Dental Emergencies: Managing Trauma to the Teeth
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dentist examining an x-ray

It’s always best to be prepared, and knowing how to be ready for a dental emergency can be important to your oral health. If left untreated, a chipped or broken tooth, or a broken crown or filling can provide an opening for cavities because the damaged area is hard to keep clean.

If you have a dental emergency that involves trauma to your teeth, don’t panic. Follow these simple steps to hold you over until you get to the dentist:

  • Chipped tooth: If you break or chip a tooth, save the pieces and rinse the pieces and your mouth with warm water. Apply gauze to any areas that are bleeding. Once any bleeding stops, apply a cold compress to the area and see your dentist as soon as possible. It may or may not be possible to reattach the pieces, but bring them with you just in case.
  • Dislodged tooth: If your tooth becomes partly dislodged, get to the dentist immediately, and put a cold compress on the area to decrease swelling.
  • Knocked-out tooth: If possible, find the tooth and pick it up by the crown end, not the root. Rinse the tooth if it is dirty but don’t scrub it — you want to preserve any tissue fragments. Teeth that have been knocked out have the best chance to be saved if they are put back in place within an hour of the accident. Try to put the tooth back in place (be sure that it is facing the correct way) but don’t force it. If you can’t reinsert the tooth, place it in a small container of milk, or water with a pinch of salt, or a specialized growth medium that you can buy in a drugstore.