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Toronto, ON. M6S 4W3
While many people fear the dentist, there are times when it simply cannot be avoided — any fear or anxiety is trumped by a dental emergency, such as a severe toothache, a loose or chipped tooth, bleeding, and other alarming situations.
Even the most anxious and fearful patients know that there are times when you can’t — and shouldn’t — delay seeing an emergency dentist. But when does a toothache or other pain become so severe that you need urgent dental care?
Just a toothache — or should you call your dentist?
The reality is, not all dental concerns require urgent attention. Some issues that occur overnight can wait until the morning when your dentist resumes regular clinic hours. Others — like regular cleaning and checkups — need to be scheduled periodically. But what happens when you encounter a severe oral health problem late at night or over the weekend?
Emergency dentists are no strangers to late-night and weekend calls — after all, there’s no telling when a dental emergency can strike. Emergency dental care responds to urgent and severe issues and prevents you from losing a tooth or suffering from serious oral health complications. Telltale signs of dental emergencies that require urgent care include loose or fallen teeth, severe pain, bleeding in the mouth, and infections.
Signs You Need Emergency Dental Care
Regular visits to your dentist are important for your dental health, but some concerns require the attention of an emergency dentist. The worst thing you can do is delay an urgent visit — and in the process, cause your dental emergency to escalate. Recognize these signs of a dental emergency, and call your dentist right away for urgent treatment:
1. Loose tooth
As children, we weren’t strangers to baby teeth loosening and falling off to make way for permanent teeth. But this shouldn’t happen in adulthood. When it does, get in touch with an emergency dentist — this could follow after a painful injury from playing sports or other accidents that cause trauma to the mouth.
A loose tooth may also indicate a localized infection, which often causes a severe toothache. Beyond treating the loose tooth and investigating its cause, an emergency dentist will also check for signs of nerve or jaw damage resulting from damage to the teeth.
2. Severe toothache
Toothaches are the leading cause of urgent dental care due to the discomfort they pose. While some toothaches are minor and can be treated at home, a severe toothache requires urgent treatment and relief. These are often caused by infections, cavities, and other conditions that impact oral health.
Proper diagnosis is crucial to effective toothache treatment and relief. Call your emergency dentist in case of a severe toothache, mostly when the discomfort does not subside, and if you experience increased sensitivity to temperature or touch.
3. Bleeding gums
Do your gums bleed after you floss? That could indicate gingivitis or gum disease — and not yet an emergency in the early stages. Still, book a visit with your dentist for diagnosis and treatment to prevent worsening. However, bleeding gums can become a dental emergency when blood loss is excessive, recurring, and accompanied by aching and swelling gums. These indicate worsening gum disease, which needs to be treated right away to keep gums healthy and intact.
4. Swollen jaw
Swelling of the jaw is often a sign of severe infection originating in the salivary glands. When accompanied by a bad taste in your mouth, fever, and difficulty swallowing or breathing, this indicates an infected salivary gland. This bacterial infection results from a blockage in the salivary glands, preventing saliva from breaking down food and washing away bacteria in the mouth. Call an emergency dentist to discuss your symptoms and necessary treatment.
5. Dental abscess
A dental abscess typically occurs at the root of a tooth following an untreated cavity or severe gum disease. Trauma to the mouth, such as a chipped tooth, and infections can also cause an abscess. While not outwardly visible, common signs of an abscess include a foul taste in your mouth, fever, swollen glands, and even pus. Your dentist may need to perform emergency dental surgery to drain the abscess and treat the infection.
6. Persistent canker sores
Canker sores are common and normal — they can happen to anyone due to aggressive brushing, accidentally biting on the inside of the cheeks, and even certain ingredients in toothpaste and mouthwash, food sensitivity, hormonal changes, and allergic response to bacteria in the mouth. When small and minor, they should heal on their own, but if they linger and don’t heal within two weeks, they’re likely infected and require urgent treatment.
7. Constant headaches
Migraines don’t seem connected to the teeth, but many patients aren’t aware that oral problems indicate other health issues. Chronic headaches, in particular, could be related to the jaw. Watch out for pain in the mouth or jaw area, especially if you have bruxism or grind your teeth in your sleep. You might not realize it, but the constant grinding can cause headaches, and when left untreated, it will wear down the tooth enamel and increase tooth sensitivity.
8. Your mouth feels numb
Not all toothaches go away on their own — it’s especially alarming when you have been experiencing a bad toothache then suddenly feel nothing at all. This could indicate the spread of an infection wherein the abscess has reached the tooth’s root and impacted the nerves. Your dentist may need to perform an emergency root canal to treat the infection — and restore normal feeling in your mouth.
9. Excessive fatigue
What does feeling tired have to do with the teeth? While difficult to diagnose, exhaustion is one of the lesser-known indicators of oral infection. If you’ve managed to rule out all other causes, it’s worth calling your dentist to check your teeth and see whether you may be suffering from an abscessed tooth or gum disease.
10. Metal taste
The mouth can taste a lot of delightful flavours, but metal isn’t — and shouldn’t be — one of them. If your mouth suddenly tastes like metal and you’ve had fillings in the past, call an emergency dentist right away. They can confirm whether an old filling has cracked or become loose, making the treated tooth prone to new infections and cavities.
When left untreated, you could likely suffer from a toothache or cavity, and at worst, have to undergo a root canal. With emergency dental care, you can be fitted with a new filling right away and ensure that infection-causing bacteria are cleared out to avoid complications.