Broken tooth, toothache or abscess? When to get dental treatment over the Christmas break

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A dental charity has issued some top tips on what to do should you be unlucky enough to encounter dental problems during the festivities.

It is often hard for us to judge what constitutes a dental emergency and it’s easy to park any problems until the Christmas break is over.

But what if a tooth is knocked out, or a severe infection or abscess strikes?

Some dental incidents may even prove a serious risk to your overall health so there’s no time to waste.

Put simply, the message is don’t leave any dental problems until the New Year.

As an insurance, the Oral Health Foundation suggests we all take a note of our local dental clinic’s opening times over the festive period and, even if we are not registered with a dentist, we can still access emergency dental care in order to avoid any dental pain or discomfort that may put paid to festive celebrations.

Information on how to access emergency dental treatment over the holidays is available through NHS 111. This non-emergency service is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Important information can also be found through the NHS Choices website which signposts dental services which are open in your local area.

The OHF’s Dr Nigel Carter acknowledges that a trip to the dentist is not exactly on anyone’s Christmas wish list but urges us to seek professional dental advice or treatment as soon as possible.

He warns: ‘What may seem like a relatively small issue could soon develop into something more serious, resulting in pain or discomfort and ruining your ability to enjoy your favourite festive food and drink.’

If you have any on-going issues that you have been holding on to get sorted in January, the Oral Health Foundation is urging you to get them sorted now as the problems may worsen over the holidays.

He also advises against attending A&E unless we are bleeding excessively and it won't stop; have trauma of the face, mouth or teeth after a recent accident, or injury, or have excessive swelling.

So, what exactly is a dental emergency? And how do we know when to call the dentist? Here, we list a few common cases…

Toothache
Toothache can be caused by a number of conditions, such as an abscessed tooth, exposed root surfaces, tooth decay and infected gums. Seek help immediately or you’ll pay the price – both in cost to pocket and health.

Tooth knocked out (avulsion)
As well all know, accidents happen – and very often, with spirits high and families crammed into living rooms playing party game over Christmas, elbow can meet tooth perhaps, and it’s sent flying! In these situations, it is important to act quickly. Retrieve the tooth, clean it in warm water and pop it back into the socket if possible. If not, put it into milk or water and seek dental help.

Loose tooth
A tooth can become loose due to physical trauma such as above – or an infection. You can take painkillers but do see a dentist asap – you don’t want to have root canal treatment unnecessarily!

Missing crown or filling
A tooth very quickly becomes sensitive if you lose a crown of a filling falls out. Take the crown to your dentist asap who may be able to reinsert it before the situation worsens and the tooth pays the price.

Fractured or broken teeth
We’ve all done it! The screw top on that ketchup bottle just won’t undo, the walnut won’t crack and the Sellotape won’t come off that beautifully wrapped gift! So, when all else fails, our teeth seem a handy option. But stop right there! Enamel is the hardest and most highly mineralized substance in your body but it is not impossible to break! Also watch out for foods likely to cause breakages such as nuts, hard-boiled or chewy sweets, popcorn, cough drops and pork crackling. Clean the broken bit of the tooth with water, take a painkiller and seek dental help.
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