February 6, 2012
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What to Do in a Dental Emergency
Any type of injury to your teeth or gums should not be ignored. Knowing what
to do in a dental emergency can make the difference between saving and losing a
tooth. To stay prepared, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) suggests
keeping your dentist’s emergency phone number readily available and pack an
emergency dental-care kit, including gauze, saline solution and a small,
Dr. Steven Parrett, a PDA member dentist in Chambersburg, describes a dental
emergency as a condition involving the teeth, gums, dental appliances or
“If a sudden injury or accident occurs involving your mouth, call your
dentist immediately,” Dr Parrett said. “It will make it easier for your dentist
to provide better treatment with chances for better results.”
PDA recommends that you become familiar with the following dental emergency
procedures to stay prepared:
- Broken Tooth: Immediately rinse your mouth with warm water to wash
away any impurities. Place ice on the injury area of the face to reduce
swelling. If possible, find and save any tooth pieces. Immediately call a
- Cracked Tooth: Though tiny cracks are common and tend not
to cause problems, more severe cracks may require dental treatment. A cracked
tooth is indicated by a sharp pain when you bite down or chew food and acute
sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet or sour foods. If you experience these symptoms,
avoid chewing with that side of your mouth and contact a dentist as soon as
possible to determine necessary treatment.
- Knocked-Out Tooth: Immediately find the tooth and rinse it
in water, holding it by the crown (the part you see when you look in your
mouth), not the root. Do not scrub the tooth or remove any attached tissue. If
possible, insert and hold the tooth in its original socket. Otherwise, place the
tooth in a container of milk. Immediately see a dentist.
- Jaw Injury: If you believe your jaw is injured or broken,
immediately place ice on the affected area and go to a dentist or hospital
- Tongue, Lip or Cheek Injury: Clean the injured area and
immediately apply ice to reduce swelling. If bleeding occurs, apply direct
pressure to the affected area with a clean cloth. If bleeding persists, proceed
to a hospital emergency room immediately.
- Broken Braces or Wires: If the broken piece is easily
removable, it may be taken out. Broken pieces that do not cause pain do not
require immediate attention. If a broken piece causes pain, cover sharp ends
with dental wax, gauze or chewing gum. If a piece of wire is stuck in the
tongue, gums or cheek, do not remove it and see a dentist immediately.
- Toothache: If you experience pain in a tooth, rinse your
mouth with warm water to cleanse the area. Use dental floss to gently clean
around the aching tooth to remove any lodged debris. If the pain continues,
contact a dentist.
“Delaying or ignoring any changes in the mouth can result in having more
costly treatment later to remedy the problem, rather than just a minor repair
done at the time of the change,” Dr. Parrett said. “Don’t delay, especially if a
pain is severe or persistent. It may just be a popcorn hull lodged deep in the
gum between the teeth, or it could be a root abscess that will require
hospitalization if left untreated.”
It is just as important to follow the above procedures if a child injures his
or her baby teeth, also called primary teeth. Other than biting and chewing,
baby teeth perform several important functions. They aid in proper speech
development, development of the jaw and facial muscles and help provide
“Baby teeth act as guides and place holders for the alignment of the
permanent teeth. In some instances, an injury to a baby tooth can have long term
effects on the tooth bud of the developing permanent tooth in the jaw bone,” Dr.
About the Pennsylvania Dental Association
1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately
6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association
(ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s
mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of
dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients.
PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. Learn more about PDA.