A new school year has begun. With that, we often see a bit of an uptick in the number of mishaps when it comes to our patients’ smiles. When school aged children and adolescents resume contact sports and adults recommit to their “normal” routines of exercise, the frequency of broken teeth, cut lips or tongues, and teeth that are “knocked out” is traditionally higher.
For this reason, we are proponents of custom-made mouth guards. These comfortable oral appliances can greatly reduce or prevent trauma that can be otherwise rather severe. A customized mouth guard can prevent tooth loss, trauma or fractures to the jaw bone, and even reduce the risk for concussion.
Too, a custom-designed mouthguard is more comfortable to wear, which tends to increase compliance. With bulky, boil-&-bite types, the fit is less comfy. Thus, if the mouthguard isn’t in when a mishap occurs, it is useless. The custom-fitted versions also stay in place better so they are more effective at doing what they’re ultimately intended to do.
However, predicting when and where to wear a mouth guard isn’t a normal part of most days. And, they can’t prevent all emergencies from occurring. Therefore, we want you to be aware of initial action steps so you can respond appropriately to a dental emergency immediately if one does occur.
Below are some tips for what to do if a dental mishap does occur:
In the case of a tooth ache: Begin by cleaning the area around the aching tooth by gently swishing with warm, salty water. Avoid putting aspirin or other pain relievers on the gums or the aching tooth. If you feel food is trapped between the affected tooth and its neighbor, carefully ease dental floss between them to dislodge caught particles. If swelling of the face has occurred, use a cold compress for 15 minutes on, and 15 minutes off, until swelling has subsided. Take acetaminophen for pain and call us as soon as possible for instructions. If after normal hours, you will be instructed on how to reach us.
If you bite or cut the tongue, lip, or cheek: If there is no or minimal bleeding, begin by applying a cold compress to bruised areas for 15 minutes and rest for 15 minutes, for one hour. If there is bleeding, apply firm but gentle pressure with a clean gauze or cloth. Bleeding that continues after 15 minutes or is not controlled by simple pressure needs prompt attention at an urgent care center or emergency room.
When a permanent tooth is knocked out: Time is a critical factor in saving a tooth. First, if the tooth is retrievable, handle it carefully and minimally in case it can be reinserted. Avoid holding it by the root and gently rinse it. If possible, reinsert the tooth in its socket and bite down lightly on a clean gauze or cloth to hold it in place. If you cannot reinsert the tooth, place it in a cup of milk or water and call us immediately.
Should you break or chip a tooth: Save any broken tooth fragments. Gently rinse the injured area with warm water and place a cold compress over it to reduce or prevent swelling. Call our office immediately for instructions.
Broken orthodontic wires, wires that pierce cheeks, or cuts from brackets: Although most loose or broken ortho wires or brackets do not need emergency room attention, you should never attempt to remove a wire that is piercing the gums, cheek, or tongue. If the appliance can be removed easily, do so before calling us. If not, cover sharp or protruding portions with cotton balls, gauze or chewing gum and call our office immediately for instructions.
Suspected broken or fractured jaw: If you feel your jaw is fractured or broken, avoid moving it by tying a tie, towel or handkerchief underneath the chin and over the top of the head. Go immediately to the nearest urgent care center or emergency room. Here, they can also check for signs of a concussion.
We hope you (or those you love) never encounter a dental emergency. However, we want to reassure you that, if this should occur, we will tend to your needs as a priority and with skilled, gentle hands. We help our patients receive immediate care and get through these ordeals with as little trauma to their smiles as possible.