Among children and adolescents, about half of each have experienced cavities in either baby teeth or adult teeth. While we may think of cavities as being insignificant, they can turn into real dental problems if left untreated. They can also cause a lot of pain and discomfort.

If your child is experiencing dental pain, how do you know if it can wait or if you need to take them to an emergency pediatric dentist? Knowing the difference isn’t always easy.

We’re here to help. Read on to learn some of the top signs it’s time to take your child to an emergency pediatric dentist to assess the situation. 

1. Severe or Prolonged Tooth Pain

A little bit of tooth pain can be normal, especially for a child who’s getting their adult teeth. It’s also normal to experience some discomfort from time to time after minor tooth trauma or extreme temperatures. How do you know when tooth pain needs to be addressed by an emergency pediatric dentist?

If your child is experiencing persistent and severe tooth pain that is not helped by over-the-counter pain relievers, it may indicate underlying dental problems that require prompt attention.

In many cases, you can afford to make an appointment and wait. If your child is in distress, an emergency dentist who can fit your child into an earlier appointment may be best. Gauge your child’s pain by seeing if they’re still willing and able to eat and drink. 

2. Knocked-Out or Broken Tooth 

Uh oh, your child has a broken or knocked-out tooth from playing too rough! Now what? 

If a permanent tooth has been knocked out, it’s important to seek emergency care as soon as possible. The chances of saving a knocked-out tooth are higher when addressed promptly. That’s right, a good dentist can save that tooth!

What if it’s a cracked or chipped tooth?

If a child has a chipped or cracked tooth, especially if it involves the nerve or is causing significant pain, it’s best to seek out immediate dental care. Save any broken tooth fragments, if possible, and bring them to the dentist. The dentist may be able to fix the tooth and minimize any further damage or discomfort.

3. Bleeding Gums or Mouth

A little bit of bleeding from the gums generally indicates gum issues. In most cases, minor bleeding (such as a touch of pink on a toothbrush) isn’t a cause for concern. You should bring your child to the dentist, but it isn’t an emergency.

Profuse bleeding from the gums, tongue, or other oral tissues may be a sign of an injury that requires immediate attention. Apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or gauze and seek emergency dental care.

If your child has persistent bleeding from the mouth that doesn’t stop with gentle pressure or if it is related to a dental procedure that hasn’t healed up in the time the dentist suggested, it’s important to seek emergency dental care to address the cause.

4. Signs of Infection or Abscess

Dental infections and abscesses can be very dangerous. If you suspect that your child is dealing with one, it’s best to address them right away.

Signs of infection, such as swelling, redness, or the presence of a dental abscess (which resembles a cyst inside the mouth in the gums), require urgent attention. Infections can spread quickly and may lead to serious complications if not treated on time.

Make sure that your child doesn’t poke or press the abscess. A dentist needs to handle it with proper care. 

5. Severe Facial Trauma

If a child experiences severe facial trauma, such as a blow to the face resulting in damage to the teeth, jaw, or surrounding structures, seek emergency dental care immediately. This may involve injuries from accidents, falls, or sports-related incidents.

Even if a tooth doesn’t appear to be broken, it’s a good idea to visit the dentist anyway. They may recommend that the child see an orthodontist to address their jaw. This is also a good time to ask about a custom mouthguard for your child so they’re safer next time they play a high-contact game or sport. 

6. Sudden and Unexplained Swelling

Your child comes up to you with a suddenly swollen side of their face. Now what? 

Swelling in the face, jaw, or neck that occurs suddenly and is accompanied by pain may be a sign of a serious dental issue, such as an infection or abscess, and requires immediate attention. 

Even if the issue isn’t serious, it’s best to address it as soon as possible so your child doesn’t have to deal with the discomfort. It could be something as normal as your child’s wisdom teeth growing in (which can cause gum and face swelling), and while that’s not an emergency, the dentist can still help them with pain and schedule a wisdom tooth removal if necessary. 

7. Difficulty Swallowing or Chewing

Any difficulty swallowing or chewing may require quick emergency dental care. 

There are many reasons that a child may struggle to chew or swallow, and some of them aren’t alarming. For example, a child who’s about to lose a tooth or who is growing a new adult tooth may be uncomfortable and not want to put pressure on the teeth. 

Try to identify if the reason your child can’t chew or swallow is due to tooth and gum pain. You want to make sure your child is able to eat and drink comfortably, so if tooth or gum pain is the culprit, you’ll need a dentist to address it. 

Is It Time to See an Emergency Pediatric Dentist? 

If any of these signs seem familiar, it might be time to pay a visit to an emergency pediatric dentist. It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to your child’s dental health. 

If it can’t wait, emergency dental care is the perfect solution. 

At Kentuckiana Pediatric Dentistry, our team knows all about how to keep children happy and healthy. We specialize in kids’ smiles, after all! Schedule an appointment for your child today.