It’s never a good time for a dental emergency.
There are ways to avoid injury to your teeth and gums during this time: avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels and hard candy, all of which can crack a tooth; chew hard foods, such as nuts and peanut brittle, slowly; do not use your teeth to open or cut any type of hard shell; and avoid using your teeth as scissors on tape, packaging or ribbon.
But accidents do happen, and being prepared for an emergency can mean the difference between saving a tooth and losing a tooth.
Ask your dentist about after-hours emergency care. They will provide you with an alternate phone number or the location of an emergency dental clinic in your area. Post this information on your refrigerator or by your phone.
Here are some tips on handling some common dental emergencies before you can get to a dentist.
First, call your dentist. Explain your symptoms and ask to be seen as soon as possible. Then ease the pain. Take an over-the-counter pain medicine that works for you, but do not put the pills on your sore tooth. Hold an ice pack against your face at the spot of the sore tooth.
Do not put a heating pad, a hot water bottle, or any other source of heat on your jaw. Heat will make things worse instead of better.
Chipped or broken tooth
Broken teeth can almost always be saved. Call your dentist and explain what happened. He or she will see you right away. If it’s a small break, your dentist may use a white filling to fix the tooth. If the break is serious, a root canal may be needed. Your tooth may also need a crown (also called a cap).
Knocked out tooth
If the knocked-out tooth is an adult (or permanent) tooth, your dentist may be able to put it back. You must act quickly. If the tooth is put back in place within an hour or two, it has a fair chance of taking root again. After two hours, the chances are poor.
If the tooth looks clean, put it back in its place (its socket). If this is not possible, or if there’s a chance that the tooth might be swallowed, put it in a container of milk, if possible. Go to your dentist, or to the nearest dentist, right away.
Badly bitten lip or tongue
If there is bleeding, press down on the part of the mouth that is bleeding. Use a clean cloth to do this. If the lip is swollen, use an ice pack to keep the swelling down. If the bleeding does not stop, go to the Emergency at a hospital right away.
Something stuck between teeth
First, try using dental floss, very gently and carefully, to remove the object. Never poke between your teeth with a pin or similar sharp, pointy object; it can cut your gums or scratch the tooth surface. If you can’t get the object out, see a dentist.
Put a piece of softened sugarless chewing gum in the spot where the filling was lost. This will protect the area for a short period of time. See a dentist as soon as possible.