What to do in a Dental Emergency
A dental emergency never seems to happen at a convenient time. It’s the weekend.
It’s the day before your wedding. It’s your first day of vacation.
Ignoring dental trauma or tooth discomfort can be more painful and more expensive
in the long run if you do not treat your mouth with care. Here are some common dental
health emergencies and what you can do to get back to your old self quickly.
Toothache – Many times a toothache is due to the nerve root of
the tooth being irritated. This irritation of inflammation of the central portion
of the tooth is called the pulp. The pulp becomes sensitive to pain when tooth decay,
trauma or infection is present. If infection becomes severe, you may have an abscessed
You should seek professional care when the pain does not subside with over-the-counter
medication or if swelling of the gums or face occurs. A fever is another sign of
infection. Contact your dentist and alert them to swelling or fever as soon as possible
so you can begin an antibiotic regime and get immediate treatment if necessary.
Broken teeth – If your tooth breaks, collect any of the pieces
you can retrieve and save. Rinse your mouth with warm water and apply a cold compress
if swelling begins. Call your dentist as soon as possible.
Knocked out tooth – Permanent tooth loss is considered an emergency.
Retrieve the tooth, hold it by the end that is exposed in your mouth and rinse the
tooth root off with water if it’s dirty. Do not scrub the tooth if any tissue fragments
are visible. If possible, try to put the tooth back into the socket of your gum.
Make sure the tooth is facing the correct direction. Then call your dentist immediately.
A knocked-out tooth has the highest chance of being saved if you return the tooth
to the socket and see your dentist within the hour. Note: if the tooth will not
return to the socket properly, place the tooth in a small container of milk and
call your dentist immediately.
Lost filling – If you lose a filling insert a piece of sugarless
gum over the area or purchase dental cement from your local pharmacy. Contact your
dentist for an appointment as soon as you can.
Lost crown – Retrieve your crown, if possible, and contact your
dentist for an appointment. If you cannot see your dentist immediately, here are
a few temporary options:
- Swab clove oil over the area to diminish any pain.
- Apply denture adhesive to the crown and put it back into the socket. Never use Super
Travel can add an extra level of stress to dental emergencies. Read our blog post
about travel and oral health for tips on handling dental problems
while away from home.
Dental emergencies tend to be more expensive without dental insurance. If you do
not have a dental plan, look into purchasing one. Dental insurance is a primary
indicator of access to preventive care, and preventive care can help you avoid
many of the above dental emergencies
Resource: Handling Dental Emergencies, March 15, 2009, reviewed by Dr.
Darren Williams, webmd.com