You always hope it won’t ever come to it, but sometimes an emergency dental appointment is essential. Virginia H. Ellis, DDS, of Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. in Orinda, California, is a qualified emergency dentist who can help resolve a wide range of serious and time-sensitive dental problems. Here’s what you need to know about when emergency dentistry is necessary.

What constitutes a dental emergency?

Generally, any problem that requires prompt or immediate attention is considered a dental emergency, no matter the cause. While a toothache might not seem as serious to you as a knocked-out tooth, if you’re experiencing intense pain, it’s often a warning sign of deep decay or an underlying infection.

If you don’t treat the problem quickly, it could put your entire oral health at risk. When in doubt, call the office or come in as soon as possible. Here are some situations that constitute a dental emergency:

Loose tooth or facial trauma

Loose teeth are common, and in adults, they usually result either from traumatic impact injuries, such as a car accident or a hard blow during contact sports, or from periodontal disease. In children, they most often occur while playing sports.

You can try to gently push the loose tooth back into its socket, but touch the tooth as little as possible, and don’t touch the root, as you can damage it further. Give the office a call and let us know you’re on your way. Even if you think your tooth can’t be saved, don’t try to pull it yourself, as this could lead to more pain and possibly an infection.

Dr. Ellis can treat a tooth loosened due to injury with a dental splint, which secures the tooth by holding it against surrounding, sturdy teeth. This allows the tooth to heal and anchor itself back in its socket. If the tooth is beyond repair, she may send you to an oral surgeon for an extraction.

If the loose tooth is caused by periodontal disease, Dr. Ellis can perform a deep cleaning known as scaling and root planing. This treatment removes the plaque and tartar below the gumline and reduces gum inflammation. Then, as the gum tissue heals, the tooth becomes more secure.

Knocked-out permanent tooth

Like a loose tooth, if you knock out a permanent tooth, it’s a dental emergency. In fact, you need to get in to see Dr. Ellis within 30-60 minutes of the injury to save your tooth. While you may be able to save your tooth if you come in later than this, your chances will decrease the longer it’s not treated.

For a knocked-out tooth, do the following:

  1. Pick up the tooth by the crown, which is the part that’s visible above the gumline
  2. Rinse the tooth gently to clean off debris, but don’t scrub or remove any attached tissue
  3. Slide the tooth back in its socket if you can, and bite down on gauze to hold it in place
  4. If it won’t go into the socket, hold the tooth between your cheek and gum, or put in a small container of milk
  5. Call Dr. Ellis to let her know you’re on your way

Bleeding gums or cheeks

Any type of injury inside the mouth — puncture wounds or deep cuts on the lips, cheeks, mouth, or tongue — is a dental emergency. Clean the area immediately with warm water, and if the tongue is bleeding, use gauze to put pressure on the wound.

Then call Dr. Ellis to let her know you’re on your way, or go to a hospital emergency room, whichever takes less time.

Abscesses and other oral infections

A severe periodontal infection or an abscess (pus-filled pocket) on a tooth root can be life-threatening and needs immediate attention. Oral infections may not just affect your mouth. They may also affect your overall health, including your heart, immune system, and the fetus if you’re pregnant.

A periodontist handles gum infections, while an endodontist handles root canals and infections of the tooth root. Dr. Ellis can prescribe antibiotics and refer you to the appropriate specialist.

If you have a dental emergency, call (925) 272-2698 to reach the team at Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. For all other dental concerns, book an appointment online or over the phone.