While many of us appreciate the change in schedule that the winter holidays usher in, if we experience a dental emergency during a holiday, it can be difficult to determine what conditions require immediate care by a dentist and which don’t. Here are a few guidelines to help you determine whether your dental pains are serious or not, and what to do next.

DentistRed Alert: Don’t Ignore A Dental Emergency

If you experience a dental injury that is the result of a blow to the head or face, involves a laceration, serious cut, a jaw fracture or dislocation, or is caused by an infection in your mouth so severe it’s impacting your ability to breathe or swallow, you’ll want to head directly for the ER. All of these conditions are potentially life-threatening and need immediate medical attention.

Yellow Alert: Urgent But Not Emergency Conditions

There is another category of dental crisis that normally necessitates a next-day trip to the dentist. Some of these conditions include:

  • Cracked or broken teeth
  • A knocked-out tooth that was not the result of face/head trauma
  • A dental abscess that’s painful but not interfering with breathing or swallowing

If your dentist or endodontist is not available due to a holiday closure, call the office’s emergency number. The practice may have a designated emergency provider, or your provider may be able to call in an antibiotic to eliminate infection.

Green Alert: Situations Where Home Care Can Work

Although it may make for a challenging day or two, some dental conditions can be managed from home until the dentist is open for business after the holidays.

  1. If you lose a filling, your pharmacy may carry temporary dental filling material to protect your tooth.
  2. A mild toothache may respond to over-the-counter pain relievers until the dentist visit can be scheduled.
  3. Some minor dental discomfort can be relieved by chewing on the side opposite the painful tooth until your appointment.
  4. Keep the affected area of your mouth clean by swishing with salt water.

“Our practice makes every effort to see clients the same day that they call,” says Dr. Jacqueline S. Allen, a partner at the Phoenix Endodontic Group. “We see patients on an emergency basis 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, when there is a delay before a client can see the dentist, we can help them determine the safest and most comfortable way to make it through a holiday.”