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Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Toothaches and the Hospital Emergency Department

Dr. Vincent Wan


Have you needed to go to the emergency department of your local hospital?  Have you been so seriously unwell or in an accident that you needed to be taken there by an ambulance after calling 000?

Hospital emergency departments are always busy, dealing with sometimes life threatening situations such as heart attacks, strokes and injuries from serious accidents.  When we have a serious problem that cannot be dealt with by any other means, going to the hospital emergency department is the best thing to do.

More and more there are so called largely avoidable incidents that have filled our hospital emergency departments.  These so called largely avoidable incidents are unlike heart attacks, strokes and serious accidents in that they are usually much more easily preventable.  A key example are toothaches and dental abscesses that are mostly preventable by good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist.

We don’t want to be over filling our hospital emergency departments and over working their staff with patients with toothaches and dental abscesses when they should be saving patients with relatively more serious conditions.

If you have a toothache or dental abscess, see the dentist as soon as you can.  The longer you leave it, the more serious the problem can become.

Some toothaches can be treated by a simple filling if it is addressed timely before the problem affects the nerve of the tooth.  If the nerve of the tooth is compromised, you may need a root canal treatment or extraction.  If the nerve is left untreated, you may develop a dental abscess.  As this abscess becomes bigger, you may get spread of the infection to your face and develop a large swollen cheek.  Worse, the infection may spread to the floor of the mouth and block your airway, or to your eye and cause blindness.

This is when most cases find themselves going to the hospital emergency department, but as you’ve read, you should have gone to the dentist way before this point in time.