If you’ve ever had a dental emergency like a chipped tooth or a toothache, you’ve probably had a million questions cross your mind before you even pick up the phone: What exactly is an “Emergency Dentist” and are they different to a normal dentist? What can they do about my problem? How quickly will it take for them to fix my pain or to fix my tooth so I can leave my home and smile and talk normally? Read further to clear up a few of the questions that you might have, in case you ever find yourself in a dentally unfortunate situation.
“Emergency Dentist” and other types of Dentist
Unlike the official Dental Board-recognised speciality practitioners such as Orthodontists, Periodontists and Endodontists (there are currently 13 specialities in total), an “Emergency Dentist” is simply a general Dentist who considers him or herself adept at dealing with emergency situations. It may surprise you that, technically, it can mean almost nothing; like other labels such as “Dental Surgeon” or “Cosmetic Dentist”, the term “Emergency Dentist” can be used by anyone who’s registered as a general dentist!
It’s not all bad though – sometimes it’s nice to know that your dentist may take extra interest in the type of work you’re seeking from him or her. It’s also a good way of differentiating a dentist that you’ve had to see for an emergency and your normal dentist that you see for general work.
Typical situations that can be considered an emergency
A toothache is probably the most frequent situation in which someone will seek emergency treatment, and rightly so – most toothaches are associated with a great deal of unnecessary pain, damage and expense if left alone for too long. Even more urgent than a toothache is a gum abscess or swelling, which can require a visit to hospital especially if there’s accompanying fever, facial swelling, or other signs of serious infection. Broken teeth or fillings, wisdom tooth pain, or bleeding gums can also be signs that you may need to visit an emergency dentist.
What a good Emergency Dentist does
A good Emergency Dentist should have a multi-stage approach to handling your situation. Putting a stop to any pain you might be feeling, patching up broken teeth or fillings, and prescribing medication are all very common initial measures that can be taken. After the first appointment, you may also need to be seen again within a week or a couple of months to check whether the initial situation has completely resolved. Often, emergencies occur because it’s been too long since your last proper check-up or your general dentist may not have had a plan in place for prevention of such issues. An honest, diligent Emergency Dentist will send all your relevant information (i.e. Photographs, X-Rays, clinical notes) through to your general Dentist so that they can formulate a comprehensive plan for prevention.
Why we want to move to a future without emergencies
A surprising number of dental emergencies that we see can be completely preventable with the right management. Most toothaches start with small cavities that have been left untreated for too long. Most sore wisdom teeth are a result of poor positioning or angulation which can be picked up early on with the use of X-Rays. Most bleeding and painful gums start with a patient who hasn’t had their teeth cleaned for a while or hasn’t been shown the best methods for keeping their teeth clean. We learn more and more about oral health and the prevention of such issues every year, and as dentists we take great joy in imparting some of this knowledge to our patients as we work together towards a future with less pain and less unexpected expense.
Author: Dr. Gregory Yap