As a local emergency dentist for Collingwood and surrounding suburbs, Stanley St. Dental knows how to navigate dental pain and anxiety. From dental trauma to abscessed teeth, we’ve seen all the blood, sweat and tears of a dental emergency. Because it’s almost never a ‘life-or-death’ situation, there is often confusion surrounding what constitutes a dental emergency. In this blog post, we’ll provide some clarity around the term, as well as advise you on how to manage pain and anxiety in the interim.
What Are the Common Causes of Dental Pain, & How Can Individuals Identify the Severity of Their Dental Issues?
Common causes of dental pain include dental trauma, decay, infection, abscesses and dislodged crowns and fillings. Trauma can manifest as chipped, broken, loose or knocked-out teeth, although loose teeth can also derive from severe infection or periodontitis. If your pain derives from infection, you may also notice swelling or bleeding.
How can individuals differentiate between a regular dental issue and a situation that warrants a visit to an emergency dentist? In a nutshell, if you’re experiencing severe pain, bleeding or swelling, that’s your cue to contact your local emergency dentist. Some emergencies — such as chipped or broken teeth — will be more time-sensitive than others, but for a general rule of thumb, if it’s disrupting your life to the point of distraction, it’s an emergency.
What Self-Care Strategies Can Be Employed at Home To Alleviate Dental Pain & Anxiety While Waiting for an Emergency Dentist Appointment?
If your dental emergency has thrown you for a loop, the first self-care strategy to employ is self-soothing. Though sometimes easier said than done, regulating your breath can help slow down your heartbeat and foster a sense of calm. Isolate your focus to your breath and maintain a slow yet regular rhythm. This will put you in a much more productive position to employ further self-care strategies.
Once you’re feeling calmer, you should take some steps to alleviate the dental emergency in the lead-up to your appointment. Here’s how you can handle each specific emergency.
Just as a heat pack can relieve muscular pain, warm water can work wonders on a toothache. Ensure to rinse your mouth with warm water, as well as floss your teeth — gently — in an effort to remove food particles that may be the cause of pain. Of course, over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can always help. If you choose to use aspirin, avoid placing it on your teeth or gums directly.
2. Broken Tooth
In the case of a broken tooth, we recommend rinsing your mouth with warm water, as well as applying a cold compress to your face. The latter strategy can help reduce swelling. If you can source the pieces of your broken tooth, ensure to bring them with you to your appointment. Of course, if you’re seeing an emergency kids’ dentist and you’re dealing with deciduous teeth, the aforementioned instruction may be less critical.
3. Knocked-Out Tooth
Perhaps the most time-sensitive emergency of all, knocked-out teeth require attention within two hours of the incident. Before attending your appointment, you should locate the knocked-out tooth and rinse it with a gentle stream of water, preserving any attached tissue as best you can.
If you can’t place the tooth back in its socket, store it in a container of milk until you can see the dentist. (Again, in the case of deciduous teeth, pain management may take precedence over preservation, but you should still visit an emergency kids’ dentist to ensure all is well.)
4. Dislodged Crown or Filling
Most of the time, crowns and fillings function to strengthen teeth or protect them from infection. Ergo, if you lose a crown or filling, chances are you’re compromising your tooth’s safety. If you have access to dental cement or sugarless gum, you can use either of these to temporarily protect the exposed tooth or fill the cavity. Even if you don’t experience pain, losing a crown or filling certainly qualifies as a functional dental emergency that requires urgent attention.
5. Abscessed Tooth
An abscessed tooth is a perfect storm of pain, swelling and infection all in one. Because an abscess is often a mark of advanced infection, it’s important to attend to this as soon as possible. In the meantime, we would recommend the same self-care strategies you’d use for a broken tooth: rinsing your mouth with warm water and applying a cold compress to your face. This should reduce pain somewhat and help to manage swelling.
What Techniques & Practices Do Emergency Dentists Use To Address Patient Anxiety & Provide Comfort During Treatment?
If there’s one thing an emergency dentist should understand, it’s that emotions may be running high at appointments. When attending to patients, dentists should prioritise comfort and do what they can to soothe anxiety. Here are some techniques and practices they may use.
1. Empathetic Communication
Establishing open communication and demonstrating empathy is crucial. Dentists take the time to listen to patients’ concerns, explain procedures and address any fears or anxieties. Providing a thorough explanation of the dental procedure, step-by-step, also helps demystify the process. Patients feel more at ease when they understand what to expect during treatment.
2. Pain Management & Sedation
Using effective pain management techniques, such as local anaesthesia, ensures that patients experience minimal pain or discomfort during dental procedures. Some emergency dentists also offer sedation options for patients with heightened anxiety. This can include nitrous oxide (laughing gas), oral sedatives or intravenous (IV) sedation to induce a state of relaxation during the procedure.
3. Intraoral Scanning & Digital Imaging
Modern clinics should have premium technology available, such as intraoral scanners, which are the touch-free equivalent of using dental putty. Using an intraoral scanner, the dentist can receive a digital image of the inside of your mouth and easily diagnose the issue.
For some, seeing the condition of their mouth in image form can alleviate the anxiety. The other advantage of using modern technology is that it streamlines the diagnosis process and reduces the need for explanations on the patient’s part.
Are There Post-Treatment Recommendations for Patients To Manage Any Residual Discomfort or Anxiety After They Visit an Emergency Dentist?
Yes, emergency dentists often provide post-treatment recommendations and advice to help patients manage any residual discomfort and alleviate anxiety after their visit. Here are common post-treatment recommendations:
1. Medication & Pain Management
If the dentist prescribes medications such as pain relievers or antibiotics, they will provide clear instructions on how to take them. Dentists may also provide additional pain management strategies, such as over-the-counter pain relievers or topical analgesics, to help patients manage any residual discomfort. Patients should follow the recommended dosage and complete the prescribed course.
2. Use a Cold Compress
If there is swelling or inflammation, applying a cold compress to the affected area in intervals can help reduce discomfort and minimise swelling. Dentists may recommend using an ice pack wrapped in a cloth.
3. Oral Care
Dentists provide specific oral care instructions to promote healing and prevent complications. This may include guidance on how to clean the treated area, recommendations for using a soft toothbrush, and any restrictions on certain activities or foods. As a general rule, post-emergency patients should avoid hot or spicy foods, acidic beverages, or hard and crunchy snacks.
4. Rest & Recovery
Patients should rest and allow their bodies to recover after dental procedures. Avoiding strenuous activities and getting adequate sleep can contribute to a faster healing process.
Get Emergency Dental Care at Stanley St. Dental
At Stanley St. Dental, we understand that dental emergencies can strike at any time and that they require immediate attention. That’s why we pride ourselves on being your local emergency dentist. If you have any of the issues detailed in this blog post or require an emergency dentist for something else — such as root canal treatment — call our front desk on (03) 9042 6001 at any time between 8am and 5pm and let our receptionist know it’s an emergency.
Alternatively, you can book an appointment online via our website. Whether you live in Collingwood, close by or wish to trek from further afield, drop into Stanley St. Dental and you’ll be in the best, safest and gentlest hands imaginable. Let’s work together to nip that dental emergency in the bud!