A visit to an after hours dentist can be expensive and it’s not a trip anyone really wants to make. So how can you tell if your dental problem is an emergency one or not. This quick guide of the most common problems will help you determine how to act.

It’s important to know whether you have a problem that needs immediate or urgent attention. Basically, the decision is a combination of financial factors vs. pain management. If the pain you’re suffering is considerable, don’t hesitate to book yourself into an emergency dentist immediately – the extra cost is worth it to alleviate serious pain and potential future damage. The grey area for most people is whether the pain is bad enough to justify the additional costs of seeing an after hours dentist, so let’s assess the scenarios:

I think I have a cracked tooth – is it an emergency?

There’s nothing worse than biting down on something hard and hearing a dreaded crunch and the feeling of immediate pain in a tooth. The question is have you broken, cracked or severely damaged the tooth or is it nerve pain? Clues that your tooth is cracked:

  • Sharp pain that you feel when biting down – pain subsides quickly
  • Infrequent pain that comes and goes
  • Pain that comes from eating or drinking certain things

Summary: A cracked tooth can occur suddenly when eating or gradually as a result of grinding. It hurts because chewing opens the crack. It’s not a problem that requires emergency treatment.

Advice: Avoid hard foods that hurt, chew soft foods instead and book yourself into a regular dentist for tomorrow or Monday morning, you don’t need to see an emergency dentist just yet.  

I Chipped my tooth – what should I do?

A chipped tooth can be painful as well as looking pretty ugly. Deciding whether you have an emergency situation is dependent on the severity of the chip or broken area. If you have a small chip that causes you a low to moderate level of pain or discomfort, there are several steps you can take to reduce the pain.

Moderate level of pain or discomfort

Thoroughly rinse the mouth to remove and food from the cracked area. If it’s sensitive you can use products from the pharmacy like specialised mouthwashes to help ward off bacteria. Ice packs may help to reduce swelling.

Summary: Chipped teeth can differ greatly in severity which means that no two scenarios are the same. If you have a manageable situation then the above measures can relieve the pain but if you have more severe pain then you really need to seek immediate care. Fixes your dentist can apply are varied from bonds to fillings, crowns or veneers.

Advice: Act based on the level of pain. Major chipped teeth or a broken tooth should be treated immediately. This means seeing a dentist without delay to avoid complications or issues down the line. If you’re going to the dentist immediately you can bring the chipped section of tooth with you stored in saliva and the dentist may use it in the procedure, though it’s unlikely. If the pain is manageable, book yourself in for a regular dental appointment.

I have sharp shooting pains in my tooth

This is one of the most common symptoms people with tooth pain suffer from. The cause of the pain can be any of a number of things. You may have a hole in your tooth or a small crack, both non-urgent situations that need to be treated as soon as possible, but not at an after hours clinic. If the pain has just started your teeth could be sensitive to certain foods or liquids – try to avoid these and book yourself into the dentist for a checkup if the pains continue beyond a day. Some people react differently to certain foods and liquids and something as simple as a change of toothpaste can fix the problem. Try Sensodyne but if the pain continues be sure to see a dentist.