Summer is upon us, and this is the time of year when many of us take those well-deserved vacations.  But sometimes, bad things happen to good people.  You’re on vacation at an exotic locale when, all of a sudden it happens—ouch! Maybe you’ve just taken a bite of food in a restaurant, fallen face-first on an unfamiliar sidewalk or woken up in your hotel bed with a swollen face or your mouth on fire.

Dental emergencies are never any fun, but they’re even worse when you’re hundreds of miles away from your dentist’s office. While any injury to your teeth or gums can be potentially serious, sometimes there are steps you can take until you’re able to visit our office. Once you’ve called to arrange an appointment ASAP, here’s how to handle some common dental emergencies:

Toothache: Take Ibuprofen for pain and inflammation. Keep the area clean (warm salt water rinses) and avoid chewing on it.

A knocked-0ut front tooth: Pick up the tooth without touching the root, rinse it gently and quickly reinsert it. If this is impossible, put the tooth in contact lens solution or milk and see a dentist promptly; a tooth has to be reinserted within an hour to have a chance of reattaching to the bone.  If it is not during normal business hours – go to the emergency room.  Many people are not aware that most hospitals have on-call dentists on staff.  Unlike most emergency dentists in Houston, our doctors have extensive experience in emergency dental situations and trauma.  Both of our doctors did General Practice Residencies (something not required in the field of dentistry) to gain expertise in treating dental emergencies.  Dr. Eric Choudhury did his General Practice Residency at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center and Dr. Alma Payumo did her residency at Hartford Hospital, both in Hartford, CT.  They are well-trained in head and neck trauma including cuts/lacerations, knocked-out teeth, chipped or broken teeth, abscesses, and facial swellings.

A broken or cracked tooth or filling: Keep the area clean (rinse gently with warm salt water) and avoid chewing on it. Most breaks aren’t serious and are easy to fix in a reasonable time-frame, but if you start to experience a lot of pain or swelling, there’s probably more going on.

Abscessed tooth: If your face is swollen, you have a bad taste in your mouth and your tooth feels loose, you probably have an abscess. But even if you don’t have much pain, an abscess is an infection that can spread—and become serious—if it’s not treated. You’ll need antibiotics to get it under control, so visit a dentist or doctor as soon as possible. When the infection is gone, we can perform definitive treatment.  If you are having problems breathing, swallowing, or cannot open your mouth, go to the emergency room.

Remember – the best way to avoid dental emergencies is through regular checkups and cleanings.  If Dr. Choudhury or Dr. Payumo see a problem during a routine exam, it should be taken care of BEFORE it turns into an emergency.  In other words – don’t wait until it starts to hurt!!  Remember Murphy’s Law – “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”.  Over the years, we have lost count of the number of times we have heard “Hey doc, I’m out of town right now and that tooth you told me to fix last year is really hurting – what can I do?”

If you have a dental emergency, contact the Houston periodontist at 713-771-9308.