While you can’t always be 100 percent prepared for a dental emergency, knowing where you would go and what you would do can give you a leg up on the chaos that a dental emergency can create.
First, have a dental office in mind that you would go to should a dental emergency arise. Hopefully you already have a dental office you visit regularly, but if you don’t, make sure you find one as soon as you can. It’s also a good idea to look for a dental office that is open on the weekends, as that is the most common time that these dental emergencies happen.
Second, know about the most common dental emergencies and what to do should they arise:
- Knocked-Out Tooth. If you or a family member has a tooth knocked out, retrieve the tooth and hold it by the crown. If your tooth is dirty, rinse it off and then put it back in place. Do not scrub the tooth and do not force it back in. If you can’t put your tooth back in, place it in a small container of milk or a cup of water with a pinch of salt. Try to get in to see your dentist within one hour of the tooth being knocked out. The sooner you can see your dentist, the better. A knocked-out tooth has a higher chance of being saved if the dentist can get it back in within an hour of it being knocked out.
- Chipped or Broken Tooth. If your tooth chips or breaks, rinse your mouth and any of the broken pieces with warm water, place a piece of gauze to the chipped or broken tooth for about ten minutes if there is any bleeding and place a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek near the broken or chipped tooth to relieve the pain and keep the swelling down.
- Partially Dislodged Tooth. Place a cold compress to the outside of your mouth or cheek over the affected area until you can get to your dentist. You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
- Missing Filling. If you lose your filling, place a piece of sugarless gum (regular gum will only cause you pain) where the filling once was, or you may use an over-the-counter dental cement, until you can get to your dentist.
- Lost Crown. If your crown falls off, bring the crown with you when you see your dentist so he/she can put it back on for you. If your tooth is causing you a great deal of pain, coat the inner surface of your tooth with an over-the-counter dental cement, dental adhesive or toothpaste and put the crown back on. Only use one of these adhesives! Also, you can apply a cotton swab with clove oil to the tooth to relieve some of the pain if it’s bothering you.
- Toothache. If you have a toothache, swish around some warm water in your mouth. Then take some dental floss and remove any food that may be lodged between your teeth. If your mouth is swollen, place a cold compress to the outside of your cheek or mouth over the swelling.
- Lodged Food. If you have food that gets caught between your teeth, gently use dental floss to get it out. Do not use a sharp object—like a pin, for example—to poke at the object. These sharp objects can scratch your teeth or cut your gums.
- Orthodontics Mishap. If one of your wires breaks and is poking you, use the eraser end of a pencil and direct the wire into a more comfortable position. If you are unable to reposition it, cover the end with orthodontic wax, a piece of gauze or a small cotton ball until you can get in to see your orthodontist. Don’t cut the wire because you could wind up swallowing it and breathing it into your lungs. If your brackets are loose, you can reattach them, temporarily, with a piece of orthodontic wax. If it’s a loose band, make an appointment with your orthodontist so he/she can recement or replace it.
- Abscess. An abscess is an infection that occurs at the root of a tooth or in between the teeth and gums. This is a serious condition that damages tissue and the surrounding teeth. The infection could also spread to other areas of the body if it is not treated and cause serious oral health and general health problems. If you see your mouth swelling into a pimple-like bump that is painful, see your dentist as soon as possible. Until you can get to your dentist, rinse your mouth with a mild saltwater several times a day. This will ease the pain.
- Soft-Tissue Injuries. These include the cheeks, gums, tongue and lips and can cause bleeding. To reduce the bleeding, rinse your mouth with a mild saltwater and use a moist piece of gauze to place pressure on the bleeding site for 15 to 20 minutes. You might also hold a cold compress on the outside of your mouth to relieve the pain. If you can’t get the bleeding to stop, see your dentist or go to a hospital emergency room as soon as possible.
Whatever the problem may be, the one thing you should be ready to do immediately is call your dentist or orthodontist and set up an appointment. Each of these dental emergencies requires an immediate appointment with your dentist or orthodontist. This is why visiting a dentist or orthodontist who is open on the weekends can be a huge help!
Another helpful action you might want to take is putting together an emergency dental first aid kit. You can find some of the essentials for these kits in How to Make an Emergency Dental First Aid Kit.