Your child slides for that game-winning home run. You cheer as your heart swells with pride, only to realize that this cool move came at a price: your child’s front tooth. Or perhaps you’re on vacation, eating at your favorite restaurant, when you hear something crack, and a jolt of pain shoots down your jaw. A dental emergency can occur anytime, anyplace. What would you do if you lost a filling? Cracked a tooth? Here are a few first aid guidelines for the most common dental emergencies.
First, thoroughly rinse your mouth with warm water. Use dental floss to remove any lodged food. If your mouth is swollen, apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth or cheek. Never put aspirin or any other painkiller against the gums near the aching tooth because it may burn the gum tissue. See your dentist as soon as possible.
Save any pieces. Rinse the mouth using warm water; rinse any broken pieces. If there's bleeding, apply a piece of gauze to the area for about 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops. Apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth, cheek, or lip near the broken/chipped tooth to keep any swelling down and relieve pain. See your dentist as soon as possible.
Retrieve the tooth, hold it by the crown (the part that is usually exposed in the mouth), and rinse off the tooth root with water if it's dirty. Do not scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. If possible, try to put the tooth back in place. Make sure it's facing the right way. Never force it into the socket. If it's not possible to reinsert the tooth in the socket, put the tooth in a small container of milk (or cup of water that contains a pinch of table salt, if milk is not available) or a product containing cell growth medium, such as Save-a-Tooth. In all cases, see your dentist as quickly as possible. Knocked out teeth with the highest chances of being saved are those seen by the dentist and returned to their socket within 1 hour of being knocked out.
See your dentist right away. Until you reach your dentist's office, to relieve pain, apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek in the affected area. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever (such as Tylenol or Advil) if needed.
First, try using dental floss to very gently and carefully remove the object. If you can't get the object out, see your dentist. Never use a pin or other sharp object to poke at the stuck object. These instruments can cut your gums or scratch your tooth surface.
As a temporary measure, stick a piece of sugarless gum into the cavity (sugar-filled gum will cause pain) or use an over-the-counter dental cement. See your dentist as soon as possible.
If the crown falls off, make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible and bring the crown with you. If you can't get to the dentist right away and the tooth is causing pain, use a cotton swab to apply a little clove oil to the sensitive area (clove oil can be purchased at your local drug store or in the spice aisle of your grocery store). If possible, slip the crown back over the tooth. Before doing so, coat the inner surface with an over-the-counter dental cement, toothpaste, or denture adhesive, to help hold the crown in place. Do not use super glue!
If a wire breaks or sticks out of a bracket or band and is poking your cheek, tongue, or gum, try using the eraser end of a pencil to push the wire into a more comfortable position. If you can't reposition the wire, cover the end with orthodontic wax, a small cotton ball, or piece of gauze until you can get to your orthodontist's office. Never cut the wire, as you could end up swallowing it or breathing it into your lungs.
Temporarily reattach loose braces with a small piece of orthodontic wax. Alternatively, place the wax over the braces to provide a cushion. See your orthodontist as soon as possible. If the problem is a loose band, save it and call your orthodontist for an appointment to have it recemented or replaced (and to have missing spacers replaced).
Abscesses are infections that occur around the root of a tooth or in the space between the teeth and gums. Abscesses are a serious condition that can damage tissue and surrounding teeth, with the infection possibly spreading to other parts of the body if left untreated.
Because of the serious oral health and general health problems that can result from an abscess, see your dentist as soon as possible if you discover a pimple-like swelling on your gum that usually is painful. In the meantime, to ease the pain and draw the pus toward the surface, try rinsing your mouth with a mild salt water solution (1/2 teaspoon of table salt in 8 ounces of water) several times a day.
Injuries to the soft tissues, which include the tongue, cheeks, gums, and lips, can result in bleeding. To control the bleeding, here's what to do:
When travelling in a hot country, it is sometimes tempting, and often necessary (when safe drinking water is unobtainable) to drink large amounts of canned or bottled soft drinks. In some countries it may also be customary to serve guests with heavily sweetened tea or coffee. Frequent consumption of sugary food or drink is especially damaging to the teeth. It may take only a few months for early decay to develop in a previously unaffected tooth; small quiescent or reversing lesions may become active and irreversible.
Tooth cleaning becomes even more important when sugar consumption is high. Using dental tape or an interdental brush every day in the way that we have shown you will help to prevent decay of otherwise inaccessible surfaces. Dental floss has been found to be a versatile and indispensable travelling companion by one of the authors, who has had cause to use it on occasion as a clothes line, for repairing a tent, and for hanging a hammock. The possibilities are limitless!
Most dentists reserve time in their daily schedules for emergency patients. Call your dentist and provide as much detail as possible about your condition.
verywell.com, foreversmile.co.uk, thedentalexpress.com, mouthhealthy.org, webmd.com