Dental emergencies happen, and we are here to help if you are in need of treatment for an emergency. Our office is open weekends and late hours during the week to help accommodate your work schedule.
What constitutes a dental emergency?
- Dental Abscess
- A dental abscess occurs when a tooth has become infected. Typically, a cavity on the tooth precedes the infection. As the cavity becomes larger, the inner portion of your tooth will become exposed (otherwise known as the dental pulp) and bacteria will invade the inside of your tooth. Your bodies response to this bacteria is to send in white blood cells and other immune factors in order to combat the bacteria. This area of infection is known as an abscess, and is characterized by swelling, pain, and tenderness. Dental abscesses typically form directly over the gums of the infected tooth. In some cases, due to the size of the abscess, incision and drainage may be necessary in order to mitigate some of the swelling of the abscess prior to any definitive treatment. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to minimize some of the swelling, but antibiotics are typically not considered definitive treatment and you will need to ensure that you address the primary source of the infection. If the dental abscess is occurring from an infected tooth, definitive treatment usually consists of a root canal (and usually a crown) or an extraction.
- Intraoral (inside the mouth) trauma is another common cause for a dental emergency. Whether it be from a fall or a sports injury, trauma to the face and mouth may require urgent attention. Soft tissue trauma of the gums, tongue, or lip may require sutures and disinfectant depending on the severity. Trauma of the teeth may present as either an avulsed tooth (a tooth that has been knocked out of the mouth completely) or a chipped or damage tooth in the mouth. In the event that a tooth is avulsed, you need to immediately contact your dentist as time is of the essence in potentially saving the tooth. If you are able to retrieve the tooth, pick it up by the crown (the portion of the tooth that you can visibly see in the mouth), and do your best not to touch the root of the tooth. Place the tooth in a cup filled with a small amount of milk or of your own saliva and immediately call your dentist to be seen for treatment. The longer the tooth has been out of the mouth, the less likely it can be saved. In the event the tooth has not suffered irreparable trauma, your dentist may be able to “replant” the tooth back in the socket and splint it in order to stabilize it in place. This is not always the case, and if your dentist deems the tooth as not being able to be saved, you can consider getting an implant, a bridge, or a removable partial denture in order to fill this space with a tooth in the future. In the event that your tooth has been damaged from trauma but has not been avulsed from the socket, you should still see your dentist for emergency treatment and to be evaluated. Treatment for a damaged tooth will vary based on the severity of the damage. If your tooth was chipped but the chip did not expose the nerve of your tooth, you may be able to fix the chip with either a crown or a regular dental filling (a crown will be indicated if the chip is larger vs. a smaller chip which will just require a dental filling). In the event that your nerve was exposed when you chipped your tooth, a root canal or an extraction may be necessary treatment. If you fracture the root of your tooth (typically requires a lot of force and the tooth is usually mobile and will cause intense pain on any pressure) a root canal may not be possible and you will need an extraction.
- Periodontal Abscess
- The word periodontal comes for the ancient greek “perio” which means around, and “dont”, which means tooth. Simply put, your periodontal health is composed of your gums, bone, and all supporting structures that are “around your teeth”. Just like an abscess can form from an infected tooth, lack of adequate dental hygiene can lead to a gum infection as well. Debris that form around your teeth, otherwise known as plaque or calculus, are formed almost entirely of bacteria. Even with proper home care, routine dental cleanings are necessary to adequately remove dental plaque and calculus. The sharp scalers and ultrasonic instruments utilized by dental professionals can remove plaque and calculus that regular brushing cannot. If you allow this bacteria to accumulate an infection can get started. If you have an abscess that your dentist finds is periodontal related, they will likely recommend a deep cleaning (otherwise known as scaling and root planing, this is a fancy word for a cleaning that requires the dentist to go under the gums with their instruments in order to ensure that all of the bacteria is removed). In some cases, antibiotics may also be prescribed in addition to an antimicrobial mouth rinse known as Peridex.
- Dental Pain
- Whether it is due to an abscess, trauma, or undetermined cause, severe dental pain constitutes a dental emergency. In order to identify the source of your pain, a clinical and radiographic exam will be conducted. The clinical exam consists of a dialogue between you and the dentist discussing the origin, intensity, and duration of the pain and the dentist evaluating the area visually. The radiographic exam consists of dental x-rays that allow the dentist to see problematic areas that may not be able to been with the human eye. Once the dentist has determined the cause of your pain, they will present to you your treatment options that will get you back to feeling well again!
If you are in the San Antonio, Texas area and are having a dental emergency, we are here to help! Our office has emergency dentists available in San Antonio, simply contact us today in order to schedule your appointment. We are open on weekends at our San Antonio dental office and will do everything we can to get you in, address your problem, and alleviate your pain!