Fact Sheet: Dental Emergencies II
Dental emergencies can happen at any time. Oral injuries can be painful and should be treated by your dentist as soon as possible. Learn more about what to do during a dental emergency.
What are Dental Emergencies and How Can I Avoid Them?
A dental emergency is when your tooth breaks, cracks, becomes loose or is knocked out completely. Sometimes, a dental crown can come off your tooth or your lips, gums or cheeks can be cut. Some emergencies can be avoided if you take simple precautions, such as wearing a mouthguard while you’re playing sports and avoiding hard foods that can crack or break your teeth.
What Should I Do If My Tooth is Knocked Out?
Your tooth will have the best chance of surviving trauma if you see your dentist within one hour of the incident—so call immediately for an appointment. Handle your displaced tooth by its crown (the top), not by its root (the pointed part on the bottom). Touching the root of your tooth can damage the cells that are necessary to reattach your tooth to the bone. Gently rinse your tooth in water to remove dirt. Do not scrub!
Then place your clean tooth in your mouth between your cheek and gum to keep it moist. If it is not possible to store your tooth in your mouth, wrap it in a clean cloth or gauze, and immerse it in milk or saline solution (used for contact lenses). If your child has knocked out a baby tooth, the tooth should not be replanted. However, your child should visit the dentist immediately to ensure no broken pieces of the tooth remain in his or her mouth.
What Should I Do If My Tooth is Pushed Out of Position?
If your tooth is loose and pushed out of position, call your dentist right away to schedule an emergency appointment. In the meantime, you can attempt to reposition the tooth to its normal alignment using light finger pressure—but don’t force it!
How Should I Handle a Chipped or Fractured Tooth?
There are different types of tooth fractures. Chipped teeth are minor fractures, while damage to your enamel, tissue, and/or pulp indicates a moderate fracture. Sustaining a severe fracture usually means that your tooth has been traumatized to the point that it cannot be saved.
If you fracture a tooth, rinse your mouth with warm water and use an ice pack or cold compress to reduce the swelling. Also, take ibuprofen—not aspirin—for pain, and call your dentist to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Your dentist can smooth minor tooth fractures, but some fractures may require restorative procedures. If you can find the broken tooth fragment, bring it with you to the dentist.
What Should I Do If the Tissue in My Mouth is Injured?
Serious injuries inside your mouth include tears or cuts, puncture wounds, and lacerations to your cheeks, lips or tongue. Any wound to the inside of your mouth should be cleaned with warm water, and you should contact your dentist immediately. If you can’t see your dentist right away, you should go to a hospital.
If you or someone you know sustains a dental injury, it’s important to contact your dentist right away. For more information about dental emergencies, speak with your general dentist.