If you are a parent, it may be difficult to know what to do if something happens to your child’s mouth. Do you go to the dentist or the ER? How quickly do you need to get it treated? What if it’s a Friday night? Should you wait until Monday? What qualifies as a dental emergency? How in the world are you supposed to find all this out with a child screaming in pain? It is helpful if you already know what to do when this situation arises, so we have created this guide to provide you with the information you need to know when handling a dental emergency.
Emergency or Not?
It is frightening anytime your child is seriously injured. A bleeding mouth and chipped or broken tooth may be the obvious injury, but there could be more serious damage that needs to be treated first. Start by administering first aid. If there is any possibility of injury beyond the mouth, visit the emergency room first, especially if there is any possibility of a concussion.
While some dental problems are truly an emergency that needs to be treated ASAP, others will be fine if you wait until business hours to come in. Here are some of the most common situations, and the best way to respond to each. If it is a true dental emergency, call us immediately at (480) 759-1119 to be seen right away. Even if it’s after hours, we always have a pediatric dentist or orthodontist on call. Call our number for instructions on what to do in the event of a pediatric dental emergency or an orthodontic emergency.
A permanent tooth gets knocked out. This is a true dental emergency. Call us immediately. If your child gets the injury treated quickly, there is a chance to save the tooth. Pick the tooth up by the crown, trying not to touch the more easily damaged root. Rinse it with milk, then keep it in the milk until you get to our office. If no milk is available, you can rinse it with water then keep it in your child’s mouth if they are old enough to be careful not to swallow it. Dr. Culp will remove any debris from the socket and try to re-implant the tooth. Chances are good that the tooth can be saved if it is treated within 30 minutes to an hour after the injury.
Baby teeth cannot be re-implanted. If a baby tooth gets knocked out, please call us so we can provide instructions for care.
A tooth is cracked, chipped, or broken. This can be a dental emergency depending on the severity. Call us right away and we will discuss the details of the injury with you to determine how quickly your child needs to be seen. Save any pieces of the tooth and bring them with your child to the appointment. Hold a cold compress to the outside of their mouth if there is swelling and apply gauze to the area if there is bleeding.
A tooth is knocked loose, moved out of alignment, or partially dislodged. This is an emergency and you should call us right away. You can try to gently move it back into position, but don’t force it. A cold compress on the face will help with pain and swelling.
Toothaches can be caused by many different problems, such as an abscess, cavity, grinding or clenching, or even food caught between teeth. Sometimes a toothache is cause for an urgent appointment, other times it is not. If the pain is severe, constant, or throbs with the heartbeat, it is important for your child to be seen right away. Often, pain can be due to food lodged between teeth, so try rinsing out their mouth with warm water and flossing gently to alleviate the discomfort. Unless the cause is easily remedied, as with food stuck in the teeth, please call us so we can help evaluate how quickly your child needs to be seen.
Injury to the tongue, lip or other soft tissue of the mouth. Gently rinse the area, then hold gauze against the injury. Hold a cold compress against the outside of the mouth or cheek over the injured area. This will help lessen any pain and stop the bleeding. If the injury is severe or will not stop bleeding, go to the ER.
Any time your child’s mouth is bleeding, it is fine to give them Tylenol for pain. Do not give them aspirin or ibuprofen because these are blood thinners and can cause excessive bleeding.
Abscess or severe infection. This is an emergency because the infection can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening. You should call us right away and we can help assess the urgency.
Sores. Although very painful, sores are not an emergency. There are steps you can take to minimize the discomfort of canker sores, and you can read about them here. Sores can also be caused by a virus. If accompanied by a fever, or the sores are so painful that your child stops eating or drinking, it is a good idea to make an appointment with their pediatrician.
A lost crown. Call us to make an appointment so we can re-cement the crown. Keep the tooth clean until the crown is replaced.
A lost filling. Call us to make an appointment. Keep the tooth clean and be sure to rinse off any food every time your child eats. Avoid cold foods or drinks and all sweets until the tooth is repaired.
Damage to braces. Call us to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. If a broken wire is bothering you, bend it back toward your tooth and cover the end with wax. If a bracket comes loose, secure the bracket in place with wax. If the bracket does come off of the wire, please save the bracket and bring it with you to your appointment so it can be reattached.
Other reasons to make an appointment. Minor pain that lasts more than a few days, suddenly sensitive teeth, and pain when biting down can all be signs that something is wrong. Many dental problems will only get worse the longer you let them go, so it is best to bring your child in for an evaluation as soon as you suspect there may be a problem.
Preventing a Dental Emergency. Accidents are difficult to avoid, but there are steps you can take to minimize the impact or lower the chances of your child experiencing a dental emergency.
Always have your child wear a sports mouthguard when playing a contact sport. A custom-fitted mouthguard provides the best protection. This will minimize or prevent damage to their teeth and soft tissues.
Avoid chewing hard things that can crack the teeth, such as ice and hard candy. This includes cutting things with teeth. Be sure to use scissors to avoid injury to your teeth.
Good oral hygiene will help your child’s teeth stay healthy, and less likely to become damaged. Regular dental checkups will help us identify and correct problems long before they can become an emergency.
We hope your child never experiences a dental emergency, but we are here to help if they do. Dr. Culp and our entire team are gentle and caring. We are trained in calming techniques, so your child can feel safe while being treated. Even if an emergency happens on a holiday, we will always have someone on call to be sure that your child gets the treatment they need. Please don’t hesitate to call in the event of a dental emergency!
Call Us at (480) 759-1119
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.
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