What to Do in a Dental Emergency

  • What to Do in a Dental Emergency?
  • Quick Fixes for Dental Emergencies
  • Pediatric Dental Emergencies

What to Do in a Dental Emergency?

It’s always best to be prepared, and knowing how to be ready for a dental emergency can be important to your oral health. If left untreated, a  chipped or broken tooth, or a broken crown or filling can provide an opening for cavities because the damaged area is hard to keep clean.

If you have a dental emergency that involves trauma to your teeth, don’t panic. Follow these simple steps to hold you over until you get to your dental professional:

  • Chipped Tooth: If you break or chip a tooth, save and rinse the pieces, as well as your mouth with warm water. Apply gauze to any areas that are bleeding. Once any bleeding stops, apply a cold compress to the area and see your dental professional as soon as possible. It may or may not be possible to reattach the pieces, but bring them with you just in case.
  • Dislodged tooth: If your tooth becomes partly dislodged, get to your dental professional immediately, and put a cold compress on the area to decrease swelling.
  • Knocked-out tooth: If possible, find the tooth and pick it up by the crown end, not the root. Rinse the tooth if it is dirty but don’t scrub it - you want to preserve any tissue fragments. Teeth that have been knocked out have the best chance to be saved if they are put back in place within an hour of the accident. Try to put the tooth back in place (be sure that it is facing the correct way) but don’t force it. If you can’t reinsert the tooth, place it in a small container of milk, or water with a pinch of salt, or a specialized growth medium that you can buy in a drugstore.

Quick Fixes for Dental Emergencies

You never know when a dental emergency will occur, so it's good to be ready with some quick fixes for dental crises that arise for you or someone in your family. Of course, these fixes are no substitute for a speedy visit to your dental professional, but they may make your dental professional's job easier when he or she works to help you treat these problems.

Broken Braces

If you or your child wears braces, check the wires regularly. If a wire snaps or protrudes out and rubs against the inside of the cheek or gum, try pushing it back into a more comfortable spot using the eraser end of a pencil. If that doesn’t work, cover the protruding wire with a small piece of gauze or a small cotton ball (or orthodontic wax if you have it) and see your orthodontist as soon as possible. Do not cut the protruding piece of wire—you (or your child) could easily swallow it or inhale it into the lungs.

Missing Filling

If a filling falls out, try plugging the hole with a small piece of dental wax or dental cement. But see your dental professional as soon as possible, and bring the filling with you if you can find it.

Missing Crown

If you have the crown, you can try to slip it back onto the tooth, using dental cement, toothpaste or a denture adhesive to hold it in place until you reach the dental office.

Never try a do-it-yourself repair of a damaged tooth, filling, crown or other dental implant using super glue––this is a job for your dental professional.

Pediatric Dental Emergencies

Even though baby teeth aren't permanent, they still require attention. Trauma to baby teeth can harm the permanent teeth developing underneath the gum, possibly delaying their eruption. And decay in a baby tooth can affect general gum and tooth health, too.

Be Ready in Case of an Emergency

Babies and toddlers are known for their enthusiastic curiosity, and sometimes, that curiosity ends in a fall, or even an injury. New walkers in particular are very likely to take a few spills and bang a tooth every now and then. In fact, about one-third of all toddlers have experienced some kind of trauma to their pearly whites, and the risk peaks between 18 and 40 months. Here's what you need to know to be ready in case of an emergency.

Knocked-Out Teeth

If your child's baby tooth is knocked out completely, chances are, your dental professional won't be able to re-implant it, so they will most likely wait for the adult tooth to develop. Permanent teeth, on the other hand, can be re-implanted within one to two hours after being injured. Just place it in a clean container (don't scrub it) with a sample of your child's saliva or milk and take it to your dental professional or emergency room right away. In all cases of missing teeth, apply pressure to the area to stop the bleeding. If bleeding doesn't stop after 10 minutes of constant, firm pressure, see your dental professional or go to the emergency room.

Broken Teeth

If part of your child's baby tooth breaks off, or if there's a break line running up the tooth or a glob of reddish flesh (dental pulp) sticking out, see your dental professional right away. If the tooth has just shifted a bit or if a tooth has been pushed up into the gum but isn't broken off or bleeding, call your dental professional and see what he/she recommends. It is important to check in with your dental professional, since further care may be necessary at that time, or in the future.

After any dental trauma, baby teeth are likely to turn color over a period of several weeks. If you did not see the trauma happen you may notice this suddenly. It may mean that the blood and nerve supply inside of the tooth has died. Consult with your dental professional to understand what treatment may be needed.

Injured Tongue, Gums or Lips

If your child cuts his tongue, and you see a lot of blood, stay calm; the injury may look worse than it actually is. Except in the case of very large cuts, the tongue may heal itself. If your child has cut or bruised his or her lips or gums, but the teeth are still intact, apply cold pressure (a compress, bag of ice or pack of frozen fruit or veggies will do). If the cut is larger than a quarter inch or goes across the lip border, take your little one to see your health care provider. They can make sure everything will heal properly.


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