If you think you have a dental emergency, your dentist's office is the first phone call you should make. If you're unable to go there right away or the office is unavailable, find the nearest emergency dentist or just go to the emergency room in a hospital. It's very important to have two or three dental office numbers around the areas you frequent in case of such emergencies. This article highlights two tips that will help you survive a dental emergency. Read on to learn more.

1. Do I actually have an emergency?

Not all tooth or mouth problems constitute emergencies, but if you're not sure, err on the side of caution by contacting your dentist. Here are common signs that you need immediate assistance:

  • Bleeding from the mouth – not benign gum bleeding after brushing, rather, often after some form of trauma

  • Severe pain – severe, sudden-onset toothache or pain that escalates despite using painkillers

  • Loose teeth – partially-dislodged teeth, knocked-out teeth, chips that cause pain or reach the dentin layer – all of these constitute dental emergencies

  • Oral or facial trauma resulting in pain or bleeding in the mouth

  • Swelling in the mouth, face or jaw

  • Extreme tooth sensitivity – even on exposure to air

  • Jaw or gum fractures – you may recognise this as intense pain if you try to move your jaws

When calling your dentist, be sure to present all the facts, such as what happened in the lead-up to your emergency and any measure you have taken, e.g. pain medication or first aid.

If your tooth is slightly chipped or a temporary crown has come off, these can wait until normal office hours, provided there is no bleeding, swelling or pain. If you have pain but it responds to medication, you can also wait until normal office hours, but book an appointment as soon as possible.

2. How do I deal with pain?

Over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen, naproxen sodium or acetaminophen are helpful for relieving pain before seeing the dentist. However, use only acetaminophen if you're allergic to aspirin or you have any kind of bleeding. Aspirin-containing pain-killers also have anticoagulant properties, which means they can make bleeding worse.

A tooth pain-relief gel containing lidocaine or benzocaine can also be used, but only for adults and children older than 2 years. The gel should not be used on an actively-bleeding site or open wound without your dentist's advice.

Some people swear by home remedies like a swab dipped in clove oil, a slice of lemon, gargling with mild saltwater or chewing garlic or onion near the site. You can try them if they won't be too painful. Bite on moist, sterile gauze to stop bleeding on your way to the dentist's office.