How to Handle Common Dental Emergencies Before You Reach Our Office

May 10, 2023
misc image

How to Handle Common Dental Emergencies Before You Reach Our Office

Dental emergencies can happen at any time. In fact, every year, more than 2 million people in the United States go to the emergency room for a knocked-out tooth, severe cavity, or infection. When these dental emergencies happen, knowing how to handle the problem can ease your pain and make the difference between saving or losing a tooth. 

Our team at Dentistry With a Smile in Livingston, New Jersey, is here to provide expert care for your dental emergency. We welcome walk-in visits during business hours. Otherwise, you can call us and we’ll recommend the next best step for your dental problem.

The information provided here can help you manage common dental emergencies before you get to our office.

Soothe a toothache

By the time you have a toothache, you either have a severe infection (abscess) or extensive dental decay. In both cases, you need to see us as soon as possible to ease your pain and prevent tooth loss.

Before you get to the office, you can get some pain relief by rinsing with warm water, removing any food remnants with floss, applying a cold compress to your cheek, and taking naproxen, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.

Never put aspirin or painkillers against your gum or tooth because their ingredients may harm the soft tissues.

Save a knocked-out tooth

We can often save a knocked-out tooth and implant it back into the jaw, but only if the tooth is intact and you follow these steps:

1. Don’t touch the tooth root

Don’t touch the root when you pick up the tooth or you may damage fibers that help reconnect the tooth to the bone.

2. Clean the tooth

If the tooth is dirty, rinse it under tap water. Don’t scrub the tooth or use soap, and don’t wrap it in a cloth. Instead, follow either step 3 or 4.

3. Put the tooth back in the socket (for teens and adults)

While holding the tooth by the crown, try to gently place it back into the socket. Hold it in place with your fingers if needed or gently bite down to keep it in place until you can get to the office.

We don’t recommend putting the tooth in the socket when a young child is involved. They could accidentally swallow the tooth if it falls out of the socket. Step 4 gives you another option for preserving the tooth.

4. Keep the tooth moist

Keeping the tooth moist (and protecting the root) is the most important reason for holding it in the socket.

The next best option is using a tooth preservation kit (if you happen to have one). Another good alternative is to put the tooth in some milk (not water). You could also use the saliva of the person who lost the tooth (have them spit into a small cup) or put the tooth between their gums and cheeks.

5. Call us immediately

The tooth has the best chance of reconnecting with the bone if we reimplant it within 30-60 minutes (or faster if possible).

Stop the bleeding

To stop bleeding, find a sterile gauze or clean cloth and press it against the area for 15 minutes. After the bleeding stops, you can place a cold compress to the outside of your mouth or cheek near the injury to relieve pain and keep the swelling down.

If the bleeding doesn’t stop after 15 minutes of gentle pressure, call us right away or go to the emergency room for severe bleeding.

Care for a chipped or cracked tooth

We may be able to reattach the broken piece, so store it in milk until you get to the office. You should see us as soon as possible if the damage exposes the center of the tooth (where the nerves are located).

However, if you’re not in pain and only a small part of the tooth chipped off, you may be able to wait for a next-day visit. If you’re not sure, call and talk with us about the chip or crack and we’ll guide your decision.

While you wait for dental care:

  • Avoid hot or cold foods and beverages
  • Don’t chew using the chipped or cracked tooth
  • Don’t eat hard, crunchy, sticky, or sweet foods
  • Cover the tooth with a clean, moist cloth (if inhaling air is painful)

You should also rinse your mouth with warm salt water (mix a half teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water). Rinsing helps wash away bacteria and prevent infection.

Don’t wait to get the care you need for a dental emergency. Call Dentistry With a Smile right away so we can provide treatment to restore your dental health.