Some dental emergencies are obvious, like cracked or missing teeth. But others can be harder to pinpoint. If you’re dealing with swollen gums, does that count as a dental emergency? What should you do about this issue?
The truth is that sometimes swollen gums are an emergency, and sometimes they aren’t. If you’re not sure, your best option is to contact an emergency dentist. The New Bern Ave location of Carolina Dental Arts takes patients every day of the week.
Maybe you want to self-evaluate, though. In that case, these are all situations that make swollen gums into a dental emergency:
- The swelling is extreme and very visible around your teeth.
- The swelling is localized to a bump in one area.
- There is significant bleeding when you eat food or brush your teeth.
- Your gums are so sensitive that they are making it difficult to eat or manage your oral hygiene.
In all of these cases, there are likely major issues going on. These issues can range from an infection to gum disease.
Chances are, you bleed a little bit when you go for your regular cleaning at the dentist. Bleeding gums are especially common in people who don’t floss regularly. It’s not a huge emergency if your gums bleed slightly when you floss or brush.
However, totally healthy gums don’t bleed at all. So if you’re regularly spitting blood after brushing, you may have early gum disease.
That isn’t the same as a dangerous condition. You don’t need to schedule an appointment for a little blood. But you should schedule an appointment if you have a major laceration or injury causing bleeding. Similarly, you should schedule an appointment if the blood is accompanied by major swelling.
When your gums are swollen all around your mouth, the most likely culprit is gum disease. If you notice that you have irritated and swollen gums, you should schedule a dentist appointment. However, mild swelling isn’t an emergency. You can schedule a regular appointment instead of an emergency one.
If the swelling is localized to one area, though, that’s an emergency. This is often an indication that you have an infection. There may be an abscess that’s damaging your teeth. If you don’t drain and treat the infection, it could spread and cause life-threatening complications.
Even if your swollen gums aren’t caused by an abscess, it’s better to get a dentist’s evaluation than not.
Another condition that’s an emergency is swelling so bad it makes chewing, breathing, or closing your mouth difficult. That’s a major problem that goes beyond gum disease. It’s another indication that you might have an underlying abscess or infection.
If you don’t have an infection, your swollen gums are likely a sign of gum disease. The seriousness of this can vary. There are two main types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.
You’ve probably heard of gingivitis before. This is the most mild type of gum disease, and it can often be fixed with better brushing habits. You can reverse the symptoms of gingivitis.
However, if gingivitis progresses without treatment, it can turn into periodontitis. This is much more serious and often presents with swollen gums.
Periodontitis begins when the inflammation from gingivitis leads to destruction. Rather than just being harmed by bacteria, your teeth are harmed by the inflammatory substances. The condition wears away at the fibers that connect the roots to the socket of a tooth.
Once these fibers become damaged, the damage can’t be reversed. But the symptoms are very similar to gingivitis, so it’s hard to tell if you have early stage periodontitis.
With early periodontitis, your gums will continue to bleed no matter how often you brush. They may also become more tender and inflamed with time.
The condition will progress to the second stage when more damage is done. In this situation, your dentist will have an easier time diagnosing it. They will be able to see the damage being wrought.
Unchecked, periodontitis will progress to severe damage. This leads to the potential that you’ll lose one or more of your teeth. At this point, your teeth might look longer because the gums have worn away. Your mouth might also taste foul, and your breath might be bad.
This type of gum disease is an emergency and needs aggressive treatment. In some cases, you might even benefit from periodontal surgery.
The fourth stage is the most severe. At this point, you might lose all of your teeth. By this point, you’ve often begun losing teeth, or you might feel your teeth loosen. It may also be difficult to chew because of the instability.
Gaps will begin to form between the teeth, and you will feel them move as you chew. If you don’t get treatment at this point, you could have other serious health complications. This type of periodontitis increases your risk of developing diabetes or having major cardiovascular complications. You could even have a heart attack.
Oftentimes with this stage, you might need to get dental implants.
If your swollen gums need an evaluation, our dentists can help. Carolina Dental Arts serves the Raleigh and Durham areas of North Carolina. Our practice on New Bern Ave is open nights and weekends. Call today to set up an emergency appointment to take care of your teeth.