Do I need an emergency dentist for swollen gums?

Swollen Gums

If you are experiencing swelling in the gums, face or neck area, you need an emergency dentist. Swelling in these areas can be a sign of a severe infection or abscess that can lead to intense discomfort - and may even prove fatal if untreated.

It is not uncommon for patients to wait until their next regular checkup to bring up the issue. Do not let this be you. Your regular checkups and cleanings maintain a healthy, happy smile. But they are no substitute when you need emergency care. Swollen gums are symptoms of dental issues that require immediate treatment.

Dental emergencies are too often perceived as less critical than other health complications. While over 70% of adults will go to a hospital in an emergency, just 57% will go to dentist for an emergency, according to a survey by AspenOCF.

This is a problem. The delay can lead to higher costs and worsening conditions when you do get treatment. And ignored dental problems can lead to other health complications throughout the body.

Swelling is a common sign of a serious and urgent need for emergency dentistry. The longer you wait to see a dentist for swollen gums or swelling of the neck and face the greater the risk to yourself. And the lower your chance of a complete and successful recovery.

Seeing an emergency dentist is the best way to return to your regular, healthy smile. If you have already postponed seeing a dentist for this issue then it is critical that you contact an emergency dentist today before the problem can spread further.

What should I do if I am experiencing swollen gums, face, or neck?

With serious dental emergencies, swelling of the gums, face, or neck are often the first sign. Applying ice to a swollen face or neck area can offer temporary relief, however it is not a solution on its own.

If ice is available it should be applied to reduce swelling and help relieve pain. Painkillers should be avoided in case emergency surgery is required.

What does swelling indicate in dental emergencies?

Swelling is one of the most important signs of when to contact an emergency dentist. Two common reasons for swelling to occur are:

  • Dental Abscess
  • Fractured/Cracked Tooth

In either of these cases an emergency dentist is required immediately.

Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is a severe problem that cannot be left alone. It can spread infection throughout the body, and can even be fatal. The condition of someone suffering a dental abscess can drop rapidly and it is a complication that must be addressed urgently.

The first sign of this, potentially fatal, dental complication is swelling. Other possible symptoms of dental abscess include red face, fever and pain.

Dental Absess

What is a dental abscess?

A dental abscess is typically caused by a bacterial infection in the gums. It results in a build-up of pus that occurs due to tooth decay or an injury or infection in the mouth.

There are two common types of dental abscess, periodontal abscess and periapical abscess.

A periodontal abscess occurs in the tooth’s support structure, often occurring because of gum disease. Pockets of pus and bacteria can form between the gum and the tooth. As a periodontal abscess begins to grow it can resemble a boil on your gums. It often happens due to gum disease or as a result of injury.

A periapical abscess is the most common form of dental abscess. It typically results from tooth decay and develops inside of the tooth. The protective layers of the tooth are eroded and the tooth pulp becomes infected.

Dental Abscess complications

In the immediate area of the dental abscess is likely to result in pain, pus build up, swelling, infection, tooth decay, and gum decay. While these immediate effects are enough to require an emergency dentist, the biggest threat is the spread of infection throughout the body.

If the infection from the abscess spreads it can result in other severe infections and complications in the head, chest, heart and lungs, which have the potential to be fatal. Some of these complications include:

  • Mediastinitis: Life threatening bacterial infection in the mid-chest with a high mortality rate.
  • Thoracic empyema: A potentially life-threatening infection of the lungs.
  • Pericarditis: Swelling and irritation around the heart. Can require surgery.

Catching and treating these complication early is the best way to increase the rate of survivability. If treatment occurs before the infection can spread the risk of complications is low. So it is very important to contact an emergency dentist right away if there appears to be any symptoms of dental abscess.

How is dental abscess is treated?

Although dental abscess is a bacterial infection, antibacterial treatment is insufficient on its own. It only serves to reduce further spreading or infection. With a periodontal abscess, the emergency dentist may lance the “boil” and drain the pus. But in most cases a dental abscess will require surgery.

Fractured or Cracked Tooth

A fractured tooth is a serious, painful, injury and the tooth cannot always be saved. If your tooth is cracked or fractured it should be addressed immediately. Set up an appointment with an emergency dentist for an x-ray and assessment.

A fractured or cracked tooth may require a simple treatment like a crown or more serious surgery, such as a root canal. Early assessment and treatment will prevent further damage. It also decreases the likelihood of surgery and reduces the risk of permanent damage.

This type of injury is commonly associated with sports injury, but can result simply from.

What is the difference between a cracked and fractured tooth?

Cracked and fractured teeth can immediately appear similar to one another and will both likely be accompanied by local swelling. A cracked tooth is a tooth with an incomplete fracture. A fractured tooth is a more complete crack and may be cracked below the gum line. A more severe fracture will show exposed pink inside the tooth. This pink is an exposed nerve that can cause immense pain and cannot be repaired without immediate care from an emergency dentist.

Cracked and Fractured

How is a fractured tooth treated?

Fractured teeth are put into three categories based on the Ellis classification system:

  • Ellis I: A crown fracture that only penetrates the enamel. Often can be treated with just a crown.
  • Ellis II: At this level fractures have broken the enamel and dentin. They may be tender and/or painful.
  • Ellis III: These fractures go right down to the pulp, nerves are exposed and they can be immensely painful and may require a root canal.

Possible complications of a fractured tooth

An Ellis III level fracture can leave the pulp prone to infection. An infection can spread throughout the body, and may require surgery. If the injury is too severe or has been left for too long, it may require a root canal.

What to do if you have swollen gums, neck or face?

If you have these common symptoms of serious dental injury, or any other reason to suspect you may require a dentist, do not delay. The earlier you get an assessment the less risk of further damage, infection, or illness. For trusted, effective treatment contact the emergency dentists working with Dr. Judy Sturm now.

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Toronto Downtown Dentists | Cosmetic Dentistry Toronto | Emergency Dentist Toronto | Toronto Dentist
Dr. Judy Sturm Dentistry Professional Corporation
77 Bloor St West, Suite 1202
Toronto, ON, M5S 1M2
(416) 967-4212

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