Dental emergencies

Dental emergencies are something that many of us experience, yet few of us know how to handle. In fact, according to The Pew Charitable Trust, emergency room visits for dental emergencies have been rising, with it costing the health care system in the country around $1.6 billion per year. Problem is, a good portion of those going to the emergency room for what they see as a dental emergency actually have problems that can be taken care of at home or simply by waiting until the dentist’s office opens.

“Many people are not sure what is a dental emergency and what is something that can wait until morning, so some people will go straight to the emergency room,” explains Dr. Karson Kupiec, a second-generation orthodontist at Kupiec Orthodontics & Pediatric Dentistry. “If it’s a true emergency, people shouldn’t hesitate to get to the hospital, but they will probably find it comforting to know that there are some common issues they can handle right from home.”

Being able to handle some common dental emergencies without going to the emergency room can help save money, as well as time. Some of the more common dental emergencies that people experience and what they can do about them include:

  • Loose bracket or band - The bracket or band on your braces may need to be re-fitted. You may have a situation that requires cutting a wire or sliding a bracket off a wire at night or over the weekend. If you need to cut a wire in case of emergency, you may use fingernail clippers that have been washed and sterilized in alcohol. 
  • Wire irritation - Sometimes discomfort caused by a wire on your braces can be resolved by moving the wire away from the irritated area with a cotton swab or eraser. If the wire will not move, try covering the end of it with a small piece of cotton or a small amount of wax. If the wire is painful, you can cut it with nail clippers or scissors that have been washed and sterilized in alcohol. If you cannot resolve the wire irritation, call your dental office for an appointment.
  • Lost separator - Most patients lose a brace separator during their treatment. Do not worry about losing a separator. Just call the orthodontist to have it replaced. 
  • Discomfort with orthodontic treatment - During the first week, after your braces are in place and routine adjustments are complete, you will likely feel some pain, soreness, or discomfort. You may take acetaminophen or other non-aspirin pain relievers while you adjust to your new braces. A warm wash cloth or heating pad may reduce the soreness in your jaws.
  • Loose appliance - If an expander or banded appliance dislodges, push it back into place and eat soft food until it is repaired. Do not activate the appliance. If it comes out completely, place it in a bag and bring it to your appointment. Expanders and appliances should remain intact for the duration of treatment. If they become loose, it is usually caused by eating hard or sticky foods. Please refrain from eating these types of food. 
  • Broken or knocked-out tooth. Only adult teeth that get knocked out have a chance at being replanted, according to the National Institutes of Health. They recommend getting the knocked-out tooth to the dentist as soon as possible, and only hold the tooth by the crown, which is the part you chew with. To transport it to the dentist, you can keep it in the mouth where it fell out of, put it in a container with saliva or cow’s milk, and apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth to help ease pain.

“When in doubt, speak to a health professional so you can get relief as quickly as possible,” added Dr. Kupiec. “But knowing how to handle some of these common emergencies may help you get through the day or the weekend, with more comfort and confidence.”

Dr. Karson Kupiec has a full-service orthodontic and pediatric dentistry practice, with locations in Rancho Santa Fe and Imperial, Ca. The office offers traditional braces, as well as Invisalign, and dentistry for children, including offering cleanings, sedation, and sealants. For more information, visit the website at: http://kupiecorthodontics.com.

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