Definition & Overview

An oral surgery emergency is a situation in which the urgent attention of an oral surgeon is required to treat serious injuries to the teeth, gums, mouth, face and jaws. Oral surgical procedures are performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in a fully-equipped dental clinic or hospital.

Dental emergencies, like toothaches with an emergency tooth extraction and loose teeth, are rarely life-threatening but may require an emergency visit to an oral surgeon to save the tooth, control the bleeding, provide relief from severe pain or prevent more serious harm from occurring.

In most cases, an oral surgery emergency visit is called for when the initial concern turns out to be more serious than was originally determined. There are also emergency cases, like in major traumatic accidents, that the patient is referred directly to an oral surgeon for immediate treatment.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

An emergency visit to an oral surgeon is in order when a sudden traumatic event (such as those listed below) caused injury, severe pain and trauma to the teeth, gums, mouth, jaws and face.

  • Knocked-out tooth – A knocked-out tooth is usually a result of significant trauma to the mouth or face. In this case, it is possible for the tooth to be reattached to its socket as long as the patient receives immediate attention from an oral surgeon. Ideally, the knocked-out tooth should be gently reinserted into its socket even before coming to the emergency room or dental clinic. But if it is not possible, it needs to be contained in a cup of milk or water with a pinch of salt. The oral surgeon can then reattach the roots of the tooth and attach a splint to nearby teeth for support.

  • Cracked or fractured teeth – Cracked or fractured teeth is a serious issue that needs immediate attention as this may indicate serious damage to underlying structures. Treatments may include root canal, a dental crown or a dental implant through oral surgery.

  • Mild soft-tissue injuries – The teeth are not the only ones to suffer trauma and injury. Oral surgeons also treat soft-tissue injuries to the gums, mouth, cheeks and tongue that are typically the result of include lacerations and puncture wounds.

  • Impacted wisdom teeth removal – Wisdom teeth are supposed to erupt between the ages of 17 to 21 but in some instances, they don’t and they become impacted. They are unable to come out because there is no longer any room for them in the mouth. If they don’t come out, or they do partially come out, there is a possibility of infection and severe pain. An oral surgery emergency visit is required when this happens.

  • Abscesses and facial infections - Abscesses are severe infections that occur around the root of the tooth or between teeth and gums. They are pimple-like, pus-filled protrusions that are very painful and can cause swelling in the area around the infection. Other infections can occur in the gums and jaws. These conditions require an oral surgeon to drain the pus and, if necessary, remove the affected tooth.

  • Reconstructive surgery following trauma – When there’s significant damage to the face and mouth as a result of trauma, it’s not enough that the damage is repaired. Reconstructive surgery is also necessary to prevent or correct physical deformities.

How Does the Procedure Work

When any of the situations listed above is experienced by the patient, the first thing to do is to call the nearest dental clinic. The patient may be given first aid instructions, if applicable, and then asked to proceed to the clinic immediately. If the accident or injury happens after clinic hours, the patient may be directed to the emergency room of the nearest hospital.

Appropriate tests will be performed depending on the situation. In the case of knocked-out or avulsed tooth, the surgeon will immediately perform an x-ray to assess the condition of the root, which will be the deciding factor if the tooth can still be re-implanted. An x-ray will also be performed in cases of bone fractures or trauma that affects the gums and mouth. After the results of diagnostic procedures are obtained, the oral surgeon and his team can decide on the most appropriate treatment. This may include taking pain medications, antibiotics (in cases of infection), minor surgical procedures (like root canal therapy), or major surgical procedures (in cases of severe damage to the face, gums and surrounding bone structures due to serious trauma).

Possible Complications and Risks

An oral surgery emergency visit will have successful results if the patient is brought immediately to the oral surgeon and the teeth are preserved (in the case of knocked-out teeth). Complications may arise if the teeth are not properly handled, in which case, they are no longer suitable for implantation and other substitute methods will be chosen. Any delays will most likely worsen the situation, necessitating a possible stay in the hospital or more expensive procedures. Also, surgical procedures that involve the gums, jaw and mouth carry certain risks such as infection, swelling, pain and discomfort and allergic reaction to the anaesthesia, among others.

Reference:

  • American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons: "The Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon."
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