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Anyone with even a drop of Irish blood in his or her veins is well aware that St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. Some of you might have raucous plans already sorted out, while others will simply join the festivities wherever they may arise. Depending on where you live, that might be just about everywhere. Sure, some neighborhoods get in the spirit more wildly, but for most of us, some sort of St. Paddy’s celebration is only a stone’s throw away.

Now, if for some reason, you find yourself on the receiving end of that stone, you’re going to need emergency dental care – stat! Fortunately, your talented team of dentists and dental hygienists at Diamond Dental always leave room for the unexpected and will quickly get you back on the mend.

But, what constitutes a dental emergency? We all know those folks who truly think any misfortune that happens to befall them is an emergency. These are the people who spend an inordinate amount of time on WebMD. Never a good idea! Obviously, no one likes the thought of a dental trauma of any sort, but what some call a catastrophe, others call a cavity. So, what makes a dental emergency a true emergency? In other words, what kinds of dental issues must be addressed within 24 hours of the incident for the greatest chances of successful and speedy recovery?

Let us break it down for you so that no matter the occasion, you’ll know when to call time out on a celebration and make the call for emergency dental care.

Time Out #1 – A Broken Tooth

Now, it’s important to realize the difference between a broken and chipped tooth. Make no mistake – both need to be evaluated and treated by a dental professional. However, you’ve got a bit more play – more time on the clock, if you will – to take care of a chipped tooth. When you chip your tooth, you’re really damaging the surface of the tooth, and likely won’t experience much, if any, pain. But, keep in mind, that chip will still allow bacteria to enter your tooth and, left untreated, you could wind up with an abscess (more on that in a moment). A chipped tooth, particularly one that doesn’t result in any pain, might seem like a cosmetic issue, but again, bacteria will get in there and cause trouble. So, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your dentist within a few days of the chipping incident.

Read: Not a dental emergency, but never something to ignore, either.

Let’s say that chipped tooth is accompanied by sensitivity and pain of any kind, it’s likely that chip is, in fact, a break. In this case, you’ll want to call your dentist right away and, if possible, book an appointment within 24-hours of the event that caused the break. A broken tooth is usually more obvious, and results from significant trauma, i.e. an impact on the soccer field, let’s say a header gone wrong, suffered by a player not wearing a mouth guard. In these cases, a broken tooth is likely as clear as day. You might even see red or dark material where the tooth broke. Essentially, you’re getting a peek inside your tooth and that’s not something you ever want to see. The main concern here is that bacteria will quickly enter your tooth, get cozy, and start to grow, causing an infection at the root, or between your gum and tooth. This leads us to time out #2…

Time Out #2 – An Abscess

Forget what you may know about abscesses. Yes, an abscess is the result of an infection that has been left untreated and given time to grow. However, most people associate abscesses with chronic ailments, like gingivitis and periodontis. Although this is certainly true, it’s important to recognize that an abscess can directly follow a dental trauma. This is why you need to have that chipped tooth looked at, before you’re in an even greater fix, requiring more extensive treatment. Remember, you have a few days to schedule an appointment, regarding a chipped tooth, but you’re best advised to take care of a broken tooth within a 24-hour window.

Time Out #3 – An Avulsion

Nope, not repulsion, though you’ll likely experience or inspire some of that. An avulsion, or an avulsed tooth, is one that has been forcibly separated, by accident, from the gum. Perhaps that impact on the soccer field was actually enough to send a tooth flying free of a player’s mouth. In that case, if it’s at all possible to recover the tooth, do so. There is a chance, provided the patient is seen within 24-hours, that the tooth can be saved.

In order to increase those odds, it’s imperative that you rinse the tooth with saline or milk and store it in a container with the same fluid. Obviously, you’ll want to handle the tooth very carefully, and only hold it by the crown, never the root. It’s safe to say the root has already suffered some damage, and the goal here is to minimize any additional damage as much as possible. Take extra care when transporting the tooth to the dentist, so that it doesn’t get banged up any further. This is why it is recommended that you carry the tooth in a fluid, not in an empty container or baggy. Depending on the state of the tooth when it reaches your dentist, he or she may be able to re-implant it into your gum. If so, a series of routine checks will be subsequently scheduled to monitor the health of the tooth and surrounding tissue.

Not surprisingly, the window of time recommended for the most effective dental emergency treatment is same day or 24-hours following trauma. As we’ve seen, the reason involves infection and with an avulsed tooth, the risk is very high. Not only has the tooth suffered some sort of trauma, the gum, surrounding tissue, and possibly even the supporting bone likely has as well.

How to Avoid a Dental Emergency

Although there is a number of reasons why you might experience a dental emergency, and it’s certainly impossible to avoid injuries and accidents at all times, a little common sense does go a long way. Returning to that soccer field for a moment, all participants should be equipped with a strong mouth guard. Of course, this advice extends to any contact sport, and especially those sports involving balls, sticks, and bats – anything that could be considered a weapon in a pinch.

Let’s not forget the importance of seatbelts, too, given that automobile accidents do account for a number of dental emergencies.

Of course, long-term dental emergency avoidance is entirely in your hands. Hands that should be armed, twice a day, with a soft head toothbrush, followed by a strong thread of floss. Taking care of your teeth on a daily basis and keeping up with your scheduled cleanings is the best way to protect the health of your teeth, no matter what life throws at you. Even if you do, unfortunately, catch that stone, ball, stick, steering wheel, or any other obstacle, if you’ve practiced good oral hygiene, you’ll reduce the severity of your dental emergency considerably.

Whether you’re in need of a routine cleaning or have a more pressing issue – or even emergency – that requires professional expertise, the team at Diamond Dental is your lucky charm to a long-lasting, healthy smile.