Emergencies

I am experiencing dental pain. What should I do?

Should I be concerned about a sensitive tooth?

What should I do if my tooth is knocked out?

I have a chipped or broken tooth and/or filling.

Should I go to the hospital?

Prevention of dental injuries


I am experiencing dental pain. What should I do?

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  • Toothache is caused when the nerve of the tooth is irritated or inflamed. Tooth infection, decay, trauma or tooth loss are common causes of dental pain.
  • Call our office to receive expert advice for an interim solution, and schedule an appointment. There is an on-call dentist that can be accessed via the Guelph General Hospital Emergency Department outside of business hours.
  • Water rinses, a cold compress and over-the-counter pain medicine may help to ease symptoms temporarily.
  • Do not apply heat or pain medication directly onto the sore area.
  • Having the problem evaluated and treated by a dentist is the optimal long term solution for your oral and overall health.


Should I be concerned about a sensitive tooth?

  • Tooth sensitivity can occur when the protective enamel on the tooth is broken or worn, or when receding gums or gum disease exposes dentin at the roots.
  • Dentin is the inner core of the tooth under the tooth’s enamel layer. Dentin also forms the part of the tooth below the gums, on the tooth root surface. Dentin is much softer than enamel, and contains tubules which communicate with the tooth’s nerve.
  • When the dentin is exposed to extreme temperatures, acidic foods/beverages, or becomes infected with bacteria (decay), the tooth may experience pain.
  • Tooth sensitivity can be caused by: tooth decay or injury, gum disease and recession, tooth grinding/clenching.
  • By discussing tooth sensitivity with your dentist, you can learn about treatment options so you can enjoy your favorite foods and beverages!


What should I do if my tooth is knocked out?

  • Adult tooth: Rinse the tooth gently in cool water (do NOT scrub the tooth). Carefully replace the tooth in the socket immediately and stabilize it with clean gauze or a soft wash cloth. Try not to handle the tooth root, hold the tooth by the crown portion.
  • If the tooth does not go easily into the socket, store the tooth in a clean container with cold milk, saliva or water. It is critical for tooth survival to see a dentist as soon as possible.

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  • Baby tooth: Do not try to replace the tooth as it could damage the developing adult tooth.
  • If there is bleeding from the tooth socket, bite down on gauze or clean tissue for 10-15 minutes with firm pressure.
  • In either scenario, contact our office for further instructions and to schedule an appointment.


I have a chipped or broken tooth and/or filling.

  • It’s a good idea to make an appointment at the time of injury. Prompt treatment can preserve tooth health, prevent infection and reduce the need for invasive dental treatment.
  • Use water rinses to prevent food impaction.
  • Apply cold compresses if there is swelling or injury to the soft tissues.
  • If you are able to locate the fractured tooth fragment(s), immerse it in cold milk, saliva or water and bring it to the appointment.


Should I go to the hospital?

Some dental emergencies require urgent care in a hospital setting. This intervention can be life-saving, so if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, attend the nearest hospital Emergency Department.

A dental infection in association with:

  • Shortness of breath or restricted breathing
  • Fever over 38 C
  • Severe facial swelling
  • Significant restriction in jaw mobility or difficulty swallowing
  • Changes in voice (hoarseness or deepening vocal tone)

Dental trauma in association with:

  • Suspicion of jaw fracture, jaw dislocation
  • Serious lacerations of the soft tissue and mouth
  • Any signs of concussion (i.e. headache, dizziness, disorientation, nausea etc.).
  • Note signs of concussion may delayed in onset. The patient should be closely monitored for subtle signs of concussion after the accident.


Prevention of dental injuries

  1. Reduce risk for oral injury in sports by wearing protective gear, including a properly fitting sports mouth guard.custom_mouthguard_large
    • A mouth guard protects the teeth, jaws, neck and prevents concussive injuries.
    • Not all mouth guards are created equal. Some mouth guards available from sporting goods stores are bulky, impede talking and breathing, and may not provide optimal prevention.
    • We fabricate custom-fitted sports mouth guards at our office. They offer a better fit and improved protection from injuries. Inquire for details!
  2. Common sense is best when using your teeth.
    • Do not chew hard objects that can fracture your teeth or fillings (i.e. ice, popcorn kernels, hard candy, fingernails).
    • Use scissors to cut tape, threads or to open packaging (not your teeth).
    • If you cannot easily remove an object caught in between your teeth with floss, make a dental appointment. Use of sharp instruments may scratch the tooth enamel.
  3. Always use a car seat for young children and ensure all passengers are wearing seatbelts.
  4. Childproof your home to prevent falls and electrical injuries. Make sure your baby does not chew on items that will injure his or her new teeth.
  5. Regular dental check-ups are a great opportunity to discuss additional ways to prevent dental injuries and other emergencies.

*Sections adapted from Emergency Care. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry; Dental Safety and Emergencies. CDA.