Mouthing Off: Seeing an Emergency Dentist
While we often ignore our oral health, sometimes that's no longer an option. Whether you chip a tooth at home and can't get a quick enough appointment with your regular dentist, or you are away on vacation with chronic tooth pain, there may come a time when you need to visit an emergency dentist. But what's the procedure for doing so, and how do you know whether it's worth making a visit? Should you hold off until you can see your regular practitioner? Here's everything you need to know.
Where should I go?
It's important not to assume that your regular dentist will be available for emergency work, especially outside of regular working hours. Check that the place you'll be visiting specifically advertises itself as an emergency or 24-hour practice. As a starting point, many states keep a list of emergency practices on their official government websites under 'Health', so be sure to check yours to see a list of recommended practices. If all else fails, however, you can also visit regular hospital emergency rooms for dental care. It's just preferable to see a specialist if at all possible.
What should I do?
You can help some dental emergencies yourself at home. For example, if your mouth has swollen, it won't hurt to hold a covered ice pack against it before you see the dentist. Most importantly, if your tooth is knocked out, it's important to clean it and return it to the mouth as soon as possible. Hold the tooth in place until you see your dentist, and this will help encourage the healing process, perhaps enabling the tooth to be replaced. It also prevents the tooth from drying out, which is absolutely vital if it's to be reinserted.
What qualifies as an emergency?
Judge this as you would any other personal injury; a dental problem can be just as significant and serious. Severe pain should likely be considered an emergency, especially if it persists. Breakages, major chips and knocked out teeth would be considered emergencies. Minor chips, with no severe pain or associated tissue damage, may be considered less of a priority. However, if in doubt, be sure to go and seek assistance from a dentist. Your instincts may well be right.
Will I have to pay?
Emergency dental work operates under the same system as regular dental work. As such, unless you are eligible for publicly funded dental care, you will need to be ready to pay for your treatment. For more information and to check your eligibility, visit your state's official government website.