Common Dental Emergencies and First Aid
A dental emergency may involve bleeding, inflammation or swelling, and severe pain, all of which can stem from a variety of causes: While initial at-home treatment may be necessary to preserve a tooth, reduce inflammation and swelling, and/or ease pain, seeking treatment from a dental professional is essential to ensuring the underlying dental issue is fully resolved.
A Knocked Out Tooth
If your tooth has accidentally been knocked out, there are steps you can take to increase the odds that your dentist will be able to reattach it. However, you need to get your tooth to the dentist within 30 minutes; therefore, acting quickly is essential.
- Gently pick it up by the crown, which is the portion that is visible in the mouth when the tooth is in place. Do not touch the other part of the tooth, this is the root.
- You can carefully and quickly rinse the tooth off with plain room temperature water(do not use chemicals or soap). In addition, do not scrub the tooth or soak the tooth in the water.
- Avoid allowing the tooth to dry out or wrapping it in anything (e.g., a cloth or tissue).
- The tooth needs to be kept moist. This can be accomplished by keeping the tooth in the mouth positioned next to the cheek, by placing the tooth in milk, or putting it in an emergency tooth preservation kit. The tooth should not be soaked in tap water because the surface cells of the root cannot tolerate sitting in regular water for any length of time.
- If you like, you can carefully reposition the tooth in the socket directly after it is knocked out of place. This can be accomplished by using your fingers to gently push it in, handling only the crown portion of the tooth. Once the tooth is in place, keep it there by gently biting down or holding it with your fingers. Head to your dentist's office right away.
A Cracked, Chipped, or Broken Tooth
The severity of a cracked, broken or chipped tooth varies greatly; therefore, if you sustain one of these injuries, contact your dentist right away.
Tooth injuries such as these frequently occur while participating in sports. One of the best ways to prevent damage to the teeth during sporting activities is to wear a mouthguard. Some cracks are not considered high risk in relation to dental health; however, a cracked tooth in general is of great concern.
Symptoms associated with a cracked tooth include:
- pain that comes and goes;
- sharp pain when biting down that dissipates afterwards;
- loss of a portion of the hard outer protective portion called the enamel, which exposes the pulp and dentin inside the tooth, which is the softer, more vulnerable layers of the inside of the tooth;
- the surface of the root may become visible;
- pain while drinking and eating, especially while consuming foods or drinks that are hot or cold.
- Rinse your mouth out with warm water. If you are experiencing pain, you have probably broken through a layer of your outer protective layer or the enamel, exposing your dentin and possibly your pulp.
- You can take over-the-counter medications to reduce your pain level and use ice packs to decrease inflammation (20 minutes every hour). Remember to have a barrier such as a wash cloth or paper towel between your skin and the ice.
- Call your dentist right away so you can have your tooth examined.
Dental Crown Comes Off
If your crown comes off, try not to swallow it.
- Put a dab of petroleum jelly or a temporary cement made for securing dental crowns (e.g., Dentemp OS) on the back of the crown: This will allow it to temporarily bond to your tooth. Do not bite down very hard on the crown.
- Make an appointment with your dentist right away so the crown can be re-secured properly.
A Broken Jaw or Jaw Pain
If you have been involved in an accident and you have jaw pain, contact your dentist or go to the emergency room as soon as possible. You may have difficulty or be unable to close your jaw or get your teeth to align properly.
- Control inflammation with cold compresses/ice and avoid eating solid food until you are evaluated by your dentist or emergency physician.
- Stabilize your jaw by wrapping gauze beneath it and tying it on top of your head.
- Since a dislocated or broken jaw may make breathing difficult or cause significant bleeding, be sure to go to your dentist or the nearest emergency room immediately.
Painful, Infected, or an Abscess Tooth
If you believe you have an oral infection, seek help right away. You should never try to treat an infection yourself.
- Using warm water, rinse your mouth.
- Gently floss to ensure there is no debris caught between your teeth. Avoid placing aspirin against the gums because it can burn your gum tissue.
- Call your dentist and make an appointment.
Recognizing a Dental Emergency
If you have any of the signs below, contact your dentist right away.
Signs of a dental emergency may include:
- severe pain;
- inflammation in the face, mouth, jaw and/or sometimes in your neck;
- pain when biting down or when attempting to chew foods;
- loose tooth/teeth;
- knots, bulges and/or swelling of the gums.
Tips for Preventing Dental Emergencies
You can prevent some dental emergencies by:
- avoiding very hard foods or chewing ice;
- practicing good oral hygiene;
- protecting your teeth by wearing a mouthguard when playing sports;
- wearing a mouthguard as you sleep if you grind your teeth or have bruxism;
- visiting your dental hygienist twice a year for your dental cleanings as well as your dentist for your checkups;
- addressing any dental issues that arise within a timely manner.
While some dental injuries cannot be avoided, taking good care of your teeth now can prevent dental emergencies associated with abscesses, gum infections and broken teeth due to grinding or bruxism.
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.