apnea (oral health conditions that can impair your sleep).

10) Your mouth tastes like metal.

Noticing a metallic taste in your mouth could be a sign that an existing filling has cracked or become loose. Fillings are not permanent restorations, so it is fairly common for them to fail or fall out at some point. However, they should be replaced as soon as possible to prevent bacteria from causing a cavity or infection.

Still not sure if you should visit an emergency dentist? Here’s more information on the difference between a dental emergency and an urgent dental injury.

Should you go to the ER for tooth pain?

Yes, if you are in severe pain and cannot find an open dental office, it’s important to visit an ER or urgent care clinic. They can help you temporarily relieve your pain and provide you medication should you be diagnosed with an infection. Next, you should book an appointment with a dentist office after your visit since they are the experts when it comes to addressing any concerns related to your teeth and mouth. At Bright Now! Dental, many of our offices offer emergency dental services so find the closest office near you.

Affordable Emergency Dental Care from Bright Now! Dental

No one plans for dental emergencies, but when they happen, you want the best care as soon as possible. Bright Now! Dental accepts call-ahead and walk-in emergencies at many of our locations and depending on the type and extent of your injury, we can get started on your treatment right away or schedule you for immediate care. Whether you’re a new, existing, or walk-in patient, with or without insurance, you’ll receive the same exceptional emergency dental care at an affordable price. Find the Bright Now! Dental location nearest you and ask about our emergency dental care services!