Let’s imagine that you are hanging out with friends and munching on some popcorn. Everything is going on fine until you hear a deafening CRUNCH sound. Seconds later, you feel sharp, shooting pain in your teeth. Immediately, you spit everything out and shockingly notice that a small piece of your tooth has broken off! What next? Should you visit the Emergency Room (ER) or the emergency dentists in Palo Alto? Read on to find out.        

But first, how do you define a dental emergency?

Dental emergencies can lead even to worse health problems if left untreated.  It is important to be able to distinguish between dental emergencies and non-emergencies. When in doubt, it is advisable to contact both your dentist and your physician.

Here are some common dental emergencies:

  • Severe pain in or around the mouth
  • Trauma to the mouth, jaw, or teeth
  • Heavy bleeding or bleeding gums that can’t be controlled
  • Painful toothache that will not relent 
  • A knocked or loose tooth  
  • Swollen face or cheeks with or without pain
  • Painful swelling
  • Extreme tooth sensitivity to temperature or chewing

Disadvantages of going to the ER for a dental emergency in Palo Alto

If you need dental emergency services but go to the ER, you will likely find doctors and health care providers who will try to treat it with antibiotics; however, this will not treat the source of the problem.

Hospital ERs aren’t prepared and equipped to handle most dental emergencies. Your Palo Alto dentist has specialized training in dental issues, including injuries treatment and diseases prevention.  While a doctor in the emergency room has training on medicine, they usually don’t have the same kind of mouth-specific knowledge that your hygienist and dentist have. Most ER doctors will only diagnose the problem and give you some pain relief medication or an antibiotic, but you will still be advised to see a dentist afterward to treat the underlying cause of the dental emergency.     

For instance, visiting the ER for a jaw injury or painful toothache may not get you the assistance you need. Depending on the issue, you may need a crown, root canal, extraction or filling – these types of repair call for a dentist and the equipment in the dentist’s office.  

Why a dentist is preferable for your dental emergencies 

Not only does the dentist have the tools, materials, and knowledge to treat nearly all dental emergencies, but they also have the capability to offer ongoing follow-up care. On the contrary, ER departments offer emergency medical management – without expecting that the patient will revisit for treatment. ER doctors are not trained in dentistry and do not have the expertise to treat the underlying cause of your dental emergency.

The dentist may also save you money and time. A visit to the ER may take hours or even longer, particularly if the hospital has seriously injured or ill patients to treat. And, while treatment fees vary widely (depending on your insurance, the hospital/dental office’s price-points, and geographic region); hospital ER visits are likely to cost more than what an emergency trip to the dentist would.     

Is it possible to prevent emergency dental visits? 

Injuries and accidents are usually unavoidable. There normally isn’t anything you can do to avert a mouth injury that occurs due to a slip and fall impact. However, you can prevent other issues that could cause you to seek dental emergency treatment in Palo Alto:   

  • Always wear a mouthguard when playing high-contact sports like boxing, hockey, football, or rugby. Initially, it might be a bit uncomfortable, but it’s nothing compared to chipping or losing a tooth.
  • Break bad habits like chewing on your nails, pencils, pen caps and ice. These can result in a chipped or cracked tooth. 
  • Be cautious when eating hard or crunchy foods. When you are sucking on hard candy or eating a flatbed pizza, cracking a tooth can be easier to do than you would think. Try to cut food into smaller prices and take careful bites. 
  • Practice excellent oral care. Flossing and flushing regularly are among the best ways to keep your teeth healthy.   
  • Commit to regular dental checkups.  Via these checkups, your dentist may address dental problems well before they become an emergency. 

Visit emergency dentists in Palo Alto and avoid the ER

Now that you are aware of what is categorized under dental emergency, you appreciate that timely treatment is vital to prevent the situation from worsening. Fortunately, at Cambridge Dental Studio in Palo Alto, our emergency dentists are always ready whenever you need emergency dental services. Never hesitate to make a call when you are having an emergency! Our dentists are trained to quickly assess your situation and provide pain and discomfort relief. We next conduct a dental exam to find the underlying cause of your problem and create a plan of action to treat the underlying cause.

Disclaimer: We routinely draw upon public health resources to inform our write-ups. Information in this article may be drawn up from multiple public health sources, including:

American Dental Association’s MouthHealthy.org

California Dental Association

American Dental Association’s Action for Dental Health

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention



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