Accidents happen, and knowing what to
do when one occurs can mean the difference between saving and losing a tooth.
Here are some common dental emergencies and how to deal with them. For all
dental emergencies, it’s important to visit your dentist as soon as possible.
Most dentists reserve time in their daily schedules for emergency patients so
be sure to call your dentist and provide as much detail as you can about your
condition. If the accident occurs when your dental office is not open, visit
your local emergency room.
Question: What do I do if I knock out
my tooth? Answer: For a knocked-out permanent or adult
tooth, keep it moist at all times. If you can, try placing the tooth back in
the socket without touching the root. If that’s not possible, place it in
between your cheek and gums, or in milk. Get to your dentist’s office right
Q: What if I crack my tooth? A: For a cracked tooth, immediately rinse the mouth with
warm water to clean the area. Put cold compresses on the face to keep any
swelling down. See your dentist as soon as possible.
Q: If I bite my tongue or lip, how do I
treat it? A: If you bite your tongue or lip, clean
the area gently with water and apply a cold compress. See your dentist or go to
the emergency room as soon as possible.
Q: How do I treat a toothache? A: For toothaches, rinse your mouth with warm water to
clean it out. Gently use dental floss to remove any food caught between your
teeth. Do not put aspirin on your aching tooth or gums; it may burn the gum
tissue. If the pain persists, contact your dentist.
Q: What if I think my jaw is broken?
A: If you think your jaw is broken apply cold
compresses to control the swelling. Go to your dentist or a hospital emergency
Q: How do I remove an object that’s
stuck in my mouth or teeth? A: For objects stuck
in the mouth, try to gently remove with floss but do not try to remove it with
a sharp or pointed instrument. See your dentist or go to the emergency room as
soon as possible.
Q: How can I avoid a dental emergency?
A: There are a number of simple precautions you
can take to avoid accident and injury to the teeth:
•Wear a mouthguard when participating in
sports or recreational activities.
•Avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels and
hard candy, all of which can crack a tooth.
Wisdom teeth, also referred to as third molars, get their
name by being the last teeth to come in during young adulthood. As part of a
dental visit, your dentist will examine you to determine if your wisdom teeth
are healthy and properly positioned.
Every patient is unique, but in general, wisdom teeth may
need to be removed when there is evidence of changes in the mouth such as:
damage to adjacent teeth
tooth decay (if it is not possible or desirable to
restore the tooth)
Your dentist or specialist may also recommend removal to
prevent problems or for others reasons, such as when removal is part of an
orthodontic, restorative or periodontal treatment plan.
In addition, the condition of your mouth changes over time.
Wisdom teeth that are not removed should continue to be monitored, because the
potential for developing problems later on still exists. As with many other
health conditions, as people age, they are at greater risk for health problems
and that includes potential problems with their wisdom teeth. Regular dental
visits are important so your dentist can evaluate not just your wisdom teeth
but your overall oral health to help you prevent and manage dental disease and
achieve optimal oral health.
Is the taste of ice cream or a sip of hot coffee sometimes a
painful experience for you? Does brushing or flossing make you wince
occasionally? If so, you may have sensitive teeth.
Possible causes include:
Tooth decay (cavities)
Worn tooth enamel
Exposed tooth root
In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel protects the crowns of
your teeth—the part above the gum line. Under the gum line a layer called
cementum protects the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum
Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains
microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When dentin loses its
protective covering of enamel or cementum these tubules allow heat and cold or
acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. Dentin
may also be exposed when gums recede. The result can be hypersensitivity.
Sensitive teeth can be treated. The type of treatment will
depend on what is causing the sensitivity. Your dentist may suggest one of a
variety of treatments:
Desensitizing toothpaste. This contains compounds that
help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve,
and usually requires several applications before the sensitivity is
Fluoride gel. An in-office technique which strengthens tooth
enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations.
A crown, inlay or bonding. These may be used to correct
a flaw or decay that results in sensitivity.
Surgical gum graft. If gum tissue has been lost from the root, this
will protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
Root canal. If sensitivity is severe and persistent and cannot be
treated by other means, your dentist may recommend this treatment to
eliminate the problem.
Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing
sensitive-tooth pain. Ask your dentist if you have any questions about your
daily oral hygiene routine or concerns about tooth sensitivity.