Injuries to the mouth may include teeth that are knocked out (avulsed), forced out of position and loosened (extruded) or fractured. In addition, lips, gums or cheeks are often cut. Oral injuries are often painful and should be treated by a dentist as soon as possible.
Immediately. Getting to a dentist within 30 minutes can make the difference between saving or losing a tooth.
People risk breaking their teeth or otherwise injuring their mouths while eating, playing, exercising, and participating in other seemingly harmless activities. It's important to understand what to do in case of a dental emergency so that your tooth can be repaired when you are able to see a dentist.
Dental emergencies can occur when your tooth breaks, cracks, becomes loosened, or is knocked out completely. Sometimes dental crowns come off of teeth. Lips, gums, or cheeks can be cut.
Dental emergencies can be avoided by taking simple precautions, such as wearing a mouthguard during sports activities to prevent teeth from breaking or being knocked out, and avoiding hard foods that may crack or break your teeth—whether you have your natural teeth or you wear dentures. Oral injuries often are painful and should be treated by a dentist as soon as possible.
If your tooth is knocked out, immediately call a dentist for an emergency appointment. It is important to see your dentist within an hour of when your tooth is knocked out for the best chance of the tooth surviving the trauma. Handle the tooth by the crown (the top), not by the root (the pointed part on the bottom).
Touching the root of the tooth can damage cells that are necessary to reattach the tooth to the bone. Gently rinse the tooth in water to remove dirt. Do not scrub the tooth! Place the clean tooth in your mouth between the cheek and gum to keep it moist. It is important not to let the tooth dry out. If it is not possible to store the tooth in the mouth, wrap the tooth in a clean cloth or gauze and immerse it in milk or saline solution (the solution used for contacts). If a baby tooth is knocked out, the tooth should not be replanted. The patient should be seen as soon as possible to make sure there are no remaining pieces of the tooth.
If your tooth is loosened and pushed out of position, call your dentist right away for an emergency appointment. In the meantime, attempt to reposition it to its normal alignment using very light finger pressure—but don't force it!
There are different types of tooth fractures. Chipped teeth are minor fractures. Moderate fractures include damage to the enamel, tissue, and/or pulp. Severe fractures usually mean that a tooth has been traumatized to the point that it cannot be recovered.
If you fracture a tooth, rinse your mouth with warm water and use an ice pack or cold compress to reduce swelling. Take ibuprofen, not aspirin, for pain. Your dentist can smooth out minor fractures with a sandpaper disc. Alternatively, restorative procedures may be needed to fix the tooth.
If you wear dentures and a tooth breaks or chips, wear your spare dentures until you can visit your dentist. If you do not have a spare set or cannot get to the dentist's office soon, use cyanoacrylate (heavy-duty, quick-drying "super" glue) to glue the tooth or the piece of the tooth back into place. Remember—this is only a temporary measure until your dentist can properly repair your tooth and should only be used for dentures! Never attempt to glue a natural tooth or part of a natural tooth back into place!
Injuries inside the mouth include tears or cuts, puncture wounds, and lacerations to the cheek, lips, or tongue. The wound should be cleaned immediately with warm water, and the injured person should be taken directly to an oral surgeon for emergency care. If you can't get to an oral surgeon, the patient should be taken to the hospital. Bleeding from a tongue laceration can be reduced by pulling the tongue forward and using gauze to place pressure on the wound.
Yes, by packing an emergency dental care kit including:
- Dentist's phone numbers (home and office)
- Saline solution
- Small container with lid
- Ibuprofen (Not aspirin. Aspirin is an anti-coagulant, which may cause excessive bleeding in a dental emergency).
If a tooth is chipped, find the chip, save it and visit your dentist immediately.
Put the chip in a plastic baggie, and keep the chip moist by adding a few drops of water to the bag or wrapping it in wet gauze.
The most important factor when you have a chipped tooth is to visit your dentist as soon as possible. The longer you wait to get the chip fixed means risking permanent nerve damage to the tooth, which is much more costly and involved to treat.
"If the tooth isn't broken across the nerve, the dentist can etch the enamel on both the good tooth and the tooth chip, use a light-cured adhesive and secure the chip to the tooth," says Academy of General Dentistry spokesperson Paul Bussman, DMD, FAGD.
In some cases this technique works better than bonding, advises Dr. Bussman. Bonded material reflects light differently and in certain settings, the restored portion of the tooth always appears different than the natural enamel.
Although bonding is widely used to restore chipped teeth, it is difficult to obtain a perfect match to the original enamel. "Patients will always have the same tooth shade if the dentist can use the natural tooth chip for a restoration," says Dr. Bussman.
Following the rules and remembering dental first aid steps can help save your teeth the next time you dive into a swimming pool.
During the summer, swimming pool accidents are the number-one cause of dental emergencies at the office of E. "Mac" Edington, DDS, MAGD, past president of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). "Swimming underwater and quickly coming to the surface causes some children to hit the hard ledge, loosening the front tooth," says Dr. Edington.
Also, running on slippery, slick cement and ceramic pool surfaces sends many children headfirst into the ground, often causing chipped or displaced teeth. "Diving into shallow waters and hitting the bottom pushes the tooth up and can fracture the whole bone," says Dr. Edington.
Follow these simple first aid steps for a tooth that has been either knocked loose or knocked out:
If a tooth is knocked loose, gently push the tooth back into its original position, bite down so the tooth does not move and call your dentist or visit the emergency room.
For an avulsed (knocked out) tooth, pick up the tooth by the crown, not by the root – handling the root (the part of the tooth below the gum) may damage the cells necessary for bone reattachment. If the tooth cannot be replaced in its socket on site, do not let the tooth dry out. Place it in a container with a lid and use milk or saliva. Visit the dentist as soon as possible – the longer the tooth is out of the mouth, the less likely the tooth will be able to be saved.
"Prevention is key, but accidents will happen," says Dr. Edington. "Prepare yourself for any dental emergency."
Pack an emergency dental care kit, including:
- Dentist's phone numbers (home and office)
- Small container with lid
- Ibuprofen (Not aspirin. Aspirin is an anticoagulant, which may cause excessive bleeding in a dental emergency.)