7 Tips for Handling Dental Emergencies

7 Tips for Handling Dental Emergencies

Dental emergencies are unfortunate tangibles of life and have proven to be inevitable in today’s active lifestyles.  The baseball to the face or the elbow to the lip usually happens at the most inopportune time, adding havoc to an already busy schedule.


Emergencies, including injuries, pain, and swellings, can be potentially serious and should not be ignored.  The common theme in this post is simple:  SEE YOUR DENTIST!  But, what do you do in the meantime?  And, what if your dentist office is not open or you can’t get an answer on the emergency line?  Read on for information on what to do in these ill-timed situations.

At Greystone Smile Design, we see emergencies promptly.  Our extended hours offer convenience, and our emergency line is available 24 hours a day (877-515-SMILE).  From after-hours advice over the phone to meeting you on the weekend for treatment, our main goal is to be there when you need us.

Here are some quick tips on what to do for common dental problems.

  • Toothaches – First, try rinsing your mouth with warm salt water (1/2 tsp of salt to 8 oz of water).  Try brushing and flossing your teeth, removing any food that may be caught between teeth.  Sometimes, sleeping with an extra pillow or avoiding strenuous activity may be helpful.  Over-the-counter pain medication may be taken as needed.  Never place aspirin directly on the tooth as gum tissue irritation may develop.  Periodic temperature or chewing sensitivity may indicate a simple solution.  If persistent, spontaneous pain is present, a more extensive treatment may need to be performed.  See your dentist as soon as possible.
  • Abscess – An abscess is an acute infection that can form from a necrotic (dead) tooth or from bacteria in the space between the teeth and gums.  They can be serious, in that the infection can spread to other parts of the body.  To reduce swelling, apply a cold pack to the area in 20 minute intervals.  Your dentist can prescribe you antibiotics to treat the infection, but this will not treat the cause of the problem.  You must see your dentist for treatment to eliminate recurrence.
  • Chipped or Broken Teeth – Try to save the missing pieces.  Wash your mouth with warm salt water.  If bleeding is present, apply pressure by biting on a piece of gauze.  Remove the gauze when saturated (15-20 min) and reapply as needed.  Use a cold pack to reduce any swelling present and see your dentist as soon as possible.
  • Lost Crown – If a crown falls off and you can’t get to the dentist right away, use an over-the-counter dental cement/adhesive or toothpaste  to help hold the crown in place and control sensitivity.  If you have no pain with the crown off, you may leave it off until you can see your dentist.  This eliminates any chance of swallowing or aspirating the crown.  Make sure you bring your crown with you to your appointment.
  • Lost Filling – If the area is painful, you can place sugarless gum or an over-the-counter temporary filling material in the area.  See your dentist as soon as possible.
  • Extruded (Partially Dislodged) Tooth – Do not bite or chew on the area.  You may apply a cold pack to reduce swelling.  See your dentist right away, as the treatment for these injuries is time dependent.  Your dentist may need to reposition the tooth and place a splint to hold the tooth in its correct position.
  • Knocked Out Tooth – Retrieve the tooth, hold it by the crown (the part that is usually exposed in the mouth), and rinse off the tooth root with water if it’s dirty. Do not scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. If possible, try to put the tooth back in place, but never force it into the socket. If it’s not possible to reinsert the tooth in the socket, put the tooth in a small container of milk or place the tooth inside the mouth in the cheek area.  In all cases, see your dentist as quickly as possible. Knocked out teeth with the highest chances of being saved are those seen by the dentist and returned to their socket within 1 hour of being knocked out.  If the tooth can be saved, your dentist will reposition the tooth and hold it in place with a splint.

Ignoring a dental problem may increase the risk of permanent damage as well as the need for more extensive and expensive treatment down the road.

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