Dental Emergencies


Dental emergencies are quite frightening and often painful.  Dr. Craig Mitchell in Cupertino, CA wants you to know that we like to see emergencies as soon as possible! Prompt treatment is almost always required to alleviate pain and to ensure the teeth have the best possible chance of survival.

Sometimes, teeth become fractured by trauma, grinding, or biting on hard objects.  In other cases, fillings, crowns, and other restorative devices can be damaged or fall out of the mouth completely.  If there is severe pain, it is essential to contact our office immediately.  The pain caused by dental emergencies almost always gets worse without treatment, and dental issues can seriously jeopardize physical health.

Types of dental emergency and how to deal with them

Avulsed tooth (tooth knocked out)

If a tooth has been knocked clean out of the mouth, it is essential to see a dentist immediately.  When a tooth exits the mouth, tissues, nerves, and blood vessels become damaged.  If the tooth can be placed back into its socket within an hour, there is a possibility the tissues may grow to support the tooth once again.

Here are some steps to take:

  1. Call our office 408-255-9422.
  2. Pick up the tooth by the crown and gently rinse it under warm water.  DO NOT scrub or clean off the root.
  3. If possible, place it back into its socket – if not tuck it into the cheek pouch.
  4. If the tooth cannot be placed in the mouth, put the tooth into a cup of milk, saliva, or water as a last resort.  It is important to keep the tooth from drying out.
  5. Get to our office, quickly and safely.

We will try to replace the tooth in its natural socket and stabilize it.  In some cases, the tooth will reattach, but if the inner mechanisms of the teeth are seriously damaged, root canal therapy might be necessary.

Lost filling or crown

Sometimes, a crown or filling may come loose while eating.  Once it is out of the mouth, the affected tooth may be sensitive to temperature changes and pressure.  Crowns may become loose because the tooth beneath is decaying.  The decay causes shape changes in the teeth – meaning that the crown no longer fits.

If a crown has dropped out of the mouth, make a dental appointment as soon as possible.  Keep the crown in a cool, safe place because there is a possibility that we can reinsert it.  If the crown is out of the mouth for a longer period of time, the teeth may shift or sustain further damage.

When we are not immediately accessible, here are the steps to take:

  1. Apply clove oil to the tooth to alleviate pain, if the tooth is sensitive.
  2. Clean the crown, and affix it onto the tooth with a thin coating inside the crown with temporary dental cement.  This can be purchased at a local pharmacy.
  3. If the crown is lost, you may smear the top of the tooth with dental cement or even Vaseline to alleviate discomfort.
  4. DO NOT use any kind of permanent household glue to affix the crown.

We will check the crown to see if it still fits.  If it does, it will be reattached to the tooth. Where decay is noted, this will be treated and a new crown will be made.

Cracked or broken teeth

The teeth are strong, but they are still prone to fractures, cracks, and breaks.  Sometimes fractures are fairly painless, but if the crack extends down into the root, it is likely that the pain will be extreme.  Fractures, cracks, and breaks can take several different forms, but are generally caused by trauma, grinding, and biting.  If a tooth has been fractured or cracked, there is no alternative but to schedule an appointment as quickly as possible.

Where a segment of tooth has been broken off, here are some steps that can be taken at home:

  1. Call our office.
  2. Rinse the tooth fragment and the mouth with lukewarm water.
  3. Apply gauze to the area for ten minutes if there is bleeding.
  4. Place a cold, damp dishtowel on the cheek to minimize swelling and pain.
  5. Cover the affected area with over-the-counter dental cement if you cannot see us immediately.
  6. Take a topical pain reliever.

The nature of the break or fracture will limit what we are able to do.  If a fracture or crack extends into the root, root canal therapy is often the most effective way to retain the tooth. In the case of a complete break, your dentist will usually affix the fragment back onto the tooth as a temporary measure.

Broken denture 

When a patient breaks a denture, it can mean not being able to eat or smile. While this is an emergency in most cases, it may require a dental lab to help us repair it. In some cases, if a tooth pops out of the denture, we may be able to do the repair in the office however, or if a corner chips off the denture from dropping it into the sink or on the floor, for example.  Give our office a call and we can help you determine what level of urgency this situation is!

If you have questions or concerns about dental emergencies, please contact our office, we are here to help you!  408-255-9422.


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