When your teeth start bothering you, it can feel like your whole world has been turned upside down. You can’t focus on anything but the pain, and the pain itself can be blinding. So what do you do? In the same way that there’s emergency protocol for health issues, there are rules to follow for dental emergencies, when a chipped, cracked, or otherwise inflamed tooth is causing you so much pain you simply can’t function. While most dental emergencies won’t affect your overall health if you don’t visit a dentist right away, you’ll still be suffering from the pain without relief. No matter how minor it seems, dental injuries are no joke, and if you can make an emergency trip to Dr. Russo Dentistry in Raleigh, you should. Thankfully, in many scenarios, you can call a dentist to make an emergency appointment. Different types of emergencies require different responses, so don’t assume that you need to launch into panic mode right away. If you’re in the middle of a dental emergency, here are a few ways to calmly figure out what to do.

Identify the Problem

When you’re in pain, you’re not thinking very clearly to begin with. However, one way to move forward and stay calm is to try and assess the exact nature of the problem. It could be something obvious, like a chipped or broken tooth or a loose filling. Often enough, though, tooth problems don’t seem to have an immediately identifiable source. The best way to start is to think about where the pain is coming from. This won’t just give you a good sense of what’s causing the pain, it will help you figure out just how serious the problem actually is. For instance, does your entire jaw hurt, or is your face swelling? That’s a case for the emergency room. Swelling is usually a sign of infection, which can end up rapidly growing and becoming more complicated the longer it’s left untreated. To you have pain in your gums from bleeding or do you see an abscess? That’s another situation that needs to be treated immediately. Does your tooth hurt deep down in your gum region? You could be dealing with a tooth abscess, which also requires immediate attention. As soon as you think you know what the problem is, call your dentist or call a friend to take you to the ER if necessary.

Use Over-the-Counter Medication for the Pain

In moments when the pain is simply too intense, taking a bit of Advil or Tylenol can help you cope a little bit better. While it won’t do much for extreme tooth pain, you’ll be able to dull the ache of a toothache or handle a knocked-out or chipped tooth that much better. Your dentist or ER doctor will be able to prescribe you something stronger for the pain, but you might be in for a long wait, especially if you’re going to the ER at peak hours or in the middle of the night. Icing helps with a toothache or any other dull mouth pain. Taking over the counter medication is also a helpful way to avoid tampering with the problem and making it worse, such as trying to “pop” a gum abscess.

Find a 24-Hour Emergency Dentist

In many cities and dense areas, you can find a 24-hour dental surgeon who is on hand to deal with serious tooth issues. In the case of a severely painful toothache or a cracked, chipped, or knocked-out tooth, an emergency dentist can be extremely helpful to take care of the pain. However, for other mouth-related issues, such as facial swelling, you’ll want to skip the dentist and head straight to the emergency room. Anything involving swelling is almost certainly an infection, and you never want to wait too long and risk the complications. If you know your problem is solely tooth or gum related, finding a 24-hour dentist is a great idea, especially if your insurance covers it. However, if you’re at all confused or simply not sure about the root of the problem, the ER might be your best bet.

If You Can’t Find a Dentist, Head to the ER

Your local emergency room usually has the resources and the staff to figure out how best to address your problem, even if it’s strictly dental. If you’re overwhelmed with pain and can’t find a 24-hour emergency dentist in your area, head to the emergency room as soon as you can. Once you’re there, the medical providers on staff will help you figure out the rest.