- Be prepared for a dental emergency; ask your dentist about after-hours emergency care
- Visit a dentist immediately after a dental emergency to increase your chances of saving your tooth and preventing further damage.
- Help prevent injury and emergencies by not using your teeth as tools and wearing a mouthguard during sports activities.
It’s never a good time for a dental emergency. Being prepared for an emergency can mean the difference between saving a tooth and losing a tooth.
Ask your dentist about after-hours emergency care. They will provide you with an alternate phone number or the location of an emergency dental clinic in your area. Post this information on your refrigerator or by your phone.
Common Dental Emergencies and Tips
Here are common dental emergencies that require immediate attention, and tips on what to do before you can get to a dentist.
If you have constant or severe pain in your mouth, call your dentist immediately. Let them know your symptoms and ask them to see you as soon as possible. They can suggest over-the-counter pain medication and give you advice on how to deal with the pain. Do not put the pills on your sore tooth.
Do not put a heating pad, a hot water bottle, or any other source of heat on your jaw. The heat will make things worse instead of better.
Chipped or broken tooth
All is not lost if your tooth is chipped or broken. Most of the time, they can be saved. Just be sure to call your dentist as soon as possible so they can see you right away. For small breaks, the dentist might use a filling to fix the tooth. For serious breaks, a root canal may be needed. Your tooth may also need a crown (also called a cap).
If your child has chipped their tooth and is bleeding or in pain, contact the dentist immediately. Fast action can save the tooth, prevent infection and reduce the need for extensive dental treatment. Rinse the mouth with water and apply cold compresses to reduce swelling. If you can find the broken tooth fragment, bring it to the dentist.
If the knocked-out tooth is an adult (or permanent) tooth, your dentist may be able to put it back. Go to your dentist, or to the nearest dentist, right away.
In the meantime, clean the tooth if needed with a gentle rinse it gently in cool water; do not scrub it or use soap. Once clean, gently place the tooth back in its place (the socket) and hold it there with clean gauze or a washcloth. If this isn’t possible, or if there’s a chance that the tooth might be swallowed, put it in a container of cold milk.
If the tooth is put back in place within 10 minutes, it has a fair chance of taking root again. After two hours, the chances are poor.
Knocked-out Baby Tooth
Contact your dentist as soon as possible. If there is bleeding, rinse the mouth with water and place gauze in the opening. You can also apply cold compresses on the outside of the mouth to reduce swelling. Keep the child calm instead of looking for the tooth – baby teeth will never be replanted. Never try to reinsert the tooth into the opening – you may damage the permanent teeth growing underneath.
A loose tooth could be caused by gum disease or by a blow to the mouth. In any case, it is a serious problem. You should see your dentist.
Use a softened piece of sugarless chewing gum in the spot where the filling was lost and see the dentist as soon as possible.
Badly bitten lip or tongue
If the lip or tongue is bleeding, apply pressure to it with a clean cloth. If the lip is swollen, use an ice pack to keep the swelling down. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, go to the hospital right away.
Something stuck between teeth
Start with dental floss to gently and carefully remove the debris. Never poke between your teeth with a pin or a sharp, pointy object — it can cut your gums or scratch your tooth. If you still can’t get the object out, see your dentist.
Preventing Dental Emergencies
Accidents do happen, but there are ways to avoid injury to your teeth and gums. It’s amazing how everyday habits or eating certain foods can put your teeth at risk. Here’s a list of things to avoid:
- Biting ice. The cold temperature and hard ice can crack and break your teeth or dental work.
- Eating hard foods too fast. Treats like popcorn, hard candy, peanut brittle and shelled nuts should be eaten slowly.
- Using your teeth as tools. Let scissors cut tape and ribbons and open up packaging for you and avoid lifting or holding things with your mouth.
- Playing sports without a mouthguard. Mouthguards absorb shock and protect teeth from damage, especially during contact sports. Your dentist can help you choose the mouthguard that is right for you.
Identify oral health issues before they happen!
Watch out for early warning signs and symptoms.