How to Be Prepared for Dental Emergencies

Dental emergencies can be a scary thing to consider but with the right knowledge and a little preparation you will know exactly what to do whenever the need arises.


Image by Irina Patrascu via Flickr

Although it can be uncomfortable to think about, sometimes accidents do happen. While we can’t really prevent them, we can take comfort in the knowledge that being properly prepared for a dental emergency is a pretty straightforward affair. Preparation involves knowing what to do and a small amount of forward planning.

Different emergencies require different strategies. The following suggestions will help you successfully deal with the most common situations.


A toothache can have many causes, including a cavity or crack in the tooth, the eruption of a new tooth, food particles stuck between the teeth or progressive gum disease. Rinsing the mouth with warm salt water and taking over-the-counter pain relievers may provide comfort. Avoid aspirin as it can inflame cause gums and cause them to burn. Aspirin is also an anti-coagulant will cause more blood to flow if an extraction is needed.

If there are particles of food lodged between the teeth, gently brush or floss. Don’t use anything hard to pry the food out as this may cause permanent damage to the enamel of the tooth.

If strong pain is present apply a cold ice pack to the cheek. If there is swelling or reddening of the cheek along with fever and pain contact a dentist immediately as infection may be present.

Knocked-out tooth

Obviously the tooth needs to be found first. This may prove challenging if the accident happens on a sporting field or outdoors. When the tooth is found, handle it gently by the crown, never the root. There are microscopic cells on the root of the tooth are easily damaged and could compromise the ability of the tooth to survive and successfully reattach.

Gently rinse the tooth in water or milk, but do not brush it. The tooth must remain moist and not dry out. If possible, try and reseat the tooth into the empty socket and gently bite down on some sterile gauze. Otherwise have the patient hold the tooth inside their mouth beside the cheek and gums. Their saliva will help keep it healthy until a dentist is reached. This strategy is not advised for small children as they may accidently swallow the tooth. In this case, place the tooth in a small container and have the child spit on it to keep it moist.

Place the tooth in a small container of milk, lukewarm salt water or saline solution, such as that used to clean contact lenses to transport the tooth. The important thing to remember is that timing is critical.  If the patient can get to a dentist within an hour, there’s a stronger chance the tooth will be able to reattach to the socket and survive.

Broken or chipped teeth

Broken teeth will need to be examined promptly by a dentist and x-rayed to determine the extent of damage. Because there is a high risk of infection and abscess, a root canal will need to be performed if the damage will cause the tooth’s pulp tissue to die. If the tooth has been loosened by injury it will need to be stabilized or extracted. Gently rinse any tooth fragments and bring them along to an emergency dentist. There may be a chance the pieces can be reattached.

A chipped tooth should be examined by a dentist in case steps need to be taken to repair the damage and protect the tooth from further harm. If the tooth is jagged inside your mouth try placing a piece of sugarless gum over it to stop it scraping your tongue and cheek.

Dental Emergency Kit

You can also create a simple dental emergency kit that will help make life easier if you ever need it. The kit should contain a small container for transporting a tooth, saline solution, sterile gauze, floss, and a handkerchief for spitting blood. Include the phone number of your emergency dentist Brisbane as well as a home or after-hours number. Carry your kit in the car and keep one in handy reach in the bathroom or some other easily accessed area.

Remember to stay calm, take the required action, and call your dentist ahead and give them as much information about the situation as possible. This will help them prepare for the correct treatment before your arrival and increases the likelihood of a positive outcome. With the right knowledge and a little forward planning you will surely handle any dental emergencies with ease.

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