Friday, February 26, 2010

Dental pain in the emergency department

Here's a little known secret- there are no dentists in the emergency department.

If you come to the ED with a dental problem there is a very good chance that we will not be able to do anything for you other than treat your pain.

The exceptions to this are major dental trauma or huge abscesses that need to be drained. A dentist is on call at most hospitals and can come in for problems that are very bad and cannot wait. Cavities do not fall into this category.

If you have had dental pain for 3 weeks and haven't called a dentist or taken any pain medication, the ED is not the place for you. You will not see a dentist in the emergency department. You will probably get pain medication or antibiotics if you need it but only enough to carry you to when the dental clinic opens.

Moral of the story- if you have a dental complaint that has been present for more than 1 day then call your dentist! If you don't have a dentist then call your local hospital to find out when their dental clinic is open.

If you have a dental problem and you receive pain medication and antibiotics in the ED, it is important to followup with the dentist. Your pain may get better but it will keep coming back until the dentist fixes your problem. On occasion we see patients who use their chronic toothache as a way to keep getting vicodin from the ED..

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