Emergencies

In an Emergency

Stay calm. Focus on stopping the bleeding and protecting the injured tooth or area by following the appropriate instructions in this section.

Never take aspirin or ibuprofen for a dental emergency because they are anticoagulants which can cause excessive bleeding. To alleviate pain, take acetaminophen as directed on the packaging label.

Injuries to your teeth and gums can result in infection or other complications -- so make sure you see your Dentist.

If your emergency is life-threatening, dial 911 for Emergency Medical Services or go immediately to a hospital emergency room.

Severe Pain

The most common causes are debris lodged under the gum line, a lost filling or crown, a cracked or broken tooth, or an infection. Only a thorough examination by your Dentist can determine the underlying cause of severe pain.

Until you see your Dentist, apply ice to the painful area for 10-20 minutes of every hour. To alleviate pain, take acetaminophen as directed on the packaging label.

Possible Broken Jaw

Do not move your jaw. Secure your jaw in place with a handkerchief, necktie, or towel tied around the jaw and over the top of the head. Use cold compresses to reduce swelling.

Go to the emergency room immediately.

Teeth

Debris between Teeth

Carefully insert a piece of dental floss (never a sharp or pointed object) between your teeth. Be gentle so you do not cut the gum tissue. If you are unable to remove the object, see your dentist right away.

Loose Tooth

Whether removable or fixed, a bridge is attached to abutments that provide an anchor of support.

Chipped or Broken Tooth

It may be possible to reattach the pieces to your tooth - only your Dentist can tell you for sure. Take the following steps and see your Dentist right away. Remember to take the pieces with you.

For the injured person:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean it. Apply gauze to the area and use firm pressure to stop the bleeding. Try to find the chipped or broken tooth pieces right away.
  • When the bleeding stops, apply a cold compress to the injured area to minimize swelling. If bleeding does not stop after 10 minutes of constant, firm pressure, see your dentist or go to the emergency room.

For the chipped or broken tooth

  • Save the tooth's pieces and rinse the pieces and your mouth with warm water.
  • If the tooth's pieces are dirty, place a towel or dishcloth in a sink (so the pieces cannot fall into the drain), and gently rinse them.
  • Place the pieces in a small container and cover them with milk, water with a pinch of salt, or saliva from the injured person.

Knocked-Out Tooth

A Child's Baby Tooth

Call your dentist right away. If the child's baby tooth is completely knocked out, chances are it cannot be re-implanted. If this happens, the missing tooth will be replaced naturally when the child's permanent (adult) tooth grows in.

A Permanent (Adult) Tooth

You have a 1-2 hour window in which your tooth has a chance for re-implantation - only your Dentist can tell you for sure. Take the following steps and see your Dentist right away. Remember to take your protected tooth with you.

For the Injured Person:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean it. Apply gauze to the area and use firm pressure to stop the bleeding. Try to find the missing tooth right away.
  • When the bleeding stops, apply a cold compress to the injured area to minimize swelling. If bleeding does not stop after 10 minutes of constant, firm pressure, see your dentist or go to the emergency room.
  • Place the tooth in a small container and cover it with milk, water with a pinch of salt, or saliva from the injured person.

For the broken tooth:

  • Hold the tooth only by its crown (the enamel, visible portion). If the tooth or root is dirty, place a towel or dishcloth in a sink (so the tooth cannot fall into the drain), and gently rinse the tooth and root but DO NOT SCRUB it or remove any gum tissue that may still be attached to the root.
  • If possible, gently place the tooth back into its gum socket facing the correct direction (making sure that you do not force the tooth back in place). If this is not possible, place the tooth in a small container and cover the tooth in milk, water with a pinch of salt, or saliva from the injured person.

Lost Filling or Crown

Schedule an appointment with your dentist. You can relieve pain caused by air in contact with the exposed part of your tooth by using clove oil (available over-the-counter in pharmacies and supermarkets). Just dip a cotton swab in clove oil and apply it to the exposed part of your tooth. Putting an ice pack on your face over the area that hurts also may relieve the pain.

Filling:

  • If you found the filling, put it in a safe place and take it with you when you see your dentist.
  • To make your tooth more comfortable, fill the hole in your tooth with tooth wax or cement (available over-the-counter at your pharmacy). Do not use any household adhesives in your mouth.

Crown:

  • If you found the crown, you may temporarily replace it yourself until you see your dentist.
  • Gently clean any debris from the inside of your crown.
  • To the inside of your crown, apply denture adhesive, dental cement or toothpaste before slipping the crown back in place to protect your tooth.

Toothache

Clean your mouth out by rinsing thoroughly with warm water. Gently floss around the tooth to remove any food particles that may be trapped between your teeth or just under your gum line. If your tooth continues to hurt, see your dentist as soon as possible.

Gums and Soft Tissues

Bitten Tongue or Lip

  • A small cut (less than 1/4 inch) is likely to heal itself.
  • Carefully wipe the area clean with gauze or a cloth. Apply a cold compress, ice pack, or small bag of frozen fruit or vegetables to the area to minimize swelling.
  • If the cut is larger than 1/4 inch, or if bleeding does not stop after 10 minutes of cold treatment, go to the emergency room.

Burned Roof of Mouth

  • Eating very hot food (like pizza) can burn the roof of your mouth. These painful sores and blisters typically heal on their own. If they have not healed after 10 days, see your dentist.
  • In the meantime, use warm salt water rinses (1/8 of a teaspoon in 8 ounces of water) after meals to keep the area clean. If pain relief is needed use a topical oral anesthetic (found over-the-counter at your pharmacy). You can also take acetaminophen as directed on the packaging label.

Mouthsores

If your mouth sores are caused by having new braces, apply a topical anesthetic (available over-the-counter at your pharmacy). To alleviate pain, take acetaminophen as directed on the packaging label.

Pain, Swelling, or Abscess

See your dentist right away because gum pain or swelling can be the symptoms of an abscess (infection) that forms in gum tissue or in a tooth's root and the area that surrounds it. There are many reasons why gums can swell, become painful, or abscess. Only a thorough exam by your Dentist can identify the underlying cause.

If the abscess ruptures, you may experience a sudden rush of foul-smelling and foul-tasting fluid from the swollen or painful area. Rinse your mouth with warm water immediately.

Braces

For a day or two after braces or retainers have been adjusted, you may experience discomfort. To help alleviate discomfort, rinse your mouth with warm salt water or take acetaminophen as directed on the packaging label.

Food trapped between Teeth

While this commonly occurs, it is not a dental emergency. To dislodge the food, try tying a small knot in the middle of some dental floss, or use an interproximal brush or toothpick.

Piece of Appliance Inhaled

Call 911 immediately and go to the hospital emergency room for treatment.

Piece of Appliance Swallowed

Call your dentist or Orthodontist to discuss appropriate next steps.

A Poking Wire

Call your Orthodontist to describe the situation and schedule an appointment. Use a Q-tip or pencil eraser to push the wire flat against the tooth. If the wire cannot be moved into a comfortable position, cover it with dental wax (available over-the-counter at your pharmacy).

Bracket Knocked Off

Call your Orthodontist to describe the situation and schedule an appointment. If the loose bracket has rotated on the wire and is sticking out, attempt to turn it back into its normal position. To minimize the movement of the loose brace, use dental wax (available over-the-counter at your pharmacy.)

Lost Wire or Ligature

Schedule an appointment with your Orthodontist. If you found the rubber ligature, you may be able to put it back in place using sterile tweezers.