Should I go to A&E for a dental emergency?

Over the last decade, visits to the emergency room for dental care issues have increased dramatically.  In fact, the National Health System (NHS) estimates the numbers increased from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.2 million in 2012, and are still on the rise. But where should you seek treatment if it is a dental emergency? Depending on the severity, dental emergencies require different levels of professional care. Consider the following before deciding where to go for treatment.

What is A&E?

A&E is an abbreviation for accident and emergency department. It can be a walk in centre or a medical facility accepting ambulance emergency cases. It is also known as ER (emergency room) or ED (emergency department). Dental care is rarely part of the procedures provided in the accidents and emergency department in the hospitals.

Why many people end up at the A&E for dental care?

People tend to ignore dental issues until they get bad, and pain is often what drives patients to the A&E. Limited dental insurance coverage is another contributing factor. By law, ER must see patients even if they cannot pay. Larger numbers going to the A&E for dental care means overcrowding. It also means longer wait times for patients with more urgent health conditions. A&E visits cost an average of £500 when the person is not hospitalized—three times as much as a routine dental visit. Prevention is key, and regular visits to the dentist would cut down on most dental emergencies. Though there are some cases, like sports accidents or physical trauma, where a dental emergency is unavoidable.

A&E Emergency Dentist London


What is a dental emergency?

It is any significant injury or trauma involving the teeth or related tissues of the mouth, jaw, and face. Dental emergencies are not always painful and some do not require immediate attention. The best thing to do is understand the severity of the situation and know what steps to take. What is considered to be a dental emergency situation you can check out here.

Emergency phone numbers in UK provided by the National Health System (NHS)

NHS 111 is the NHS non-emergency number. It works 24 hours a day, 365 days an year. You can contact 111 if you are seeking medical help but it won’t be an urgent medical emergency call.

NHS 999 number is the real emergency number in the UK. However, it does not cover emergencies like dental abscess pain, wisdom tooth pain or fractured teeth.

The problem with going to the A&E for dental emergencies

Hospitals do not usually have a dentist on staff, and often lack the equipment and expertise to save or restore your teeth. So if your situation is not life-threatening, the A&E staff will likely prescribe antibiotics or painkillers, and tell you to visit your dentist. But if you are experiencing severe symptoms, and have no way to get in touch with your dentist, go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care center. While they might not repair your dental problem, they will get you the help you need until you can see a dentist.

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