Dental emergencies can arise at any time of day or night. A growing number of people rely on hospital emergency room (ER) care for a variety of dental related issues. Every year in the U.S., there are an estimated 2 million visits to hospital ERs for dental pain (ADA), many which are largely preventable.
The most common dental emergency is a toothache. A toothache can be caused from various factors, such as a bacterial infection from a tooth abscess or serious gum disease. Other dental emergencies include a lost filling or crown, a broken or chipped tooth, or a knocked-out tooth.
A hospital ER visit can be costly. It can significantly impact vulnerable individuals, especially those without health or dental coverage. According to Consumer Health Ratings, in 2021, an ER visit cost almost $1,400 on average for people who were uninsured. The good news is many dental emergencies can be prevented by maintaining proper oral hygiene and taking protective steps to prevent oral injuries.
8 Tips to Prevent a Trip to the Hospital ER for a Dental Emergency.
- Brush your teeth thoroughly. Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste using a soft toothbrush. It is important to remove dental plaque, a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that is always building on your teeth. Plaque buildup can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
- Floss at least once a day. Cleaning between your teeth helps remove plaque and food particles that your toothbrush cannot reach. Plaque that is not removed, can harden into tartar below the gum line and irritate the gums. Your gums may become red, swollen, and may bleed easily – signs of gum disease. In advanced stages, gum disease can cause painful chewing problems, loose teeth, and even tooth loss.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Choose nutritious foods for strong teeth and healthy gums such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. Limit excessive consumption of acidic and sugary foods and beverages. Foods such as candies, cookies, and soda offer little to no nutritional value. They are also fuel for cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth.
- Make water your first choice for thirst. Water is the best tooth-friendly beverage. It cleans your mouth with every sip and it contains no sugar. Your city tap water may be fluoridated. Drinking fluoridated water helps strengthen tooth enamel to reduce cavities.
- Avoid tobacco products. Cigarettes, vaping, and chewing tobacco can increase the risk of oral cancer, gum disease, and other health problems (CDC). If you need help quitting, call 1-866-New-Lung (1-866-639-5864) for free smoking & vaping cessation services in Orange County. Click here for services in other parts of California or out of state.
- Use protective safety gear. Protective gear such as a mouthguard or a bike helmet can greatly reduce a traumatic head and/or oral injury caused from an accident.
- Visit the dentist every six (6) months. Routine dental exams can help identify and treat oral health problems such as gum disease or cavities while they are still minor. A professional dental cleaning helps clean plaque or tartar from those hard-to-reach areas of your mouth that cause dental infections.
- Get dental coverage. The last thing you want to do while suffering from a dental emergency is worry about the cost. Dental coverage or a dental plan can help cover a portion of the cost for an ER dental visit. Dental coverage can also help cover the cost of preventive dental services, such as a dental exam and teeth cleaning. Preventive dental services help lower the risk of developing dental infections and other dental problems, which, if left untreated, can land you in the hospital ER. Depending on the type of dental plan you choose, preventive dental care services may be covered up to 100%.
By taking these proactive steps to care for your oral health, you can minimize the risk of dental emergencies and reduce the likelihood of needing emergency room treatment. Not only will this save you time and money, but it will also contribute to your overall health and well-being.