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How to Handle a Dental Emergency


When it comes to dental emergencies, you might say we should all expect the unexpected. One study discovered that about 60% of dental patients surveyed have experienced a dental emergency. So, while there may be little you can do to avoid these unwelcome occurrences, you can educate yourself today, to better manage and prepare for them tomorrow.

What Should I Do if I Have a Dental Emergency?

If you have a dental emergency, the best thing you can do is contact your dentist. They can advise you regarding how urgently you should be seen if other medical treatment is required. But, of course, sometimes you can’t reach your dentist right away, or you need to take action immediately.

We’ve compiled a list of common dental emergencies along with dentists’ recommendations for addressing each type of emergency — until you can reach a dentist:

Toothache. Rinse your mouth thoroughly with warm water and use dental floss to remove any food that has become lodged in your teeth. Use a cold compress on the outside of your mouth or cheek to help with any swelling or pain. Do not put aspirin or other painkiller against the gums as it might burn the gum tissue.

Knocked-Out Tooth. Save the tooth! If you can, re-insert the tooth back into the socket. But first, (holding it by the crown) rinse the tooth root with water if it’s dirty. Do not scrub the tooth or remove any tissue from it.

If it’s not possible to easily re-insert the tooth (never try to force it back into the socket), pack the tooth socket with gauze, a cotton ball, or even a tea bag, and place the tooth in one of the following to help keep it viable:

    • Milk
    • Water with a pinch of salt
    • A tooth preservation product that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
    • Your mouth (between your cheek and gum)

Knocked out teeth with the highest chances of being saved are those seen by the dentist and returned to their socket within one hour of being knocked out.

Chipped Tooth. Save and carefully rinse any of the pieces of the broken tooth. Rinse your mouth with warm water. If there is any bleeding, apply gauze to the area for about 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops. Use a cold compress on the outside of the mouth, cheek, or lips to relieve any pain or swelling.

Lost Filling.  Try inserting a piece of over-the-counter dental cement into the cavity. You can also use a piece of sugarless gum.

Lost Crown. Bring the crown with you when you can visit the dentist. Until that time, you can relieve any pain by applying a bit of clove oil (available at the drug store or in the spice aisle of your grocery store) to the area with a cotton swab. If it’s possible, you may also be able to slip the crown back over the tooth with an over-the-counter dental cement, toothpaste, or denture adhesive, to help hold the crown in place. Do not use super glue! And again, this is only a temporary fix.

Broken or Loose Braces and Orthodontia. There are a few steps you can take to address issues with braces:

  • If your braces’ wire breaks or is sticking out of a bracketing, you can try to carefully push the wire into a more comfortable spot using the eraser end of a pencil. If you can't reposition the wire, cover the end with orthodontic wax, a small cotton ball, or piece of gauze until you can get to your orthodontist's office. Never cut the wire, as you could end up swallowing it or inhaling it.

  • If your braces’ brackets or bands are loose, you can use a small bit of orthodontic wax to reattach them, or place over the braces to provide a temporary cushion. For a loose band, be sure and save it and bring it with you to the orthodontist.

  • Abscess.  Abscesses are infections that can occur as often painful, pimple-like areas of swelling near the root of a tooth or gum line. Because they can damage your teeth, gums, mouth and potentially other parts of your body, an abscess should not be ignored. Contact your dentist right away so that they can treat this issue before it becomes dangerous. Until then, to ease the pain, rinse your mouth with a mild salt-water solution (1/2 teaspoon of table salt in 8 ounces of water) several times a day

Using Teledentistry in an Emergency

One other way you can better prepare for a dental emergency is by familiarizing yourself about teledentistry and the many ways a virtual dental appointment can be a real lifesaver in an emergency. Even if you can’t make it to your dentist’s office right away, a dental professional can be on hand to evaluate your situation, advise you, and even prescribe medication if needed.

So, while you may never know exactly how and when a dental emergency may occur, understanding what steps to take when it does (until you can actually visit your dentist’s office), should make it a little less worrisome.

Are you experiencing a dental emergency and ready to make an appointment? can help you find a dentist near you  in no time.

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