Nobody likes a dental emergency. They tend to happen at the most inopportune times. We have had patients that are heading out on vacation and end up rushing in to get emergency treatment. I suppose that is better than being on vacation and needing treatment. Yes, that has happened before too. The cost involved with a dental emergency can also be an unpleasant surprise for our patients. When a problem has gotten to the point of being an emergency, the needed treatment is generally more comprehensive and more expensive.
Our treatment coordinator, Kelly, has come up with the two easiest ways to avoid a dental emergency.
As a treatment coordinator and dental assistant I see people every day because of some kind of dental emergency and there are a few similarities in almost all cases.
1. Not coming in for a hygiene appointment every 6 months
This is significant because at your cleaning appointment a lot more happens then getting your teeth polished.
First of all your hygienist is trained in what teeth and gums are supposed to look like so they can tell if there are any problems now or any signs of problems that you may have in the future. So even if you are not scheduled for an exam with Dr. Zollinger, your hygienist can detect if there is an issue that they want the doctor to take a look at or that may need an x-ray. Your cleaning appointment is the most crucial point for us to detect any future dental issues and work with you to prevent them from turning into emergencies later.
Second, most people may not realize this but your cleanings by your hygienist are what keep your teeth in your mouth. You cannot do at home what your hygienist does even if you brush and floss 3 times a day. The hard calculus/tartar that builds up on your teeth above and below your gum line, are like slivers that eat away at your gum tissue and bone that holds your teeth in place. Brushing and flossing does not remove this calculus it removes the soft plaque. The calculus and tartar is far too hard to be removed at home. Did you know that in most places in our bodies the bone will regrow but not the bone that is lost due to gum disease? We can stop you from further bone loss, but your body will not replace what is already lost. So the best option is to not lose any in the first place. This process of losing bone around your teeth is called gum disease or periodontal disease. THIS DOES NOT HURT AT ALL. If you only see your dentist when you have pain, it is very likely that you could have bone loss around your teeth.
Coming to your regular cleaning appointments, is the least expensive way to keep your teeth healthy.
2) Letting small issues get big
Most dental issues start out small and will not heal by itself. Usually it starts as a small cavity that at our office can be fixed without anesthetic or even a drill. If not fixed the decay will continue to get deeper and larger until now you need a large filling with anesthetic drill and is more expensive. If this is still not fixed, you will eventually need a crown. Also, the danger is that the decay will reach the nerve and you will need root canal treatment and a crown. You could even lose the tooth.
We see patients all the time with large, old worn out fillings with decay underneath or large fracture lines. In these cases, we inform the patient that they need a crown on the tooth. Several months later, the patient comes in for emergency treatment because the tooth either broke or it hurts. For some crazy reason these things always seem to happen on the weekend or a holiday! We see teeth everyday so we see patterns and we can usually predict what will happen. We know that a tooth with a little decay that is not treated will eventually need a root canal. We also know that filling material is only meant for small areas. Large fillings will break and need crowns someday. The reason it’s important to get your tooth fixed before it breaks is because the more tooth structure we have to work with the longer the crown will last.
Dr. Zollinger’s recommendations are to give you the healthiest teeth with the least amount of problems in the future. As partners in your dental care, to avoid dental emergencies, we suggest that you see your dental hygienist every six months and take care of your dental issues before they become big problems.
Our goal at Advance Family Dental is for you to have the least amount of dentistry possible. We want you to have healthy teeth and gums and to avoid the inconvenient and more costly dental emergencies.