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Do your kids know what to do in a dental emergency?

Posted on September 1, 2020 in Children’s Oral Health


young girl outside in fall swingingIf your child’s mouth is injured, the situation should be addressed immediately to reduce the risk of permanent damage.

Since you can’t be with your kids 24/7, it’s important for them to know how to handle a dental emergency. Here’s a guide that can help your kids understand steps to take and the importance of fast action in case of emergency. 

Knocked out permanent tooth

The best chance of saving the tooth comes in the first 30 minutes, although it may be saved up to an hour after being knocked out. 

It’s OK if a baby tooth falls out or even if it’s accidentally knocked out. Don’t ever put a baby tooth back in because it could damage the permanent tooth growing below the gums. Once permanent teeth start to come in, try these talking points with your children.

Saving your tooth needs to happen quickly. There are steps you can take right away, but it is important to see your dentist within 30 minutes

  • Call your parent or guardian immediately and let them know what happened, so they can call your dentist and take you to the dental office right away.
  • Pick up the tooth by the top part (crown), not the root. 
  • If the tooth is dirty, don’t scrub it. Rinse it gently with water, cleaning off any dirt or debris but leaving any tissues in place.
  • For older kids and teens, gently try to put the tooth back in the socket but don’t force it. If you get it in place, bite gently on it or hold it in with your finger.  
  • If you can’t figure out which way the tooth goes back in or it doesn’t go easily into place, put it in milk or a container of your saliva. Don’t wrap the tooth in a cloth or store it in tap water. 

Chipped or broken permanent tooth

Seeking immediate help for a chipped or broken permanent tooth can prevent infection and increase the chances of saving the tooth.

As with a tooth that’s been knocked out, have your parent or guardian call your dentist right away, then: 

  • Gather the pieces of the tooth but don’t worry if you can’t find them all. Your dentist will be able to replace missing pieces if your tooth is repairable.  
  • Gently rinse your mouth and any broken pieces of the tooth with warm water. 
  • If there is bleeding, stop it by biting gently on a moist, clean cloth or gauze. If you hit your cheek or lip, wrap ice or something else that’s cold in a cloth and place on the outside of the mouth, cheek or lip to reduce swelling and pain. 

Soft-tissue injuries 

Call your parent or guardian right away and let them know what happened. They will be able to bring any necessary supplies and get you to your dentist or an emergency room if necessary.

If your tongue, cheeks, gums or lips are bleeding: 

  • Rinse your mouth gently with warm water mixed with a teaspoon of salt. After rinsing, press on the cut with a moist piece of gauze to control bleeding.
  • Make a cold compress and put it on the outside of your mouth or cheek to control pain and swelling. 
  • If the bleeding continues, contact your dentist or go to the emergency room. 

Talk to your child about mouth guards

A sports mouth guard can act as a shield against dental injuries. Some organized team contact sports such as ice hockey, field hockey, football and lacrosse require your child to wear a mouth guard while playing. Make sure your child knows that a mouth guard also provides protection when participating in other sports like basketball and softball — and even during non-contact activities like skating and gymnastics.

There are three types of mouth guards:

  • Custom-fitted: Provides the strongest protection and best fit. Custom made by your dentist. 
  • Boil and bite: Placed briefly in boiling water and molded with fingers and tongue to fit around the teeth. A less expensive option, purchased at sporting goods stores. 
  • Stock: Ready-to-wear and bulky. Provides the least protection and is the least comfortable to wear. Inexpensive and available at sporting goods stores. 

While you and your child can’t prevent all injuries, knowing what to do in a dental emergency can help minimize the damage.