What is a dental emergency?

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.

How soon should I see a dentist?

Immediately. Getting to a dentist within 30 minutes can make a difference between saving or losing a tooth.

When a tooth is knocked out:

  • Immediately call your dentist for an emergency appointment. Handle the tooth by the crown, not the root. Touching the root (the part of the tooth below the gum) can damage cells necessary for bone re-attachment.
  • Gently rinse the tooth in water to remove dirt. Do not scrub.
  • Do not try to replace the tooth into the socket, but 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 of the injured person, wrap the tooth in a clean cloth or gauze and immerse in milk.

When a tooth is pushed out of position:

  • Attempt to reposition the tooth to its normal alignment using very light finger pressure, but do not force the tooth.
  • Bite down to keep the tooth from moving.
  • The dentist may splint the tooth in place to the two healthy teeth next to the loose tooth.

When a tooth is fractured:

  • Rinse the mouth with warm water.
  • Use an ice pack or cold compress to reduce swelling.
  • Use ibuprofen, not aspirin, for pain.
  • Immediately get to your dentist, who will determine treatment based on how badly the tooth is broken. Only a dentist can tell how bad the break is.
  • Minor fracture: minor fractures can be smoothed by your dentist with a sandpaper disc or simply left alone. Another option is to restore the tooth with a composite restoration. In either case, treat the tooth with care for several days
  • Moderate fracture: moderate fractures include damage to the enamel, dentin and/or pulp. If the pulp is not permanently damaged, the tooth may be restored with a full permanent crown. If pulpal damage does occur, further dental treatment will be required.
  • Severe fracture: Severe fracture often means a traumatized tooth with slim chance of recovery

When tissue is injured:

Injuries to the inside of the mouth include tears, puncture wounds and lacerations to the cheeks, lips or tongue. The wound should be cleaned right away with warm water, and the injured person taken to the dentist. Bleeding from a tongue laceration can be reduced by pulling the tongue forward and using gauze to place pressure on the wound.