Keep smiling this summer
It starts as a friendly game of backyard cricket on a summer evening and ends with you on your hands and knees looking for a tooth and trying to stop your mouth from bleeding. Yup, you’ve been hit in the face by a cricket ball and, as a result, bitten by a full-scale summer dental emergency. What do you do next? Any dental emergency means calling a dentist as soon as possible. If you have a regular dentist, they should have information about after hours and emergency dental care on their clinic answer phone.
If you don’t have a dentist, the Yellow Pages (under dentists) lists after-hours and emergency dentists and, in this day and age, you can always Google ‘emergency dentists’ and get a list of suggestions.
It’s a good idea to keep your dentist’s phone number in a safe place with other important contact numbers and to include in a household first aid kit useful items for dealing with dental emergencies. These include a small container, with a lid, for putting a tooth that’s been knocked out in, gauze and a clean handkerchief.
How do you know if it’s a dental emergency?
In a case like the one described above, it’s obvious. But a bleeding mouth, swelling in the mouth or face, severe pain, an oral or facial injury, swollen and/or bulging gums, and the unexpected loss of a tooth are all signs that you need to contact a dentist sooner rather than later.
ACC may cover dental injuries caused in accidents, sports or because of medical/ dental treatment.
The Accident Compensation Corporation doesn’t cover dental claims if the damage to your teeth (or dentures) was caused by normal wear and tear or your dentures were damaged when you weren’t wearing them.
Treatment must be carried out by a registered dentist who can help you fill out an ACC claim form. Like medical treatments covered by ACC, the dentist will treat you on your first visit and charge you part of their normal fee while ACC pays the rest of the cost.
If you need further treatment from a specialist, ACC must approve this treatment as necessary and appropriate first. ACC states: ‘‘Your dentist will discuss your treatment with you and can show you the ACC Schedule of Dental Treatment Costs Contributions. You need to ensure you are fully informed of what your financial responsibility is before undergoing any treatment.’’ What if it’s a child? Even if the injury doesn’t seem severe, it’s important to get a dentist’s opinion and fill in a claim form because children may need further treatment in later years.
Preventing dental emergencies
The most effective ways to avoid dental emergencies at any time of year is to take care of your teeth and gums.
The New Zealand Dental Association recommends eating a healthy and well balanced diet, going for regular dental check-ups because a dentist can spot early and deal with problems before they turn into major issues, brushing teeth twice daily (especially before bedtime) using a fluoride toothpaste and flossing once a day.
If you are going on holiday and won’t be able to get to a dentist, it’s advisable to have a check-up before you leave. This way, your dentist can determine whether there are any problems likely to erupt while you’re away. Wearing a mouth-guard if you’re taking part in sports and risky adventure activities is also advisable because they help to prevent teeth from being chipped, knocked out or broken.