Emergency Care – Do’s and Don’ts
A knocked out tooth or bitten tongue can cause panic in any parent, but quick thinking and staying calm are the best ways to approach such common dental emergencies and prevent additional unnecessary damage and costly dental restoration. This includes taking measures such as application of cold compresses to reduce swelling, and of course, contacting our office as soon as possible.
DO help your child prevent oral injuries by supervising him during play and not allowing the child to put foreign objects in the mouth.
DO use mouth guards. They can prevent a whole host of injuries to the teeth, gums, lips and other oral structures. Mouth guards are generally small plastic appliances that safely fit around your child’s teeth. Many mouth guards are soft and pliable when opened, and mold to the child’s teeth when first inserted. They can be made to fit over braces.
If the tooth has been knocked out, DO find it! DO try to place the tooth back in its socket after rinsing it off while waiting to see our office. Remember to hold the dislocated tooth by the crown—not the root. DO NOT scrub it. If you cannot replace the tooth, DO place it in a container of milk, saline or the victim’s own saliva (or under the victim’s tongue). DO rinse the mouth of any blood or other debris and place a cold cloth or compress on the cheek near the injury. This will keep down swelling.
DO NOT avoid calling us. Time is of the essence. The sooner it is placed back in the socket and stabilized, the better the chances are of being able to keep it.
When trauma fractures a tooth, the extent of the fracture determines whether you should be seen immediately or if it can wait.
If the tooth fracture is minor, enamel only, with little to no sensitivity, the tooth may just need to be smoothed. Even if it needs to be restored, with no sensitivity, it can wait. When the fracture is more substantial, exposing the inner hard part of the tooth called dentin, it is very likely to be sensitive and probably should be seen right away to avoid excess trauma to the pulp (nerve) because of the sensitivity. If it is not sensitive, but just sharp to your tongue or cheek, DO place a piece of wax over the area. You can either buy some ortho wax, available in the dental aisle or melt some candle wax and as it starts to solidify, place it. If the nerve has been exposed, time is once again of the essence and should be seen right away to get it covered up. It may be mobile as well and may need to be stabilized.
Sometimes trauma will move a tooth just enough out of position that you can’t put your teeth all the way together normally. Getting it repositioned as soon as possible is the best. You don’t want it to tighten up in the wrong position.
If a child’s primary (baby) tooth has been loosened by an injury or an emerging permanent tooth, try getting the child to gently bite down on an apple or piece of caramel; in some cases, the tooth will easily separate from the gum.
Irritation caused by retainers or braces can sometimes be relieved by placing a tiny piece of cotton, gauze or wax on the tip of the wire or other protruding object. If an injury occurs from a piece of the retainer or braces lodging into a soft tissue, contact our office immediately and avoid dislodging it yourself.