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Working With My Dentist

A few years ago, I realized that I was thinking about dental care all wrong. Instead of listening carefully to my dentist and making the necessary changes, I assumed that he was ultimately responsible for making sure that my teeth stayed healthy. Unfortunately, I developed a few serious cavities because I failed to properly brush and floss my teeth, and I knew that it was my fault. I decided to start taking notes at my dental checkups and carefully abiding by the dentist's orders. The difference was almost miraculous. This blog is all about working with your dentist to improve your result.

Working With My Dentist

The 4-1-1 On Dental 9-1-1: Is Your Crisis A Real Emergency?

Siiri Puro

When something goes wrong in your mouth, either through injury or decay, the pain can be unbearable, but does that warrant a call to 9-1-1? In some cases, failing to treat dental emergencies like a true emergency can be fatal; however, in others, waiting for normal business hours to resume is the recommended course of action. The only trouble is, though, how do you make that call?

Going To The Emergency Room For A Dental Crisis

If something involving the mouth or teeth happens to you or a member of your family on a Sunday afternoon or major holiday, you're not likely to be able to contact your regular dentist. Still, you know you must take action. Under these circumstances, a visit to the emergency room is warranted, and if you have insurance, it should cover you, provided no dental clinic was available at the time. If, however, you do have access to an emergency dental clinic, one which might be open on a Sunday afternoon or major holiday, that's where you should head.

Insurance matters can be tricky, though, so it's best to know what to expect from your policy long before any type of emergency arises. If you have Medicare, emergency dental procedures should be covered. Also, it may be helpful to check with your dental office regarding payment plans for services not covered by your insurance, or if you don't have any insurance. Unfortunately, uninsured people are being forced to wait until a dental issue does become an emergency, because they feel they have no other recourse. In fact, 56 percent of them don't get regular check-ups, and that can have serious consequences.

The following situations generally require immediate attention; hence, you need to get yourself or the person experiencing them to either the ER or emergency dental clinic, no matter what coverage you may or may not have:

  • Severe pain: Pain may be an indication that something serious is going on, but even if it's not, when pain interferes with your ability to sleep or eat, get it checked.
  • Chipped or knocked out tooth: Depending on the angle, impact and other factors, tooth injury can be dangerous; thus, if there's pain, swelling, or bruising, have it looked at. Additionally, it's important to know that some teeth can be saved, even after they've been jarred right out of the gums.
  • Abscess or infection: If the area near a rotted tooth becomes discolored or inflamed, or you notice an odd blister, infection is likely present and should be treated with antibiotics ASAP. The patient will probably be given a prescription to take for a number of days and advised to visit their regular dentist right away.
  • Other oral injury: Be it a right hook, baseball or hard candy, any number of things can harm the teeth and gums, and if alarming symptoms ensue, a health care professional should rule out anything serious.

Waiting For The Dentist To Resolve Near-Emergencies

While every dental issue may feel like an emergency to the person enduring it, there are times when it's better to wait until your regular dentist is available. Provided the pain is bearable, no untreated infection is present, there's no threat of losing a permanent tooth and you (or the person with the dental dilemma) can function normally in terms of eating or chewing and swallowing, you can often avoid the ER for the following situations:

  • Lost filling: While this may feel or even taste strange, a lost filling requires a quick call to the dentist for replacement and isn't usually cause for major concern.
  • Abscessed tooth: As soon as you suspect infection, it should be seen; however, if you're under the care of a dentist already and your abscess worsens, notify their office immediately or get to the ER if the office is closed.
  • Damaged crown, bridge or dentures: Generally, cosmetic repairs should be dealt with during normal business hours and are not considered emergencies, unless the damage also resulted in some kind of injury or it is preventing you from eating.
  • Severe Cavity: Untreated tooth decay can eventually lead to exposure of the sensitive nerves and if you haven't participated in preventative care thus far, such as getting regular check-ups to monitor the situation, you likely need immediate attention, either at the dentist's office or if they're unavailable, the ER. If your dentist is already caring for the cavity when it becomes severe, contact them for a quicker appointment or emergency instructions.

Who Decides If There's A Real Emergency?

Although general guidelines normally dictate the course of action for urgent dental care, if you or anyone else feels a serious risk is involved, don't hesitate to visit your local ER. Infections can quickly escalate from the mouth to the bloodstream and that's not something you want to take a gamble on. While you may be left with an insurance crisis later on, in some instances, that is more favorable than risking the health of the patient.

Because dental pain can be so severe, it's easy to conclude you have an emergency on your hands, but whatever the circumstances, getting medical attention may be vital and whenever there's any doubt that the health of the patient is threatened, opt for 9-1-1 immediately and check the 4-1-1 afterwards.