Most people don’t immediately think of dental issues as “emergencies,” but they can be. Think about it. If you have a chipped tooth, an abscess, a nasty toothache, broken braces or wires, or just something caught between teeth, it can be a scary experience.
In some cases, the only thing you can think about is getting rid of the pain. Suddenly, the non-emergency becomes an emergency. Here’s how to deal.
Most toothaches are actually symptomatic of larger, more serious, problems. So, you should go to your dentist if things don’t get better within a few days. But, for the pain, you can rinse your mouth with warm water, use dental floss to remove any stuck food that might be causing the problem, or apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth.
Never use NSAIDs or other pain relievers in your mouth. Why? Because these pain relievers contain salicylate - a derivative of salicylic acid. This acid will burn the sensitive tissues inside your mouth. There’s a reason why all NSAIDs contain warnings about stomach bleeding.
A chipped tooth, or one that’s knocked out completely, isn’t a catastrophic disaster, but it does require you to act quickly. Save all pieces of the tooth, and clean yourself up. If you’re bleeding, rinse your mouth with warm salt water. This will help stop the bleeding. Then, head to the dentist’s office.
Objects Caught in Teeth
Floss is the best option for removing food that’s become lodged in your teeth. You can also try using a mouthwash. Swish with a non-alcohol based mouthwash for several minutes. Alternatively, you can swish with water or, believe it or not, simple vegetable or coconut oil. The longer you swish, the better. If you swish with oil, a side benefit will be the moist and smooth feeling in your mouth when you’re done.
If a wire breaks or is sticking out of a bracket or band, then it’s time for a trip to the dentist’s office. You can try using a pencil eraser to push the wire back into place or a more comfortable position until then. If you can’t reposition the wire yourself, cover the end of it with orthodontic wax until you can get in to see the doctor.
Never, ever, cut the wire. You could end up inhaling or swallowing small pieces of metal - doing damage to your intestinal lining or your lungs.
A tooth abscess is rare in the industrialised world, but it happens. It’s an infection that occurs around the root of a tooth or in the spaces between teeth and gums. These are serious, so do not hesitate to go to the doctor. People used to die of tooth abscesses before modern medicine. In fact, it was a common cause of death, so take this seriously and get in to see the doctor, pronto.
Prevention is Better than Cure
The best way to minimise the risk of dental emergencies is to have a plan of attack for preventative dental treatment with regular visits to the dentist and healthy dental habits such as daily brushing and flossing of teeth and drinking water after sugary drinks (or instead of).
Meet Robert Ander
Robert Ander is a dental assistant with a passion for oral hygiene. When not teaching his kids to floss, he enjoys blogging about common questions and concerns he encounters in the office.
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