Dental Emergencies and Oral First Aid Kits
Accidents, including those that affect your teeth and mouth, can happen at anytime of the day or night. Some oral injuries may need immediate treatment, while others can wait until your dentist’s normal business hours. If the situation doesn’t call for immediate care, it is important to have the right tools around to take care of yourself until you can get to a dentist. You probably have a first aid kit in your home to handle life’s minor bumps and bruises already, but are you prepared for a dental emergency? Dental injuries and emergencies are very common in children and adults, which is why everyone should have an Oral First Aid Kit in their home. With just a few items from the drug store, you can put one together, and be better prepared to handle tooth or mouth injuries. Here’s a closer look at what constitutes a dental emergency, and what items you should have on hand to treat them.
What is considered a dental emergency?
A dental emergency is any trauma to the mouth that may cause bleeding and lacerations to the gums, dislodge or fracture teeth, and may require immediate medical attention. This could be the result of an accident or biting on a piece of food that’s too hard, mouth injuries can cause teeth to become cracked, broken, or knocked out/dislodged. It is important to see a dentist because if left untreated, a dental emergency can lead to serious complications.
What should be inside my oral first aid kit?
It is recommended to include the following items in your home oral first aid kit: dental mirror, dental floss, cotton balls, cotton swabs, sterile gauze, sealable plastic bag (to dispose of bloody gauze or swabs), toothbrush, tweezers, wash cloth, aspirin or aspirin substitute, instant ice pack, bottled water, salt, paraffin or dental wax, medical exam gloves and an oxygenating oral cleanser. While the kit does not replace professional treatment, you can use it to treat minor mouth irritations and injuries as well as help alleviate or control major oral problems until the patient can get to a dentist or physician.
What are some common dental emergencies, and how should they be handled?
- Toothache – It is best to rinse your mouth with warm water. Use dental floss to remove any food trapped between the teeth, then rinse. If there’s swelling, place an ice pack or cold compress on the outside of the cheek (20 minutes on, 20 minutes off.) Do not use heat. An aspirin or aspirin substitute may be taken orally to relieve pain. Do not place directly on gum tissue as this may result in a burn. See your dentist as soon as possible.
- Object wedged between teeth – Try to remove the object with dental floss, and then rinse vigorously with water to remove any remaining particles. Do not try to remove it using a sharp or pointed instrument. If you can’t remove it, see a dentist.
- Canker or mouth sore – Canker sores are small white wounds inside the mouth on the cheek, gums or tongue. This can be caused by cheek biting, vigorous brushing, burns from hot foods, and irritation from braces or dentures. The bubbling action of an oxygenating cleanser removes food particles and other irritants from the sore. An orabase liquid can provide long-lasting pain relief. As it seals, the liquid transforms to a thin, flexible protective barrier over the affected area, sealing off the nerve endings for hours — so you can eat and drink without the pain.
- Knocked out tooth – If possible, retrieve the tooth. If it is a baby tooth, place it in a container of milk, salt water or the patient’s saliva. If these are unavailable, use water. If it is a permanent tooth, take care not to touch the root and carefully insert the tooth back in place. Go to the dentist immediately.
- Broken Tooth – Gently clean dirt or debris from the injured area with an antiseptic oral cleanser. Place ice pack or cold compress on the face in the area of the injured tooth to minimize swelling. If the tooth has created a sharp edge, cover with paraffin (wax) to prevent lacerations to the gums or cheek. See a dentist immediately.
- Bitten lip or tongue – Apply direct pressure to the bleeding area for 15 to 20 minutes using sterile gauze. Rinse with an oral cleanser to alleviate bleeding and clean the wound. If swelling is present, apply ice pack or cold compress. If bleeding continues, go to a hospital emergency room.
When should I call the dentist?
If you’re not sure if a dental problem is an emergency, dentists offer this advice: If it hurts, it’s an emergency. This is because even injuries that seem small can affect the living tissues inside the teeth. Quick treatment improves the odds of salvaging injured or damaged teeth. Any obvious damage to a tooth should be treated as soon as possible. Chips or fractures can affect the living tissue inside the tooth, causing more problems in the future. Your dentist can prevent the damage from getting worse. The same is true of a lost filling or crown. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, the tooth has lost its support and it could easily become damaged. Pieces could break off or crumble, and you would need more extensive treatment. If you see your dentist right away, there’s a good chance he or she will be able to repair the damage more easily. Even if you know the office is closed, go ahead and call. There may be an emergency number or instructions on the answering machine. If none of these options work, head to the nearest emergency room. The staff there can help determine whether the injury can wait for your dentist and can possibly provide pain medication to help alleviate symptoms in the meantime.
Do you have questions about dental emergencies? Call Hartnett Dental to schedule an appointment with your dentist today! (716) 649-6633.