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Health

Dental emergencies: when to seek medical help and when to sort it yourself

May 17th 2020 / Octavia Coates / 0 comment

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PR Octavia Coates lost a veneer during lockdown and had to fix it herself. Her dentist explains the teeth issues to take into your own hands and the ones that definitely need medical attention

Many of us are negotiating grey roots, over-grown eyebrows and the slow visible decline of our Botox during lockdown; but one area of cosmetic drama I had never even predicted or considered was the loss of a veneer.

A few days ago, while settling into my weekly catch up call with a friend, I bit into a square of cheese, felt a snap, a sharp pain and behold, one of my front veneers was rolling around inside my mouth. I looked in the mirror and burst into tears. Not only was the sensitivity pain unbearable when I opened my mouth, I looked like a hillbilly!

The first thing I did was to call my dentist; a recorded message told me that the practice was closed and any medical emergency was to be referred to 111. Was this a medical emergency? I had no idea. It was to me! But would I be draining a service for someone who was in a life of death situation by calling 111 to find out?

After hours of searching online, I found out that a cosmetic veneer loss was not an emergency and I was to wait until my dentist was back in business. Which could be months.

I decided to email my dental surgery and see if I could work out what I should do. With suggestions from using superglue, denture paste and tales of the unsupported tooth going black and dying, I was already petrified and even more confused. With minutes I had a reply and the most wonderful news. I wasn’t alone. My wonderful dentist was so understanding and kind and offered to personally come and meet me near my home to hand over a professional tooth mending kit, to fix it back on - one that would see me through until I could get professional help. 20 minutes later I was in a car park in St Albans being thrown a bag of everything I would need and a friendly face willing to Zoom me through the process as soon as I got home. I can’t tell you how grateful I was. I had never once thought about my teeth.

After this palaver, I spoke to my dentist, Dr Edward Masheder, about the other dental emergencies people might experience during lockdown and what to do about it.

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What to do about a broken tooth / filling

"If the broken part is not painful or sharp on the tongue or cheeks/lips, then it is ok to leave until it’s safe to see your dentist," advises Masheder. "If the sharp part is cutting into your cheeks and tongue then you can use a nail file to smooth off the tooth. If the tooth is painful to eat on, you can buy a temporary filling kit from your local pharmacy or go online. The filling kits are a bit like putty which you roll into a small ball and place into hole in the tooth."

What to do about a lost veneer / crown

"If the crown has come off and is not painful it is advisable to leave it alone," says Masheder. "Keep the area very clean and try and stay away from hard chewy foods. If the tooth is painful or in the front of the mouth, I would suggest buying a temporary cement kit from your local pharmacy or online. If you have any difficulties it is important to phone your dentist who will advise you what to do. Do not ever use superglue to try and reattach."

What to do about toothache in lockdown

"Mild pain can be eased with a desensitising toothpaste (try Sensodyne Repair and Protect). Rub the tooth paste directly on the affected area and do not rinse afterwards. Painkillers can help reduce dental pain but should always to taken in accordance with instructions on the packet."

What to do about mouth ulcers

"Most ulcers will heal within seven to ten days," says Masheder. "Non–healing ulcers should be assessed by your dentist or doctor. I advise a warm salty mouth rinse, good cleaning and a soft diet. Painkillers can help and some products such as Bonjela can be applied directly to ease the pain."

What to do about mouth swelling in lockdown

"If you have any kind of swelling in the mouth I would strongly advise contacting you dentist and they may advise antibiotics.

"Wisdom teeth can often flare up as the gum around them becomes inflamed. Excellent cleaning, salty mouth rinses with a soft diet and painkillers should settle the pain in around a week. If the swelling and pain worsen then I would advise to speaking to your dentist as you may need antibiotics to stop infection spreading."

When to seek urgent dental treatment

"In the event of facial swelling extending to your neck or eye, I would advise seeking treatment," says Masheder. "The same goes for tooth pain which is keeping you up at night or is associated with significant infection which cannot be managed with painkillers."

When to go to A&E with tooth pain

"If your mouth is causing you facial swelling that is affecting your vision or breathing or preventing your mouth from opening more than two fingers width you should go to A&E," advises Masheder. "Trauma causing loss of consciousness, double vision or vomiting also warrants a trip to A&E."

Dr Edward Masheder BDS MFDS RCS PGcert is a cosmetic dentist and owner of the Bow House dental clinics in Hertfordshire.

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