Few things are more unexpected or scarier than something coming loose in your mouth. Dental emergencies are often painful, and almost always require prompt treatment to help you feel better and maintain your oral health. If you experience severe pain, make an appointment with the dentist as quickly as possible—the pain caused by dental emergencies usually gets worse without treatment, and dental issues can seriously jeopardize physical health.
How to Deal with Dental Emergencies
Obviously, this is information that we hope you never need to use. But if you find yourself in one of these scenarios, follow the guidelines for the greatest chance at a swift, full recovery.
Avulsed Tooth (Knocked Out Tooth)
If a tooth has been knocked out of the mouth, it is essential to see a dentist immediately. Tissues, nerves, and blood vessels become damaged almost immediately, but if the tooth can be placed back into its socket within the hour, there is a chance the tissues will grow to support it again.
Call your dentist to let them know you’re on the way. Carefully pick up the tooth by the crown—the top. Be careful not to touch the root. If possible, place the tooth back in its socket; if that is difficult, tuck it into the cheek pouch. If neither of those options work, put it into a cup of milk, saliva, or water, as a last resort. It’s important to keep the tooth from drying out as you get to the dentist. The dentist will try to replace the tooth in its natural socket. It may reattach, or you may need a root canal if the inner mechanisms of the teeth are seriously damaged.
Lost Filling or Crown
Usually, if a crown or filling comes loose while eating, it may leave the affected tooth incredibly sensitive to temperature changes and pressure. The most common cause of crowns coming loose is decay underneath, causing the tooth to change shape so that the crown no longer fits.
If the crown has dropped out of the mouth, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Keep the crown in a cool, safe place, as the dentist may be able to reinsert it. If it is out of the mouth for too long, the teeth may shift or sustain further damage.
When you cannot access a dentist, clean the crown and affix it with an over the counter dental cement, available at a local pharmacy. If the crown is lost, smear the top of the tooth with dental cement to alleviate discomfort. Do not use any kind of glue to affix the crown. The dentist will check to see if the crown still fits, at which point he or she will reattach it or treat decay and order a new crown.
Cracked or Broken Teeth
Teeth are strong, but they still can fracture, crack, or break. These can be painless, but if a crack extends into the root, you may have excruciating pain. Trauma, grinding, and biting are common causes of cracks and breaks, and you must see a dentist as quickly as possible.
If a segment of tooth has broken off, call your dentist and then rinse the tooth fragment and the mouth with lukewarm water. If there is bleeding, apply gauze to the area for ten minutes. Place a cold, damp towel on the cheek to minimize swelling and pain. If you can’t see the dentist immediately, cover the affected area with over-the-counter dental cement and take a non prescriptionl pain reliever.
The nature of the fracture or break will determine what the dentist is able to do. If it extends to the root, root canal therapy may be the only way to save the tooth.
When a tooth has been dislodged or loosened from its socket, but not removed, it might be possible to save it. Call the dentist immediately—if the tooth remains in the mouth and attached to the blood vessels and nerves, there is a good chance you won’t need a root canal. Use a cold compress and over-the-counter medications to relieve pain until the dentist can reposition the tooth and add splints to stabilize it. If the tooth fails to heal, root canal therapy may be required.
The first step in any dental emergency is to contact your dentist and follow his or her instructions. The sooner you can see a dentist, the better your oral health will be.