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When experiencing a dental emergency, it’s essential to get to the dentist quickly, and in many cases, it can mean the difference between losing one or more teeth or being able to save them.
“If you or a loved one is currently experiencing a dental emergency, get to the dentist as quickly as possible, especially if a tooth is loose or has been knocked out due to an injury.”
- Dr. Vladimir Fedin, DDS
The following five situations describe the most common causes of dental emergencies and explain how to deal with them.
1. Severe Tooth Pain
Almost everyone will experience a toothache at one time or another, which almost always indicates a dental emergency.
Any of the following conditions can cause severe tooth pain:
- Tooth decay (cavities)
- Tooth infection (abscess)
- Clenching or grinding teeth (bruxism)
- Gums infection (periodontal disease)
- Broken tooth
- Broken filling
Get to a dentist ASAP, as these dental conditions can easily lead to tooth loss.
2. Trauma to The Mouth
An injury to the mouth may not cause immediate tooth loss, but this doesn’t mean the teeth haven’t been seriously affected.
Tooth pain due to trauma must be addressed quickly to avoid permanent damage.
3. Knocked-Out Tooth
When injury to the mouth causes a tooth to be knocked out, the patient must be seen within an hour or less for any chance of saving it through reimplantation.
Otherwise, a dental implant or bridge will be needed to replace the tooth.
4. Broken Tooth
A broken tooth can often be saved with crown lengthening, dental bonding, or a dental crown; however, it may still require root canal therapy. Teeth with breaks or significant cracks below the gum line are usually extracted.
If you have the broken-off tooth pieces (due to a facial injury), bring them with you to the dentist, as they can sometimes be bonded back together.
5. Broken Crown
If you have a broken crown, call your dentist right away for instructions. You may be able to wait a day or two for treatment unless the remaining portion of the crown is sharp enough to damage the soft tissue of your mouth.
While you wait, take the following steps:
- Rinse your mouth with warm water.
- Use gauze or a small piece of cotton fabric to stop any bleeding.
- If the tooth is sensitive, you can use dental cement from a pharmacy to protect it until your appointment, but follow the directions carefully.
- If the crown is loose, pull it off to avoid swallowing or choking on it (especially while you sleep or if the patient is a child). Also, be sure to remove any loose pieces of the crown.
Consider a custom night guard to prevent extensive damage if you or your child grinds their teeth.
Dental emergencies can happen anywhere, usually at the least convenient time. Having a dental emergency kit can help you and your family better cope with tooth pain and the mishaps that can cause serious damage to teeth.
What to Include in Your Dental Emergency Kit
Assemble your dental emergency kit with the following items:
- Gauze – Use gauze or cotton wool to press against the tooth or gums if an injury has caused bleeding.
- Oral pain-killing gel – Apply an oral pain relief gel to relieve toothache pain.
- Clove oil – This oil also reduces dental pain while freshening breath.
- Antiseptic mouthwash – If an oral infection may be causing a dental emergency, keep the mouth as clean as possible by rinsing it with an antiseptic mouthwash.
- Dental mirror – A dental mirror can help you see where and what the problem is to better address it until arriving at your dentist’s office.
- Latex gloves – Always use medical gloves when examining or treating a dental emergency on someone else.
- Tea bags – Tea bags can also stop bleeding, and the tannins in the tea will help control any bleeding by constricting blood vessels.
- Tweezers – Use tweezers to remove tooth or crown fragments and debris from the mouth, but never between teeth.
- Floss – Only use floss when attempting to remove anything caught between teeth to prevent further damage.
- Toothbrush – An extra toothbrush is always handy to have. Before applying temporary dental cement, clean the tooth by gently brushing it.
- Temporary dental cement – Buy some temporary dental cement from a drugstore to protect a damaged tooth or keep a loose dental crown in place until you get to the dentist. Do not try to use it as a permanent solution.
- A small container – A small, water-tight container is essential to store a knocked-out tooth or pieces of a broken tooth while on the way to the emergency dentist. The best way to store tooth material is in milk. If this is impossible, use water to keep it moist.
- Dental wax – If someone in your home has braces, irritation to soft tissues from brackets and wires can be prevented or reduced with dental wax.
You should keep your emergency dental kit in your car, as dental emergencies often occur away from home, or have one for the car and another for the home.
Your Chicago, IL, Emergency Dentist
Dr. Vlad Fedin is a highly respected cosmetic and general dentist providing emergency dental services in Chicago, Illinois. Call (312) 626-9223 immediately if you or someone you care about is experiencing a dental emergency.