Accidents happen, and knowing what to do when one occurs can mean the difference between saving and losing a tooth.
For all dental emergencies, it’s important to visit your dentist as soon as possible. Most dentists reserve time in their daily schedules for emergency patients so be sure to call your dentist and provide as much detail as you can about your condition. If the accident occurs when your dental office is not open, visit your local emergency room.
Here are some common dental emergencies and how to deal with them.
Question: What do I do if I knock out my tooth?
Answer: For a knocked-out permanent or adult tooth, keep it moist at all times. If you can, try placing the tooth back in the socket without touching the root. If that’s not possible, place it in between your cheek and gums, in milk, or use a tooth preservation product that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Then, get to your dentist’s office right away.
Q: What do I do if my child knocks out a tooth?
If the tooth is a baby tooth, the best thing to do is find the tooth, keep it moist and get to a dentist. Your dentist can see whether the entire tooth, or just part of it, came out. Your dentist can also determine whether to implant it again.
If it is an adult tooth, follow the steps listed in the previous question.
Q: What if I crack my tooth?
A: For a cracked tooth, immediately rinse the mouth with warm water to clean the area. Put cold compresses on the face to keep any swelling down. See your dentist as soon as possible.
Q: If I bite my tongue or lip, how do I treat it?
A: If you bite your tongue or lip, clean the area gently with water and apply a cold compress. See your dentist or go to the emergency room if there is excessive bleeding, the bleeding won't stop or you are in a lot of pain.
Q: How do I treat a toothache?
A: For toothaches, rinse your mouth with warm water to clean it out. Gently use dental floss to remove any food caught between your teeth. Do not put aspirin on your aching tooth or gums; it may burn the gum tissue. If the pain persists, contact your dentist.
Q: What if I think my jaw is broken?
A: If you think your jaw is broken apply cold compresses to control the swelling. Go to your dentist or a hospital emergency department immediately.
Q: How do I remove an object that’s stuck in my mouth or teeth?
A: For objects stuck in the mouth, try to gently remove with floss but do not try to remove it with a sharp or pointed instrument. The item might be painful or cause an infection, so see your dentist if you cannot remove it.
Q: Is there anything I should add to my first aid kit?
A: It's a good idea to have floss on hand in case something gets caught in your teeth. The Save-a-Tooth emergency tooth preservation kit is also a smart addition to your first aid kit in case you lose a tooth unexpectedly.
Q: What happens if I need to see a dentist when I'm traveling?
A: Use our Find a Dentist tool to locate an ADA member dentist near you.
Q: How can I avoid a dental emergency?
A: There are a number of simple precautions you can take to avoid accident and injury to the teeth:
- Wear a mouthguard when participating in sports or recreational activities.
- Avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels and hard candy, all of which can crack a tooth.
- Use scissors, NEVER your teeth, to cut things.