Dental Disasters Don’t Take Vacations

Vacations are supposed to be about relaxing, not panicking, but dental emergencies can crop up anywhere. These setbacks don’t discriminate between office cubicles or sandy beaches. Here are a few of the most common dental emergencies and what to do until you can get to a dentist.

5 common dental emergencies and what to do

1. Toothache

Try these toothache remedies to relieve pain before you can get to a dentist. First, brush and floss gently, then rinse with warm water. It’s possible that a food particle has gotten wedged somewhere and is causing discomfort. Still sore? Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Do not use heat or place the pain reliever directly on your gums or tooth. Try to stick to fairly soft foods and get to a dentist to have the tooth examined as soon as you can.

2. Broken Tooth

If there’s any bleeding, gauze and a bit of light pressure should stop it within about 10 minutes. If not, try a moist tea bag. If the injury is painful, over-the-counter pain relievers may help make you more comfortable, as will avoiding hard foods. If jagged edges of your tooth are poking into your cheeks or gums, put dental wax over the sharp parts. The same advice applies for a broken filling or crown. If possible save the broken crown or filling to bring to the dentist. If you have denture adhesive on hand, you can use that to temporarily reattach the crown until you make it to your appointment.

3. Knocked-Out Tooth

First, find the missing tooth. Pick it up by the crown (the part that shows in the mouth) and avoid touching the root. Rinse the tooth gently in cool water; don’t scrub or use soap. If the tooth is permanent, immediately try to replace it in the socket and hold it there using clean gauze or a washcloth. Don’t put a baby tooth back in the socket —it can damage the developing permanent tooth below. If replacing the tooth in the socket isn’t an option, place it in a clean container with milk, saline, or cool water. As a last resort hold the tooth under your tongue to keep it moist. Get to a dentist’s office immediately. Call the emergency number if it’s after hours. The faster you act —less than 30 minutes out of the mouth is optimal —the better your chances of saving the tooth. To prepare for this type of emergency, purchase a commercially available kit (e.g., Save-A-Tooth), which contains a solution that may keep tooth root cells alive for hours until you can get to a dentist.

4. Oral Injury and Bleeding

If you’ve injured your mouth and there is bleeding, rinse gently to find the blood’s source. Then put pressure on that area or use the gauze/tea bag techniques mentioned for broken teeth, left, which should bring bleeding to a halt within 10 to 15 minutes. If you can’t get the bleeding to stop, call a dentist. Head to the emergency room if a dentist is unavailable. Even if the bleeding stops, consider visiting a dentist to ensure you don’t need stitches or haven’t injured a tooth.

5. Broken Dental or Orthodontic Appliances

Whether they are dentures, braces or retainers, save the broken pieces for the dentist. Don’t try to glue anything back into place or bend protruding wires yourself. You can use dental wax to keep wires or other protrusions from irritating your cheeks and gums, though. Before leaving on a trip, talk to your dentist or orthodontist to make sure you have wax on hand and know what to do if the dental appliance breaks.

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