What Should You Do in a Dental Emergency? Tips from Restorative & Emergency Dentist in Portland, OR
Updated: Sep 3
Have you ever had a dental emergency and not known what to do? Taking immediate action before visiting your dentist can prevent the issue from getting worse and sometimes even save your tooth. Take a look at the 6 most common dental emergencies and what you can do about them!
1. Chipped, Cracked or Broken Tooth
If your tooth has been chipped or broken, save any pieces of the tooth you can to show to your dentist. If you are bleeding, apply gauze to the affected area for about 10 minutes or until bleeding stops. Rinse your mouth with warm salt water (½ teaspoon of salt mixed in 1 cup warm water), and apply a cold compress to the part of your face closest to the injured tooth to keep pain and swelling down. Visit your dentist, and expect to receive a filling, crown or root canal, depending on the severity of the injury.
2. Knocked Out Tooth
Handle the tooth by the crown only, never by the roots! Keep the tooth moist at all times. Try to carefully place the tooth back in its socket - make sure it is clean of any debris first by gently rinsing it in water - do not use any kinds of soaps or cleaners, and do not wrap the tooth in tissue or cloth. If you aren’t confident it will fit back in the socket properly, hold the tooth gently between your cheeks and gums or keep the tooth covered in cold milk (the milk proteins will help keep the tooth alive for longer, similar to saliva), and get to your emergency dentist as soon as possible. If a knocked out tooth has been properly stored and placed back in its socket within 60 minutes, it has a good chance of survival.
Toothaches can have a wide range of causes: cavities, something stuck between teeth, teeth grinding and more. If you have a toothache, rinse your mouth with warm salt water and gently use floss to remove any food or debris caught between your teeth. To reduce swelling and help manage pain, use a cold compress on the outside of your cheek. Several over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen help reduce swelling and pain as well - use only as directed. Do not put aspirin directly on the aching gums or teeth; it may burn gum tissue. Visit your dentist if pain persists.
4. Loose or Lost Filling or Crown
Fillings and crowns restore previously damaged teeth, so if these dental restorations break, you should get them fixed right away to avoid further damage or infection. If you still have the loose filling or crown, you can temporarily keep it in place with a bit of Vaseline or dental adhesive - either can be found at most drugstores. Visit your dentist to permanently fix the filling or crown back in place, or replace if necessary.
5. Object Stuck in Teeth
An object stuck between teeth can be quite painful and potentially cause infection if it’s not removed. Try to gently remove a stuck object with dental floss. Do not try to remove it with a toothpick or any other sharp or pointed objects -- they can break off, pierce the gums, or damage tooth enamel, causing further permanent damage. If you cannot remove the object with floss, rinse your mouth with salt water and make an appointment to visit your dentist.
A dental abscess is a serious condition that starts as an infection around the roots of a tooth or in the spaces between teeth. The disease damages the soft tissues surrounding your teeth and can spread to the body if left untreated. If you notice painful swelling in your gum area the size of a pimple, you should come in for an appointment as soon as possible. Until you can visit the dentist, rinse your mouth with salt water several times a day to help ease pain and draw out some of the bacteria.
Dental emergencies can happen anywhere, at any time. The above tips can help prevent further injury, and in some cases even save your teeth! But even if symptoms go away, visit your dentist as soon as you can so that we can check to make sure that everything is normal and healthy.
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