Happy National Children’s Dental Health Month! Did you know that, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, one-third of 5-year-olds have suffered an injury to their baby teeth, and one-fourth of 12-year-olds have experienced an injury to their permanent teeth?
Even though dental emergencies are pretty common for kids, they can still be alarming and overwhelming for parents to experience. We get it, and we’re here to help you determine how to deal with it until you can be seen by a dentist. Here’s what you need to do if your child has a dental emergency.
A toothache is typically the result of the nerves in and around the root of a tooth becoming inflamed and irritated. Kids tend to get toothaches when their permanent teeth are coming in, but the pain could also be caused by tooth decay. Signs that your child has a severe toothache include a sudden aversion to brushing, low-grade fever, and jaw pain. If your child has a severe toothache that doesn’t seem to go away within 24-36 hours, you should schedule an appointment with a dentist as soon as possible so they can determine the cause of the pain and treat it before it gets any worse.
Prior to the dentist appointment, you can give your child appropriate over-the-counter pain relievers to ease their discomfort. You can also have them rinse with warm salt water (as long as they’re old enough to spit) and hold a cold ice pack against their jaw to cut down on pain and inflammation.
Chipped or broken tooth.
The first thing you need to do after your child breaks a tooth is locate the missing tooth fragment and place it in either cold milk, water, or saliva. Then, call your child’s dentist and make an appointment so the injury can be evaluated and the dentist can determine whether or not the fragment can be bonded back in place.
Once you’ve made the appointment, make sure to rinse your child’s mouth out with water to clear away any debris or blood from around the broken tooth. If they’re actively bleeding from the injury, apply pressure with wet gauze until the bleeding stops. There will likely be some swelling, which can be treated with a cold compress. You can also treat any associated pain with appropriate over-the-counter medications.
Of course, it’s normal for kids to lose their baby teeth between the ages of 4 and 12. If your child has a baby tooth that’s loose due to an injury, though, they need to see a dentist to rule out any chance of infection or more serious problems in the future. If your child has a permanent tooth that’s loose, it’s even more important to have their dentist take a look.
While you’re waiting to see the dentist, make sure your child eats soft foods and avoids chewing or biting with the loose tooth. Encourage them to be extra gentle when brushing around the loose tooth. It’s also extremely critical to make sure your child understands the importance of not wiggling a loose permanent tooth.
If your child has a baby tooth that gets completely knocked out due to an injury, your main focus should be on stopping any bleeding with a piece of wet gauze or a cold washcloth. Once the bleeding stops, call your child’s dentist and schedule an appointment so the dentist can make sure there are no hidden side effects from the injury.
On the other hand, if your child has a permanent tooth that gets knocked out, your priority immediately after needs to be locating the missing tooth, picking it up by the crown (opposite of the roots), gently rinsing it with cold water, and placing it back in the socket if at all possible. If necessary, have your child bite down on a piece of gauze or a washcloth to hold the tooth in place. In the event that you can’t place the tooth back in the socket, you can submerge it in cold milk, water, or saliva to preserve it. Then, call your child’s dentist and schedule an appointment for their injury to be evaluated as soon as possible. Depending on your child’s situation, the dentist might be able to reattach the tooth. If not, the problem can be addressed with an implant or a bridge.
If your child loses a filling, they might experience some pain or discomfort due to exposed nerve endings and possible new decay. This isn’t necessarily an emergency, but it is something you want to address and fix as soon as you can. Once you’re aware that your child has a missing filling, go ahead and call their dentist to schedule an appointment for it to be fixed.
In the meantime, you can give your child appropriate over-the-counter pain relievers and encourage them to hold a cold compress to their jaw if needed to reduce inflammation and swelling. Make sure your child brushes over the affected area very gently until they can be seen by their dentist. You can also purchase dental cement from the drugstore or grocery store in order to replace the filling until your child’s dentist can refill it properly.
Again, this isn’t a true dental emergency, but it’s still something you should know how to deal with if it comes up. If your child loses a crown, try to locate and preserve the crown to the best of your ability, since the dentist might be able to reattach it. Then, go ahead and schedule an appointment with your child’s dentist to have it looked at and fixed.
If the crown is still intact, you can clean it and temporarily reattach it at home with dental cement. Sometimes, though, you won’t be able to reattach it. In these cases, you can use dental wax to protect your child’s exposed tooth. Make sure your child brushes around the tooth very gently and avoids chewing or biting with the tooth.
P.S. Most of this applies to adults, too, so keep it in mind for your own dental emergencies!