Unfortunately, dental emergencies don’t always wait for your next appointment. Urgent situations such as lost or cracked teeth often require immediate care in order to prevent infection and sometimes even save the tooth.
However, finding a dentist that will see you on short notice can be a struggle. Here’s how to find an emergency dentist when you really need one.
What qualifies as a dental emergency?
Dental emergencies come in a variety of forms, but some of the most important conditions to seek immediate dental care include:
Knocked out tooth: If your tooth has been knocked out, try to find the tooth and recover it without touching the root. If you see a dentist within an hour, it may even be possible to save the tooth.
Chipped or broken tooth: A chipped or broken tooth can quickly lead to further damage in the mouth. Using a procedure known as dental bonding, it’s also possible to repair a chipped tooth if the lost piece is recovered and a dentist is able to assess the damage quickly.
Tooth displacement: This refers to a tooth being pushed slightly out of place, making it loose. Trying to reinsert the tooth at home can damage the gums and make it less likely to save the tooth.
Oral infections: An infection in the mouth can lead to larger medical problems. At the same time, these infections can often be resolved quickly if you get to a dentist ASAP.
If you’re still not sure if your visit is a real emergency, some dental offices will do an urgent teledentistry consult. That means they can screen you over the phone or through a video chat to determine if your problem requires immediate care.
Reach out to your regular dentist if you have one
Many dentists set aside a certain amount of time every day for dental emergencies. If your situation has come up during your dentist’s normal hours, they may be able to see you faster than expected.
Outside of work hours, many dentists will have information on their answering machine or website directing patients to trusted places to go in case of an emergency, so your dentist is still a great first point of contact.
Check your insurance provider’s network
The last thing anyone needs to add to the stress of a medical emergency is a steep bill. If you have dental insurance, your insurance provider should have a list online of the dentists near you that take your insurance.
Many insurance providers’ websites will even allow you to search for dentists with after hours and emergency availability directly, saving you the hassle of matching your insurance needs to dentists’ availability.
Going to the hospital is a last resort
Many people’s first instincts when dealing with a medical emergency is to go to your nearest hospital’s ER. But this isn’t always the best solution when it comes to a dental emergency, for a few reasons.
Dental problems treated in a hospital may be billed differently from standard dental care when it comes to your insurance coverage. Any procedures done in an ER may be covered by your medical insurance, rather than your dental insurance. Depending on your level of coverage with both medical and dental insurance, this could make your bill lower or much higher.
Many emergency rooms don’t have an on-call dentist, so advanced dental care such as replacing a filling or crown or saving a damaged tooth may be impossible. Medical staff should be able to prevent infections and further damage, so the ER is still a better choice if a local emergency dentist isn’t available.