Tips on Preventing a Dental Emergency

dental emergency

A dental emergency is defined as an issue that requires immediate care. These can range from pain, swelling, and abscesses to fractured, lost, or chipped teeth due to trauma.

While some dental emergencies occur randomly, others can be preventable. The best way to manage a dental emergency is to prevent one from happening. Here are 5 ways to prevent dental emergencies:

Practice Daily Dental Hygiene

While breaking a tooth from falling or getting hit in the face may be the first image that comes to mind when you think of dental emergencies, it is common for dental emergencies to be related to basic dental health issues such as pain associated with cavities or decay. Preventative care is key. 

Dr. Sledge recommends brushing your teeth twice a day, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to clean all surfaces of your teeth for at least 2 minutes. Besides brushing, you should also floss in between each tooth every night before going to bed to remove harmful plaque and bacteria missed by your toothbrush. For more instructions on proper oral care, visit our suggested “Home Care” instructions.

Schedule Regular Dental Check-ups

Checkups and cleanings allow us to detect problems with your teeth and gums before they become an emergency. Not only can we find cavities before they become painful, we can also find small fractures or weak spots that may cause a chipped or broken tooth if untreated. The dentist has the tools to eliminate stubborn plaque deposits that cannot be cleaned by regular brushing. If you fail to visit the dentist, you put yourself at the risk of cavities and gum diseases.

During your appointment, Dr. Sledge will carefully examine your oral cavity for signs of oral health issues and provide preventive care. For more information, see “Cleanings and Preventions”.

Protect Your Teeth from Trauma & Grinding

Many dental injuries result from trauma or injury to the face, such as from an accident, fall, or sports-related event. You cannot always prepare for this type of situation; however, you can if you play sports wearing an athletic mouth guard significantly reduces your risk of injury to your teeth, gums, and oral structures.

Trauma can also be caused by long-term pressure or strain on your teeth, like what is caused by bruxism. The grinding and pressure will wear down your enamel, increasing your risk of a fracture or even a loose tooth. A nightguard provides a protective barrier between the upper and lower teeth to prevent a costly dental bill down the road.

For more information on custom athletic mouth guards and nightguards, please give us a call. (920) 854-5200

Use the Correct Tools, Not your Teeth

Get in the habit of using an appropriate tool for each task. Do not use your teeth to open or rip apart items, which puts unnecessary stress on them. You should only use your teeth for consuming food.

When it comes to opening packaging or cutting stray strings, reach for the scissors or other appropriate tools, and you could likely prevent a dental emergency.

Avoid Chewing Extremely Hard Foods

Although biting and chewing are natural functions of the teeth, attempting to bite or chew extremely hard foods can result in damage to the teeth. Most commonly teeth will become chipped or cracked from foods that are too hard. For a list of the most common food that can damage your teeth, see the American Dental Association’s “Top 9 Foods That Damage Your Teeth”. 

The Bottom Line

Dental emergencies can be debilitating. They cause pain, long-term damage and sometimes require expensive, invasive dental procedures. With preventive care, you can reduce your chances of having a dental emergency.

Request an appointment here or call Dentistry by Design at (920) 854-5200 

Replacing Old Silver Fillings

I’ve had this silver filling for years, why do I need to replace it if I’m not in pain?

We’ve heard this question many times at our practice and it’s a valid concern that deserves a more in-depth answer.  We hope the information below helps you better understand why our providers sometimes suggest seemingly good fillings be replaced when pain isn’t present. Cracked filled tooth

(Example of a tooth filled with amalgam with multiple cracks)

The need to replace old silver fillings really depends on multiple factors.

How pro-active do you want to be? Some people are more re-active when it comes to their dental health, waiting until there is pain or discomfort to address a problem. Unfortunately this method usually means a more costly procedure will need to be done like a root canal or crown.  While others take a more pro-active approach and don’t want to get to the point of feeling pain. They would rather have a filling replaced right away to have the peace of mind. When these problems are corrected early, it saves you money and keeps you out of pain.

At DBD we practice pro-active dentistry; we would prefer to see our patients replace old silver fillings once we’ve diagnosed that there is a problem rather than wait until pain arrives.  We understand that not everyone feels the way we do, but we have an obligation as your dental provider to identify any dental related problems and suggest the best way to correct them. We would be doing you a disservice if we did not bring these issues to light right away.  Whether or not you choose to go forward with our proposed treatment is ultimately up to you.

Do you have cracks in your filled tooth?  The metal used in amalgam fillings corrodes over time causing it to expand and contract, and over the years this can cause fractures in the tooth.  A fractured tooth allows food debris, saliva and bacteria to get in and cause a cavity in a filled tooth.

Is there a cavity under your silver filling?  Cavities can hide under fillings and usually can go undetected because they are opaque to x-rays.  At DBD we use x-rays to help diagnose the condition of the tooth, but we also use an intra-oral camera that helps us get a better picture of what exactly is going on inside.  Just because a tooth is filled it doesn’t mean it is cavity free.

Is your filling leaking?  As amalgam fillings breakdown, they begin to pull away from the tooth.  When there is no seal, per se, that is when fillings begin to ‘leak’. This is a problem on many levels.  First this allows food, saliva, and bacteria to enter your tooth which can cause damage to the tooth in the form of decay.  It also causes less strength in the tooth and may make it more susceptible to fracturing.

Do you clench or grind your teeth?  Normal chewing puts a substantial amount of force on teeth naturally and over time can wear down your fillings. If you clench or grind your teeth this causes even more excessive force which cause fillings to breakdown faster.

Do you chew on hard objects?  Some people like to chew on hard candy, ice, or objects like pen caps.  These practices can also impact filled teeth by putting more pressure on the tooth and filling than would normally occur.

As  you can see there are many things that play a role in needing to replace old silver fillings.  It’s important to note that we won’t remove fillings just for the sake of replacing them, but as they get worn out and compromise the health of your tooth we will suggest replacing them with composite restorations.  The composite material adheres to your tooth more effectively than the amalgam fillings.

The best form of defense to these types of problems is keeping regularly scheduled dental check-ups.  It is at these appointments that we can detect cracks, leaks, and cavities in filled teeth and treat the problem pro-actively.