Few things in life are as stressful as a dental emergency: The pain, the unexpected expense, and the threat of infection or tooth loss should one delay treatment all loom large, leading many people to descend into panic. Fortunately, while there’s no way to ensure you will never be faced with a dental emergency, there are a number of things you can do to prepare for one ahead of time—thereby minimising some of the associated fears and risks. To prepare for a dental emergency, you should:
Know how to care for a knocked-out tooth
A knocked-out tooth isn’t necessarily a hopeless situation; in many cases, a talented dentist may be able to put the tooth back in place, but only if you handle it correctly. If one of your teeth gets knocked out, either place it back in its socket if you can, or keep it moist using either unflavoured milk or a special tooth preserving-solution (e.g. Hank’s Balanced Salt solution or the Save-a-Tooth Kit). Regardless of how you preserve the tooth, never touch the root; damaging this delicate feature may spoil the tooth. Call your dentist for an emergency appointment.
Clean Any Cracked or Broken Teeth Immediately
If one of you teeth cracks or breaks, it’s essential to keep infection-causing particles away from the affected area. As such, you should rinse your mouth out immediately with warm water, apply a cold compress to your face to lessen swelling, and phone your dentist for an emergency appointment. Keeping the tooth’s nerve healthy as you await treatment will help to keep repairs simple and less costly.
Visit Your Dentist Regularly
The best way to be prepared for dental emergencies is to catch dental issues early—before they become major problems. Having regular checkups with your dentist will ensure that caries are caught early (before they become large, painful, and possibly abscessed) and that small cracks in your teeth are repaired before they can become larger.
Don’t Mess With It!
Avoid using improper, damaging techniques on broken, cracked, or painful teeth. Contrary to popular belief, you should never place a painkiller such as aspirin directly on a painful tooth; doing so will only irritate the gums, potentially making the problem worse. Swallow the painkiller instead. Likewise, you should never use hard, sharp instruments on your teeth (particularly metal instruments) as this often leads to severe tooth damage. If you have something stuck in between your teeth that cannot be removed with gentle flossing, see your dentist rather than attempting to pry the object out yourself.
Save for a Rainy Day
Set aside some savings for emergency tooth care. Even if you have dental insurance, you may still have to cover some of the cost for emergency dental work, depending on your policy. As such, it’s a good idea to have some savings set aside specifically for dental care so that you’re not impacted financially if something unexpected happens.
With the above tips in mind, you should be able to handle any dental emergency that comes your way with a minimum of pain and hassle. Remember, too, that the vast majority of dental emergencies can be prevented through proper tooth care: Wear a mouthguard when playing sports, never chew ice, popcorn kernels, or hard candy, and never use your teeth to cut anything or to pry open lids, bottles, etc. If you need an emergency dentist, reach out today.
My name is Jeremy Rourke. I’m part of a family of dentists with my father, brother, cousin and nephew also being dentists. I won a University of Sydney Dental Alumni prize for being the top student in my year and graduated with Honours in 1971. I have been a Registered dentist for over 40 years. In that time I have created a few “firsts” in my efforts to stay ahead.