Most people think that there could not be any dental emergency. But this is not true. Dental emergencies such as an abscess, severe toothache, chipped tooth, a knocked-out tooth, extruded tooth, dislodged filling & crown, broken braces & wires, etc. should never be ignored as it can progress into something significant and hazardous. See your dentist as soon as possible.
If you have developed a sudden tooth pain or have developed a dental emergency and have no idea what should be the next course of your action, we have got you covered.
First, rinse your mouth with lukewarm saline water. Use dental floss to remove any wedged food. If you are experiencing pain, apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth on and around the affected area.
We have listed the protocols that need to be followed for other minor dental emergencies.
- Suggested read: Orthodontics & Orthodontists – Smile Makers & Smile Changers
Dental trauma emergencies
If you are biting on something hard and suddenly realize you have a piece of your tooth in your mouth, proceed with caution. Save any portions of the tooth. Rinse your mouth with lukewarm water; rinse any broken parts.
Keep the piece in a ziplock back. The dentist can fix the broken piece back if it is a big piece (1). If your tooth portion is chipped due to decay, it will require alternative treatment.
A knocked-out tooth is a dental emergency. It has the highest chances of being saved if they are returned to their socket within one hour of being avulsed (2). Retrieve the tooth, hold it gently by the crown portion.
Rinse off the tooth with water if it is soiled. Do not scrub or remove any of the attached tissue fragments. Try to put the tooth back in the socket and make sure it is facing the right way. Do not force it into the socket. If it is difficult to reinsert the tooth in the socket, you can try one of the following methods.
The best place to store the tooth on the way to the dentists is within the cheeks. Inside the mouth, the tooth is kept in its natural setting which works in favor of its vitality (3).
You can also put the knocked off tooth in a small container of milk. Take a container filled with cold water and add a pinch of table salt and secure the tooth in it. Do not store it in plain water.
An extruded tooth is a dental emergency and you must visit your dentist as soon as possible. Push the tooth in the socket and bite on it. Do not apply pressure from your tongue or finger as it can cause complete avulsion of the tooth.
To relieve the pain, you apply a cold compress outside of the mouth or cheek in the affected area. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Depending on the severity of the displacement, the dentist will examine whether the nerves and blood vessels are damaged. If required the dentist will perform a root canal procedure and splint the tooth.
Dislodged restoration emergencies
If you are biting on any hard object or trying to open a soda can with your teeth, the chances are that your restoration will dislodge. As a temporary measure, you can stick a piece of sugarless gum into the cavity.
Visit your dentist as soon as possible because the tooth is now exposed to the acids and bacteria present in your mouth. The more delay, the further the decay will spread, and you may irrevocably require a root canal treatment.
If your dental crown falls off, make an appointment to see your dentist on the same day if possible and carry the crown. If possible try and place the crown back over the tooth and bite over a cotton roll while on the way to the dentist.
You can coat the inner surface of the crown with over-the-counter dental cement or toothpaste. Do not eat anything after this as the chances of swallowing the crown is high.
Broken braces and wires
If your orthodontic wire breaks or sticks out of the bracket and is poking your cheek, tongue, or gum, try pushing the wire into a more comfortable position. If you are unable to reposition the broken wire, cover the sharp end with the orthodontic wax until you can get to your orthodontist.
Never cut the wire, you might end up swallowing it. Visit your dentist at the earliest, or you can end up with a lacerated cheek or tongue.
If possible try to temporarily reattach the loose braces with a small ball made of orthodontic wax. If the bracket has fallen off, you can save it as the orthodontist can re-cement the bracket on the teeth. Secure the bracket in a zip-lock bag. Visit your orthodontist as soon as possible.
Tooth infection emergencies
If you get a sudden sharp toothache with radiating pain, rinse your mouth with warm water. Check whether you have any food particle wedged between your teeth, use dental floss to remove the food caught between your teeth.
Do not try to remove the wedged substance with sharp or pointed instruments as it can lead to injury or infection. If you can’t visit the dentist right away and the toothache is severe, dab a cotton swab with little clove oil and apply it on the area (5). You can take over-the-counter pain medication.
Abscesses are infections which occur around the root of a tooth (6). An abscess is a serious condition and can damage tissue and surrounding structures. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the neck, other regions of the face and in some instances even cause life-threatening conditions (7).
Because of these acute oral health concerns that can result from an abscess, you need to be very cautious with tooth infections. Consult your dentist if you discover a pimple like swelling with oozing on your gums.
To ease the pain and draw out the pus towards the surface, rinse your mouth with lukewarm salt water several times. Do not ignore an abscess as it readily progresses and involves the neighboring tooth and other structures.
Soft tissue emergencies
Objects stuck between teeth
Use dental floss to remove the wedged object gently; it is the easiest and painless way (8). If you are unable to retrieve the object, see your dentist. Do not use a pin or other sharp object to remove the stuck object.
These instruments can damage your gums and the tooth surface. After removing the object rinse your mouth with lukewarm saline water.
Soft tissue injuries
Injuries to the soft tissues, which includes the tongue, cheek, gums, and lips, can result in bleeding. To control the bleeding and ease the pain you can try any of the following,
- Use a moistened tea bag on the bleeding site and bite firmly on it to apply adequate pressure (9) Keep it in place for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Hold a cold compress, outside of the mouth or cheek around the affected area for 10 minutes (10).
- Continue to apply pressure on the site with sterile gauze until the bleeding is arrested.
- If the bleeding does not stop, visit your dentist right away or go to an emergency room.
Final words on a dental emergency
It’s a misconception that there could not be any dental emergency. Dental pain should never be ignored. It can be a sign of underlying infection which can develop into an abscess and spread to surrounding parts. Visit your dentist on the same day if you have a dislodged restoration or crown.
In case of dental emergency, an avulsed or extruded tooth, try getting to your dentist at the earliest, preferably under an hour.