Most people will have a dental emergency at some point in their lives, but effective preparation can help. Here’s a handy guide for what to do when the worst happens — are you ready?
1. RECOGNISE AN EMERGENCY.
You can recognise a dental emergency with a simple test: if you’re in pain, it’s probably an emergency. Causes of pain may include an obvious injury, such as a blow to the face causing a tooth to become dislodged; or an infection, such as an abscess in the tooth. More complex conditions may include issues with wisdom teeth, gum disease and mouth cancers. But don’t lie in bed worrying about it. Dentists anticipate the need for emergency procedures so if you are already registered with a dentist, you should be able to arrange an emergency appointment at extremely short-notice, especially if you have a dental insurance plan. Some dentists will have out-of-hours numbers as well.
2. USE YOUR FIRST AID KIT.
You will need the numbers for your local dentist — especially any number for out-of-hours treatment; as well as your dental insurance and NHS direct. Mouthwash may be useful, and sometimes dentists will recommend using chewing gum to fill the cavities left by lost fillings. Broken teeth can sometimes be kept in milk to keep them safe and, of course, you will need painkillers.
3. GET AN EMERGENCY DENTAL APPOINTMENT.
To do this, you need to be registered at a dentist. Sadly, one of the major issues in British dentistry today is the provision of emergency dental care. In 2000/2001, 17,400 people sought emergency treatment for their teeth in casualty because they could not find a dentist. In 2009/2010, this number had soared to 24,292, including a number of patients who had tried to pull out their own teeth. DIY dentistry can often be disastrous and should definitely be avoided! Make sure you know your dentist’s regular and out-of-hours number and what the procedure is for a dental emergency.
4. CONTACT YOUR DENTAL INSURANCE COMPANY.
Dental insurance quotescan start at quite low prices and most will include benefit towards emergency treatment, sometimes including emergency treatment abroad. You will usually need to notify your insurer as soon as possible and seek their advice, which will also give you peace of mind concerning costs as a lot of dental insurance plans anticipate that a portion of the costs will still be shared by the patient. While most emergencies can be dealt with relatively quickly, some injuries or oral conditions can become extremely complex and expensive: if your emergency developed into an oral cancer, would it be covered? A good dental insurance policy is a great preparation for a dental emergency.
5. MAINTAIN GOOD ORAL HEALTH.
Prevention is always better than cure and routine oral health will be the best defence against dental emergencies. Brush, floss and maintain regular dental check-ups to identify cavities. If you have trouble finding an NHS dentist, it may be worth investigating private dental insurance. Schemes may also include hygienist appointments, check-ups and benefit towards routine work which means you can budget for your teeth. Note, however, that some conditions, such as wisdom teeth and orthodontic work, are generally not eligible for benefit, unless the treatment is sufficiently routine that it can be conducted in the dentist’s chair.
It takes only a small amount of time to prepare for a dental emergency but a little effort is your best chance to walk away smiling!
Western Provident Association (WPA) is an award winning not-for-profit Private Health Insurance company based in the South West UK that has been providing dental insurance and private medical insurance policies for over 100 years.
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