Dental mishaps and emergencies happen every day.
It is important you contact your dentist immediately if you have sudden severe pain, a swollen face, swollen gums, a loose tooth, or tender gums. Because these are all signs of infection or an acute abscess.
But what if it’s on a weekend?
Or it happens when you’re out of town?
Or when your dentist is unreachable?
Has something like this ever happened to you?
Scene l – You Are Halted Mid-Chew
It’s Saturday night and you’re at a restaurant with friends. Or perhaps on a date.
Suddenly, you bite into something that’s unexpectedly hard – like an olive pit in your salad. You are jolted by a sharp wince of pain that halts you in mid-chew.
The pain continues with waves of aftershocks. It’s kind of like if you stubbed your bare toe on a block of concrete. Finally, the pain retreats.
But you realize your tooth just broke and you have no idea what to do when a tooth cracks.
Scene 2 – You Lose a Crown or Filling
You’re on vacation with your family. You’re in an old-fashioned candy when you spy some candy you haven’t seen since childhood – Charleston Chews! You can’t resist and you buy a bag.
You take one bite and feel the warm embrace of gooey chocolate taffy.
Uh-Oh! A crown has just been pulled off your tooth. Or…one of your large fillings just abandoned your molar.
What do you do?
5 Common Dental Emergencies & What To Do Until You Can See A Dentist
1. A Chipped Tooth
- If there’s no pain: A chipped tooth usually will have jagged, sharp edges that love to grab your lip, cheek or tongue. Use an emery board to gently smooth out the rough edges of your tooth until you can see a dentist.
- If the tooth is sensitive to cold, sugar, or heat: When a tooth first chips or breaks, it’s very sensitive to touch and temperature. This usually fades over time but frequently applying Sensodyne toothpaste to the affected area can bring you some relief until you can see a dentist.
2. Your Tooth Cracks Or You Lose A Filling
Many products are available in the dental aisles of your local pharmacy that can help:
- DentTemp: Whether you use the premixed or powder version, place it in the void and pat it with water to harden the material. Then bite into it while it’s still soft. Scrape away any excess material with a toothpick.
- Dent’s Toothache Gum: Soften the gum in your mouth and place it on your affected tooth. If you can find Dent’s gum or can’t get to a pharmacy you can use sugarless chewing gum, preferably sweetened with xylitol, instead. Mold it 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 Fluoridated Toothpaste: Coat your tooth with the toothpaste. Then cover the area with sugarless chewing gum or softened candle wax.
- If A Significant Portion Of Your Tooth Broke Off: If a significant portion of your tooth broke off and if the tooth has a large filling, there’s a good chance your filling is secure. This is even more serious than if your tooth cracks.If the tooth fragment has broken off completely, once the initial pain fades you can continue your meal. But avoid cold, sweets and extreme heat. If your tooth broke and is dangling from your gum, go to the restroom with a glass of ice water.
Place a piece of ice against your gum where the tooth is loose for 30 seconds. Be careful not to put the ice directly on the tooth. Your gum will get numb enough that you will be able to gently and painlessly remove the loose broken piece of tooth. If the gum bleeds a bit, bite on a tissue or paper towel for a few minutes and it should stop.
3. A Dislodged Cap Or Crown
- First, clean and dry both your tooth and the cap or crown. Place a dab of Fixodent or Polygrip into it and put it back in place. Then, tap your teeth together. If you can get to the store, make a loose slurry of flour and water and use it the same way. The cap or crown will only stay in place temporarily – so it is important to see your dentist as soon as possible.
4. A Dislodged Porcelain Veneer
- 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 Krazy Glue inside and push it into place. Wipe away excess cement with nail polish remover. Remember, just a little dab will do ya!
5. Irritated, Tender Gums, Canker Sores or Inflamed Wisdom Teeth
- Rinse your mouth with Listerine or with a warm salt-water rinse. Swish vigorously. (Do not gargle). An anesthetic salve like Ambesol can also be applied for quick relief.
Remember, all the solutions above offer only temporary relief. If your tooth cracks or you lose a crown or you experience any of the dental emergencies above, please see a dentist right away.
If you’re one of my patients, you can always reach me 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 a springboard for 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.