How to deal with dental emergencies
While the UK’s dental practices are closed, it’s more important than ever to look after your teeth and gums.
Dental problems such as toothache, decay, sensitivity, broken fillings, bleeding gums and chipped teeth (with no pain) aren’t considered emergencies, and you may need to wait until we reopen for treatment.
If you experience any dental problems during the lockdown, don’t hesitate to contact us for advice. While we can’t see you face-to-face, we’re here to support you and provide advice over the phone or by email.
What is considered an emergency?
To prevent the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), dental care is only available for emergencies while we’re in lockdown. Emergencies include:
- Facial swelling that extends to your eyes or neck
- Severe toothache that prevents you eating or sleeping
- Toothache with significant swelling or a fever
- A broken tooth that’s causing pain
- Bleeding due to trauma
You should contact A&E straight away if you experience facial swelling that affects your vision or breathing, or you suffer a trauma that causes loss of consciousness, double vision or vomiting.
How to deal with non-emergencies at home
If your toothache is caused by a cavity (a small hole) in your tooth, you can use a temporary filling kit to repair the damage. You can find these in most large supermarkets and pharmacies.
To stop your cavity from getting worse, keep it clean by brushing with fluoride toothpaste and reduce your sugar intake.
If you have some sensitivity, try rubbing a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth directly onto the affected area. An anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen can also help to ease pain and sensitivity.
Mild gum disease can usually be treated at home just by improving your oral hygiene. Brush twice a day, making sure you clean along your gumline using gentle, circular movements. Floss every day and see your dentist and hygienist for regular check-ups.
If you have a build-up of tartar (hardened plaque, pictured below), you’ll need to see your hygienist for a professional clean when they reopen.
Painful wisdom teeth
If your wisdom tooth is hurting, it’s likely that the gum covering your erupting or impacted tooth is inflamed.
Make sure you keep the area scrupulously clean, stick to soft foods and rinse your mouth with warm salt water. Corsodyl mouthwash can help to promote healing and prevent infection, but don’t use it for longer than a week, or it could cause staining.
Your symptoms should start to settle within a few days. You can take ibuprofen or paracetamol if needed.
Contact us if you experience facial swelling, difficulty opening your mouth or trouble swallowing. You may need antibiotics if the infection is spreading.
Ulcers can be extremely bothersome, but they should heal by themselves within 7–10 days.
You may find brushing painful, but it’s essential to keep the area clean. Rinse with warm salt water and use Difflam spray or mouthwash to reduce pain and inflammation.
An antimicrobial mouthwash such as Corsodyl can speed up healing, but extended use may lead to staining. If your ulcer is particularly painful, over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can help.
If you’ve had an ulcer or lesion for longer than three weeks, contact your dentist or doctor to arrange a check-up.
Tips to protect your teeth and gums
To minimise your risk of developing a dental issue during the lockdown, here are some tips from our team:
- Brush your teeth morning and night using a fluoride toothpaste
- If you’re wearing braces, brush after eating too
- If you’re wearing fixed braces, clean carefully around your brackets
- Floss at least once a day using dental floss, interdental brushes, an air flosser or a water flosser (lots of options!)
- If you use a mouthwash, don’t rinse straight after brushing – it can wash away the fluoride from your toothpaste
- Don’t use your teeth to bite into anything other than food, for example, bottle caps!
- If you have fixed braces or loose fillings or crowns, avoid foods that are especially hard, chewy, sticky or crunchy
- Save sugary snacks and drinks for mealtimes (and try cutting back altogether)
We understand this is an anxious time for everyone. If you experience a dental problem, we’ll do everything we can to help you manage your symptoms at home or receive the emergency care you need.