Dental Emergencies: Learning to Manage Trauma to the Teeth

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When it comes to dental emergencies, a trip to an emergency room may not adequately solve your problem. Unless your dentist has emergency hours and can make time to schedule an immediate appointment, you may have to spend a few hours or days dealing with your injury on your own. Here are some tips to manage tooth trauma.

Dental Emergencies

Chipping a Tooth

No matter what breaks your tooth—a bump from a glass bottle, an accidental kick to the face, or a misguided attempt to open a can of tuna with your mouth—a chipped tooth causes problems.

First of all, the sharp edges left over from the chip can cut your lips, cheeks, gums, or tongue. Also, depending on how much of the tooth is missing, you may have a hard time chewing your food. If the chip is bad enough to affect the nerve inside your tooth, you will be in a lot of pain. Here is how to manage this particular type of dental emergency:

  • Call a dental professional and make an appointment as soon as possible.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  • Apply pressure to any areas of your mouth that are bleeding.
  • If you experience swelling because of the chip, apply some ice on the outside of your cheek, or suck on a few pieces of ice (don’t chew; you could cause more chipping).
  • If your dentist can’t fit you in that day, purchase some dental cement (typically available in grocery or drugstores), and cover the rest of the tooth to keep it protected.

Losing a Tooth

Getting a tooth knocked out is not only more painful than suffering a small chip, it’s also more urgent.

The first, most important thing to do if your tooth gets knocked out is to preserve the tooth. You’d much rather have your natural tooth replanted than have to get a completely new dental implant or a partial denture. Getting a new prosthetic tooth is expensive and can make eating difficult.

The longer your tooth is separated from its spot in your gums, the worse your chances of a successful replanting become. Here is your crisis plan:

  • Pick up the tooth by the crown (the part that sticks above the gums) not the roots.
  • Carefully rinse the tooth with water (no chemicals).
  • Place the tooth in milk (for an appointment later that day).
  • Gently place the tooth back in its socket and gently bite down on a wet hand towel until you arrive at the dentist’s office (for an appointment immediately after the incident).

If your tooth is knocked out and destroyed, don’t fear. There are plenty of dentists who can fix the problem through implants, crown, bridges, and partial dentures (source: Dr. Bruce Hartley, a dentist who performs oral surgery in Calgary).

Intense Toothache

Intense toothaches, whether caused by trauma or a slow-growing infection, may not seem like emergencies at first, until you are suffering from intense pain and would give anything for some relief.

Obviously you are going to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Until the appointment time arrives, here are some things you can do to alleviate the pain:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water, then apply a cold compact to the outside of your mouth or cheek.
  • Take painkillers like aspirin or ibuprofen to dull the pain. Never put an aspirin (or any other painkiller) against your gums in an attempt to relieve the pain at the source. This will burn your gums and cause more pain and more problems.
  • Try a natural remedy like biting on a cotton ball soaked in clove oil. The substance is said to relieve pain (and reduce bad breath, which is a plus). Rinsing with salt water has also been said to help with toothache pain.

Dental emergencies are scary and often painful. If you experience trauma to your teeth, stay calm and do everything you can to manage the situation before you can be seen by a dentist.


Originally from San Jose, California, Erika Remmington is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She enjoys spending her time with her husband and 18 month old daughter. She also enjoys rock climbing and out door activities.

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Adam
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I always have toothaches , one of my friend suggested to use scope as my mouthwash, I switched and my toothaches were gone.

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