Emergency Care

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A dental emergency is an issue involving the teeth and supporting tissues that is of high importance to be treated by the relevant professional. Dental emergencies do not always involve pain, although this is a common signal that something needs to be looked at. Pain can originate from the tooth, surrounding tissues or can have the sensation of originating in the teeth but be caused by an independent source (orofacial pain and toothache). Depending on the type of pain experienced an experienced clinician can determine the likely cause and can treat the issue as each tissue type gives different messages in a dental emergency.

Many emergencies exist and can range from bacterial, fungal or viral infections to a fractured tooth or dental restoration, each requiring an individual response and treatment that is unique to the situation. Fractures (dental trauma) can occur anywhere on the tooth or to the surrounding bone, depending on the site and extent of fracture the treatment options will vary. Dental restoration falling out or fracturing can also be considered a dental emergency as these can impact on function in regards to aesthetics, eating and pronunciation and as such should be tended to with the same haste as loss of tooth tissue. All dental emergencies should be treated under the supervision or guidance of a dental health professional in order to preserve the teeth for as long as possible.

By contrast, a medical emergency is often more precisely defined as an acute condition which presents an immediate threat to life, limb, vision or long term health. Consequently, dental emergencies can rarely be described as medical emergencies in these terms. Some define a dental emergency in terms of the individual’s willingness to attend for emergency dental treatment at any time at short notice, stating that persons who are fussy about when they are available for treatment are not true emergency cases.[1]:702 There are often divergent opinions between clinicians and patients as to what constitutes a dental emergency. E.g. a person may suddenly lose a filling, crown, bridge, etc. and although they are completely pain-free, still have great cosmetic concerns about the appearance of their teeth and demand an emergency treatment on the basis of perceived social disability.

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