When to See An Emergency Dentist vs. Going to the ER
Accidents and dental emergencies are an unfortunate reality. When a dental emergency occurs, people often wonder the best way to get appropriate care. Going to an emergency room may be a person’s first instinct, but that isn’t always the best option. An emergency dentist may be better prepared to handle issues affecting the teeth.
At Fairfax Family Dental, in Fairfax, VA, we have an emergency dentist ready to respond to dental traumas at all times. Here, we offer some general guidelines regarding when to see an emergency dentist vs. going to the ER so that patients can be sure they are getting the right care for their unique situation.
What Types of Trauma Can an Emergency Dentist Handle?
An emergency dentist is equipped to handle trauma or emergencies that directly affect the teeth or other oral tissues. Some of the most common dental emergencies that can be treated at our Fairfax practice include:
- Sudden or severe toothache or oral pain
- Severe inflammation of the gums or other oral tissues
- Cracked, chipped, or broken tooth
- Damaged dental work (i.e. a broken, loose, or missing dental crown)
- Tooth loss
A dental office is often better prepared than a general emergency room to treat dental traumas such as these, because they have all the equipment and supplies to provide fast and immediate treatment. An emergency dentist can provide x-rays and other diagnostic tests, and are prepared to provide temporary or permanent dental restorations to repair dental damage, restore oral functions, and alleviate pain.
When Do I Need to Go to the ER?
While most dental emergencies should be treated by an emergency dentist, there are times that it may be necessary to go to a general emergency room. Usually, it is best to go to an emergency room if there are injuries or damages that extend beyond the teeth, gums, or jaw. This includes instances when there has been trauma to the head (which may result in a concussion), or when there are lacerations or other obvious injuries. Even if injuries are localized to the mouth and jaw, it is good to go to the ER if injuries are severe, such as if someone suspects that their jaw bone or other facial bones are broken.
Handling a Dental Emergency
Whether a dental emergency requires care by an emergency dentist or the ER, there are steps that injury victims can take to increase the likelihood that the natural teeth can be saved, or that dental emergencies can be effectively treated. We recommend that our Fairfax patients take these steps in the event of a dental trauma:
- Take over-the-counter pain medication to minimize oral pain
- For oral injuries, rinse the mouth with warm salt water and apply gauze to the damaged area
- Apply ice packs to the outer cheeks to minimize inflammation that is present
- If a tooth falls out, place it back in its tooth socket, if possible (avoid touching the tooth roots)
- If a lost tooth cannot be replaced, keep it in a cup of milk and bring it to your dental appointment, if possible
At Fairfax Family Dental, we are prepared to handle a wide range of dental emergencies. If you need to schedule an appointment with our emergency dentist, or would like more information about our dental services, call our office at (703) 385-0303 or send us a message at your earliest convenience.