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Should I See an Emergency Dentist for Facial Swelling?
When someone is experiencing serious dental issues, a visit to the emergency dentist is usually necessary. This type of dentist is available to handle dental emergencies during off hours or when the patient's regular dental professional is unable to schedule an immediate appointment. Facial swelling is one reason to contact emergency services.
Potential reasons for facial swelling
There are numerous reasons someone may be experiencing swelling, and many of them constitute an acute crisis that needs to be treated right away.
An abscess is when bacteria enter into the gums or around the root of the tooth, which causes an infection that is usually accompanied by a pocket of pus. With an abscess, the patient often has severe pain around the affected area, and the pain comes on quickly. This infection cannot heal on its own, so an emergency dentist should be sought.
Immediate care is important, as the untreated infection can spread to other parts of the body via blood. This can result in sepsis, which is potentially fatal.
Salivary gland infection
The salivary glands are located in the cheeks. When they are infected, the patient experiences severe pain and swelling. Most salivary gland infections are caused by some type of bacteria, and the infections result from a reduction in saliva production. This can be caused by a number of reasons:
- Inflammation or blockage of the gland duct
- Influenza A or other health condition such as Sjogren’s syndrome, sarcoidosis, HIV, herpes, mumps, and radiation cancer treatment
- Excess mucus
- Salivary stone
Depending on the cause of the infection, the dentist may refer the patient to another medical professional, such as an ear, nose, and throat doctor.
What to expect at an emergency visit
During a visit for facial swelling, the dentist examines the patient’s face, teeth, gums, and mouth, and they may take X-rays. If the diagnosis is an abscessed tooth, the emergency dentist will remove the bacteria, either by draining them or extracting the infected tooth. The affected area is then cleaned and disinfected. Typically, a crown is placed over the damaged tooth to prevent further infection.
If the issue is a salivary gland infection, the exact treatment depends on the cause. The dentist may need to remove part of the glands, drain the abscess, or recommend antibiotics if there is pus drainage or a fever.
If facial swelling is infrequent or mild, it is typically not an acute situation, and you can wait to make an appointment with your general dentist. Using an ice compress and a salt water rinse should help manage the swelling until treatment occurs.
However, major swelling that is accompanied by persistent and severe pain requires an appointment with an emergency dentist. An infection in the mouth is not only painful, but it can lead to more serious issues, even life-threatening ones, if it goes too long without treatment.
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