Dental Emergency FAQ's

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What do I do in a dental emergency?
First, call your dentist. If he can't be reached and it is a true emergency, go to the nearest emergency room. The doctors in most ER's can stop bleeding, treat allergic reactions, and prescribe pain medications and antibiotics until you can receive regular dental care.

What is considered a true emergency?
Usually life threatening conditions like allergic reactions, uncontrolled bleeding, severe swelling. Severe pain that is uncontrolled with over the counter medications or fever or increasing facial swelling needs to treated with prescription drugs right away.

If my over the counter pain pills don't work, why shouldn't I just double the dose?
Never exceed the dosage on any medication, prescription or over the counter. Patients frequently take too much acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and other pain meds, thinking if two don't work, maybe four will. Read the label on any medication before taking it. Overdosing aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.) can lead to internal bleeding, ulcers, and kidney failure, and death. Acetaminophen overdosing is the number one cause of liver failure and liver transplants in the US.

What if my permanent tooth is knocked out?
First, if a tooth is completely knocked out, place it in a closed container of milk. If none is available, wrap it in a moist wash cloth or gauze and DO NOT CLEAN OR SCRUB IT. Go immediately to the ER or call your dentist. The tooth needs to be replaced ASAP. The first 30 minutes to one hour are critical for a successful re-implantation. This is not recommended on baby teeth, but the child may need to be seen anyway.

What if my infant has a dental emergency?
Call your dentist, but in an urgent emergency, Cincinnati Children's Hospital has 24 hour dental residents on call.

I have a toothache and my face is swollen, but I want to wait and see if it gets better.
This is serious situation that needs attention. Antibiotics and pain meds are needed and you should see a dentist ASAP. Do not put it off. Most toothaches progress quickly and you may end up with a much more serious situation than if you had sought care earlier. Do not put heat on a swollen face- it will only swell more. Ambisol and Ora-gel may help a little, but it is only temporary relief.

What if I broke a tooth?
If the tooth is broken and not loose, check if you see a spot that bleeds in the center. If so, the nerve may be exposed and it may need a root canal. If it is just fractured and sensitive to cold, sweets, air, etc. but not severely so, keep cold away from it and avoid chewing on it until you can seek dental care.