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How to Manage Dental Emergencies

Even if you are 100% meticulous with your oral hygiene and prevention routine, you can never eliminate the chances of a dental emergency arising. Prompt and adequate care can minimize the long term damage of all but the most serious of accidents.

Before you even reach your emergency dentist’s office, there are many things you can do that will have a tremendous impact on your chances of recovery.

See below to discover what you should do in case of a dental emergency!

The First Few Minutes

The most common cause of dental emergencies is a severe blow to the head. This can easily chip or knock off a tooth – but it may also damage the gums, jaw bone, or teeth roots. This may not be as visible, but it will still need to be seen by a professional.

No matter what happened, the most important thing immediately after an accident is to stay calm.  The next step should be to assess the damage: is there any bleeding? Are you (or whoever suffered the accident) unconscious or dizzy?

Then, you should check for tooth damage. Take a look at the teeth close to the blow and make sure they are not chipped or completely knocked off. Whatever you do next will depend on what you find.

Knocked off Teeth

A “knocked off tooth” is when an entire tooth has been removed or become loose following a severe blow. Depending on the type of injury, it may be possible to re-attach the tooth – but this will definitely require heading emergency dental care.

Your chances of saving the tooth will increase through quick action, as well as any of the following:

  • Find the missing tooth as quickly as possible. Try to avoid swallowing any saliva until the tooth has been found.
  • Hold the tooth by the crown (the part that usually chews food), never by the root.
  • Rinse the tooth in pure water – no toothpaste, no mouthwash, and nothing chemical. Do NOT try to brush the tooth either: the priority right now is to prevent any further damage to the thinner, frailer parts of the tooth.
  • If possible, while on the way to the emergency dental clinic, try to place the teeth back on its socket. This will prevent the adjacent teeth from sliding as well. If blood or swelling makes this impossible, place it in a glass of milk.

Chipped or cracked teeth

Harder to spot than a knocked-out tooth, a cracked or chipped tooth has nonetheless suffered significant damage and may require professional attention.  Your chances of repairing the tooth or of preventing further damage will be dramatically affected by how quickly you visit an emergency dentist, and by the number of resulting pieces.

In the case of a chipped tooth (when a corner or a piece of the tooth has come out):

  • Locate the missing piece or pieces.
  • Rinse them in water only
  • Rinse your mouth using warm water only. Do NOT use mouthwash. When you spit out the water, check it to find any extra small pieces of the tooth.
  • While on the way to your dentist’s office, store the pieces in milk or saliva.

If the tooth has been cracked, but not broken, rinse your mouth with water. Use a cold compress to lower inflammation, and then inform your dentist you’ve had a dental emergency. You will still need to be assessed and may need a dental X-ray done.

Abrupt or Acute Toothaches

Most of the time, acute toothaches stem from untreated infections or abscesses. These conditions may have been developing over several days – but it is not uncommon for the pain to appear abruptly one morning. If this happens:

  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
  • Contact your dentist and request an urgent appointment.
  • If you are feverish, unable to speak or notice your gums are bleeding or have pus (a foul-smelling, yellow or green secretion around them), head to the emergency room.

Blows to the Mouth or Jaw with no Visible Damage

A car accident, sports mishap, or fight can all result in a sharp blow to the mouth or jaw. Even if your teeth were not visibly knocked out or cracked, you may still have damaged the root or your jaw bone – in which case, you may still be at risk for complications.

Look out for any of these red flags to know whether to call your emergency dentist, just in case:

  • If the pain worsens throughout the day, even after taking a pain reliever (such as Advil) or applying a cold compress).
  • If you feel your jaw is locked or if it clicks or hurts when you try to open it.
  • If you begin experiencing tooth sensitivity or pain during the following days.
  • If you lost consciousness, feel nauseous or sleepy, begin vomiting, or one of your pupils is larger than the other, head to an emergency room immediately.

Nobody is ever free from dental emergencies. Whenever possible, these events should be handled by your family dentist: he or she is in the best position to thoroughly assess the damage. However, if your teeth have been visibly damaged after hours, then take no chances: speedy treatment will be your best bet if you want to keep your tooth.