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A guide to Emergency Dentistry

Most of us are used to visiting the dentist every six months or so. If you get into good habits from an early age, going for those routine check-ups just becomes second nature. Thankfully, dental emergencies are few and far between for most us. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare yourself and make sure you’re fully equipped for every eventuality.

This article is a step-by-step look at what you need to know and what you need to do in a dental emergency. It will answer the following questions - What exactly constitutes a dental emergency? What can you do to prepare for them? And what can you do if it actually happens?

The good news is that, if you require some emergency dental work, it won’t only be you who will be fully prepared. Your dentist will make provision for the arrival of emergency cases and ensure that their schedule is flexible enough to deal with unexpected issues. So if something happens, you first port of call should be your dentist. Depending on the severity of your situation, they will usually fit you in for an appointment on the same day.

Most dentists have an emergency out-of-hours contact number, as well as the standard reception number, so it is worth making a note of both of these. Alternatively, if you cannot contact your dentist, you can call NHS Direct who will be able to put you in touch with your nearest emergency dentist.

So now you know who to contact. But what constitutes a dental emergency? Is a lost filling an emergency? Or are we only talking severe trauma and missing teeth?
There are a number of scenarios in which you may feel you need to contact a dentist immediately. Broadly speaking, these can fall into two categories: visible damage to your teeth or the onset of pain which signals underlying causes such as decay.

Visible damage to teeth is a fairly common occurance. Teeth can be chipped, cracked, split, knocked in and knocked out. It can happen while you are playing sport, if you trip and fall over or even if you bite down unexpectedly on something hard and crunchy, like a peanut. Much of the time, there is very little we can do about it and not much we can do to avoid it. File under accidental and contact your dentist.

The second type of dental emergency is when the pain is caused by underlying decay. If you are visiting your dentist regularly, tooth decay should be spotted and treated before it becomes too serious. However, if you have not been visiting your dentist regularly, then tooth decay may take hold and work its way into your tooth. This is normally treated easily with a filling, which will stop the pain. In some cases, however, it may escalate into an abscess, which can create the onset of sudden, unbearable pain that requires immediate dental care.

This is a common situation for people with dental phobia. Their fear of the dentist means that they avoid routine check-ups and try to ignore minor toothaches. The problem is that the underlying causes of the toothache will not go away; so they face more pain and more serious dental work further down the line.

Can you prepare for dental emergencies? It can help to keep a dental first aid kit at home which contains some essentials until you can reach a dentist. Painkillers should obviously be included. You may also want to include some antiseptic mouthwash and cotton wool pads, which can be used to stem bleeding. Finally, don’t forget your sugar free gum. It sounds like strange advice, but it is the perfect thing for plugging the gap if a filling falls out – don’t forget, it’s only a temporary solution though!

And what about that lost filling? Does that really constitute a dental emergency? Toothache can be very painful and disruptive, and it will only get worse. So don’t be afraid to call your dentist and request an emergency appointment. Once your dentist has looked at your tooth, they can decide what needs to be done. If it is an emergency, they may choose to treat you there and then. Alternatively, they can give you a temporary filling and schedule you in for a proper appointment. Either way, it will solve the pain and give you peace of mind.

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