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Emergency Treatment Options

There are broadly two treatment approaches to a dental emergency: to save the tooth, or to remove (and usually replace) the tooth.

Save the tooth

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In most cases, this is the preferred option, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, while saving a tooth may cost more than extracting it in the short term, this can prove to be a false economy in the long term. Options for replacing missing teeth – such as dentures, bridges, and implants – almost always end up being more expensive (and more inconvenient) than saving a tooth.

Secondly, there are functional benefits to saving a tooth. Missing teeth open the door for their remaining neighbours to try to fill the empty space. This may result in complications chewing food, or in extreme cases may even affect speech.

Thirdly, the appearance of a missing tooth can be a real concern for some patients. Where multiple teeth have been removed, it is generally considered that this will have an effect on the structure and appearance of the face in the long term.

Treatments designed to save natural teeth would include:

  • medication to manage infections, inflammation and pain
  • root canal therapy, the first stage of which is to “open and drain”
  • rebuilding and strengthening of damaged teeth with fillings, onlays, crowns or veneers
  • gum care, including periodontal cleaning and oral hygiene instruction – healthy gums can significantly reduce the need for tooth extraction.

As a general rule, treatments that are less invasive and preserve more of the natural tooth structure are referred to as being conservative, which is virtually always recommended.

Remove the tooth

Unfortunately, in some cases the natural tooth is beyond saving. When there is severe infection, marked structural damage or reduced health of the surrounding gums, or where the prognosis for the tooth is otherwise very poor, removing it may be the best option.

Treatment by tooth extraction may be non-surgical (whereby the tooth is removed as one unit) or surgical (the tooth is surgically divided into multiple pieces and then removed).

It is almost always recommended to replace a tooth that has been removed.

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