Specialist Referrals

While experts in emergency medicine are highly specialized to provide emergency care in different areas ranging from pediatrics to cardiology, your treatment might rely on being referred to another health specialist. For toothaches, for example, ER specialists can help you get your tooth pain under control temporarily, but it's likely you'll still need to be referred back to your dentist to receive the treatment needed to address the problem.

Tooth-related issues might not come to mind when you think about the ER, but they're surely presented to ER doctors [source: American College of Emergency Physicians Foundation]. Toothaches remain a common reason to pursue emergency treatment, especially at times when dentist offices are closed after-hours or during the weekends.

Often, patients come in with abscesses, or areas filled with pus, within teeth or in surrounding gum tissue. In situations in which the abscess can be reached, ER doctors will drain it and prescribe pain medications. For pain within teeth resulting from gradual tooth decay or sudden trauma to the tooth, doctors will be limited to giving medications to alleviate pain until patients can make it to the dentist.

Depending on the cost differences, urgent care might be a better option than emergency care. Urgent care centers are often open later than doctors' offices to treat non-life-threatening medical problems and are generally less expensive than a trip to the ER [source: Preidt].

Sprains and broken bones make emergency room appearances as well. Read more on the next page.