Dental mishaps and emergencies happen every day and obviously it is important to contact your dentist immediately if you have sudden severe pain, a swollen face, swollen gums, a loose tooth, or tender gums—as these are signs of an infection or an acute abscess.
But what if it’s a weekend? Or you’re out of town? Or your dentist is unreachable? Has something like this ever happened to you?
Scene l – Pain that Halts you in “Mid-Chew”
It’s Saturday night and you’re in a restaurant with friends, or perhaps on a date, when suddenly you bite into something unexpectedly hard (like an olive pit in your salad) and are jolted by a sharp wince of pain that halts you in “mid-chew!” The sensation continues with waves of aftershocks (think about stubbing your bare-footed toe on a block of concrete) until finally the pain retreats and you realize, “My tooth is broken!”
Scene ll – You Lose a Crown or Filling
You’re on vacation with the family and pass an old-fashioned candy store when you spy something you haven’t seen since childhood: Charleston Chews! You can’t resist and buy a bag. With your first bite….oh no! A crown has been pulled off your tooth or a large filling has abandoned your molar from the warmth embrace of gooey chocolate taffy.
What do you do?
5 common dental emergencies and what you can do until you can see a dentist:
1. Chipped Tooth
- With NO Pain: Chipped teeth often have jagged, sharp edges that love to grab your lip, cheek or tongue. Using an emory board, gently smooth the rough edges of the tooth.
- With Sensitivity to Cold, Sweets and Heat: Often when teeth first chip or break, they are very sensitive to touch and temperature. This usually fades over time and frequently applying Sensodyne toothpaste to the affected area can bring relief.
2. Broken Teeth or Lost Fillings
There are numerous products available in the dental aisle of your local pharmacy that can help:
- Dent Temp: Whether you use the premixed version or the powder and liquid place it in the tooth’s void and pat it with water to harden the material. Bite into it while it’s still soft and scrape away excess material with a toothpick.
- Dent’s Toothache Gum: Soften the gum in your mouth, and place on the affected tooth. If a pharmacy is no where to be found, a piece of sugarless chewing gum, preferably sweetened with xylitol, can be molded into the sensitive area to protect it. A softened piece of household candle wax can also be hand molded and pressed into place.
- Sensodyne or Flouridated Toothpaste: Coat your tooth with the toothpaste, and cover the area with softened candle wax or chewing gum.
- In the case of the broken tooth I mentioned above, if you just broke off a significant portion of your tooth and if the tooth has a large filling, there’s a good chance the filling is secure. If the tooth fragment has broken off completely, the initial pain will often fade and you can continue your meal remembering to avoid cold, sweets and extreme heat. If the tooth breaks and your dangling cusp is being held in by your gum, go to the restroom with your ice water. Place a piece of ice against the gum where the tooth is loose for 30 seconds, being careful not to put the ice directly on the tooth. Your gum will be numb enough that you will be able to gently and painlessly remove the loose broken piece of tooth dangling by a thread (like a baby tooth that’s ready to go). If your gum bleeds a bit, bite on a tissue or paper towel for a few minutes and the bleeding should stop.
3. Dislodged Cap or Crown
- Clean and dry both your tooth and the cap or crown. Place a dab of Fixodent or Polygrip into the cap or crown and put it in place. Tap your teeth together. If you’re out camping, a loose slurry of flour and water can be used instead. Your cap or crown will only stay in place temporarily, so it is important to see your dentist immediately.
4. Dislodged Porcelain Laminate
- Try placing the veneer back on your tooth in the proper position. When you’ve got the hang of it, carefully place a DAB of crazy glue inside the dried restoration and push into place. Excess cement can be wiped away with nail polish remover. Remember, just a little dab will do it!
5. Irritated and Tender Gums, Canker Sores and Inflamed Wisdom Teeth
- Rinse your mouth with Listerine or a warm salt-water rinse by swishing vigorously. Do not gargle. An anesthetic salve like Ambesol can also be applied for quick relief.
Remember, all these solutions are for temporary relief only, so CALL YOUR DENTIST (me!) IMMEDIATELY.
My patients know that I can always be reached by calling 212-685-3040: if the office is closed, listen to the message and you will be given my cell number.
DISCLAIMER: The advice I offer in response to your questions is intended to be informational only and generic in nature. Namely, I am in no way offering a definitive diagnosis or specific treatment recommendations for your particular situation. My intent is solely educational and my responses to your actual questions serve as springboard to discussion of a variety of dental topics that come up in day-to-day dental practice. Any advice offered is no substitute for proper evaluation and care by a qualified dentist.