The pain of an infected tooth or gum can be alarming enough to incapacitate a person.
Should you go to an emergency room or dentist?
There are several reasons why you should head straight to a dental clinic that takes emergency cases.
Don’t Tie Up Emergency Staff
People who have a life threatening condition need intervention as soon as possible once they arrive at the ER.
Doctors shouldn’t be tied up with someone with a hurting tooth.
Your Wait at the ER May Be Much Longer than at the Dentist
At an emergency room, your information will be taken at the triage station.
But an ER is not a first-come, first-serve operation. A toothache, even if severe and making the patient moan, will get a low acuity level – meaning, low priority.
Even if by chance, there’s few patients there and available doctors, you can suddenly be bumped down the list with incoming accident victims or several arriving patients with more concerning symptoms such as chest pain, vomiting or severe pain in their head. Even a case of constipation may bump you.
An ER Doctor Can’t Diagnose the Cause of Your Pain Like a Dentist Can
“Generally speaking, seeing your dentist for a dental emergency is much more effective than visiting your local emergency room,” says Marco L. Tironi, DDS, who practices dentistry in Rochester, MI.
“The reason for this lies in your dentist’s ability to diagnose and render definitive treatment.
“Although ER physicians are extremely well-trained, an emergency room is not generally set up to provide definitive dental care.
“The aim of the emergency room is to address just that, the emergency.”
Unfortunately, emergency rooms get cluttered with people with non-emergency situations such as a first-degree burn on a finger, a bruised knee, the sniffles and of course, a toothache.
Even if the tooth is fractured or half of it cracked and fell out, an ER doctor can’t fix this.
Though ER doctors can prescribe pain medication, they are not as well-trained as a dentist at figuring out what’s causing pain related to a tooth or gum.
A dentist, says Dr. Tironi, will give pain medication and/or antibiotics to at least provide some temporary relief.
The dentist can also diagnose at that time, and then proceed with getting the ball rolling for treatment.
“In dentistry (and mainly all medicine) problems only get worse without treatment,” says Dr. Tironi.
“If you find yourself in the middle of a dental emergency, find a dentist who will diagnose and treat you comprehensively. This will help to prevent future problems while optimizing not only your dental, but your overall well-being.”
Find out if your regular dentist offers emergency hours. If not, find a nearby clinic that does so that if you’re ever disabled by severe tooth or mouth pain, you’ll already know where to go.
A member of the Academy of General Dentistry, Dr. Tironi is trained in sedation dentistry, dental implantology, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.