Tooth Trauma: Dental Emergencies

Dental emergencies can happen at any time. Oral injuries can be painful and should be treated by your dentist as soon as possible. 

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 may 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 the top, not by its roots. 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 the tooth in your mouth, wrap it in a clean cloth and immerse it in milk or saline solution. 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. 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?

Chipped teeth are minor fractures, while damage to your enamel, tissue, and /or pulp indicate a moderate fracture. Sustaining a severe fracture usually means that your tooth has been traumatized to the point it can not be saved.

If you fracture a tooth, rinse your mouth with warm water and use an ice pack to reduce swelling. Also, take ibuprofen - not asprin - for pain, and call your dentist to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Your dentist can smooth minor 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 tissues 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 cleansed with warm water, and your should contact your dentist immediately. If you can't see your dentist right away, you should go to a hospital.

Cigarettes Linked to Half of Oral Cancer Deaths

In 2011, there were more than 8,500 deaths in the US from cancers of the oral cavity (mouth) and pharynx (throat). Among US adults 35 years and older in 2011, almost half (47%) of the deaths caused by cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx were attributed to cigarette smoking.

If you or a loved one is thinking of quitting, please talk with your dentist or medical care provider on tips and medications to help.