Dental emergency? Dentist or emergency room?

When you sustain a mouth injury involving cracked or broken teeth, do you go to the dentist or head to the emergency room? Unfortunately, if you don’t address your oral issues correctly and promptly, you run the risk of serious consequences like infections or the loss of teeth.

If you have an accident and it requires emergency medical attention after-hours, where do you turn to get the help that you need?


When you should go to the hospital

If you are suffering from an injury that involves the mouth, face or jaw, you need to seek immediate care. If you are immunosuppressed or have some other chronic illness, you will need to be seen by a hospital’s emergency room staff.

An infection like an abscess or any other serious soft tissue injury is best seen in an ER, especially if it results in any swelling of the neck or head or severe bleeding with pain ir difficulty swallowing. Those types of life-threatening emergencies should all be handled in your local emergency room and cannot wait for a dental appointment.

If doctors believe it is best for a dentist to address the condition, they will make the recommendation to follow through with your dental professional once they have address the urgent nature of your illness or injury.

When you should call your dentist

If you have an injury or an accident that is not life-threatening or serious enough to warrant an emergency room visit, then you might be able to have your dentist take care of it and skip the hospital. The types of injuries that can wait to be seen in office are things like a cracked or broken tooth, or pain that is caused by a lost filling or wisdom tooth.

There are also times when an abscess can be managed in your dentist’s office as long as it isn’t accompanied by severe swelling or a fever. If it is hard for you to swallow or breathe, however, then you should have it evaluated at the hospital first. The dentist will not have the right equipment necessary to save your life if you should become more critical.

When you should seek an after-hours dentist

Many dentists are on call for after-hour emergencies, and they can handle injuries needing emergency attention. If they cannot, they will be able to tell you if you should go to the emergency room. If you are suffering, in pain and can’t wait until the morning then a dentist who is on call outside of the regular office hours might be the best place to go if you don’t want to go to the emergency room.

If you don’t have a dentist who has hours outside of their regularly scheduled times, then you can go to an urgent care clinic or an emergency room, and they will probably be able to find someone who can assist you with your dental emergency.

Even if they can’t provide you with a diagnosis, they can provide you with medication to address any pain, so that you can wait for your dental office to open the following day or on Monday. Even if it isn’t life-threatening, you shouldn’t have to suffer through tooth pain. You can treat the symptoms in the interim while waiting for your dentist to get you in.

The rule of thumb is that if your oral injury or accident is severe enough to need life-threatening care, then the emergency room is the place to go. If you are just experiencing pain or the injury only affects your teeth, then it is probably okay to wait and see a dentist.

But, if you are in extreme pain and need relief, regardless of how severe the oral emergency is, you should head to either an urgent care center or an emergency room to get medication to relieve the pain.

Once your dentist has reopened in the morning, you can call and ask for them to squeeze you in so that you can address your oral issue with your regular dentist. There is no reason to suffer through the pain of a dental emergency or risk your overall dental health when help is available.

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