What to do in case of tooth trouble

  • Published
  • By Col. Kent Sabey
  • 59th Dental Training Squadron
Dental emergencies, mild and severe, occur every day. Preventative actions such as practicing good oral hygiene, consistent periodic check-ups and wearing athletic mouth guards can help avoid tooth trouble.  We all want to preserve our natural teeth and avoid discomfort, so it is important to determine which situations require immediate action and which are less urgent. The American Dental Association published the following suggestions on how to manage some dental situations.

-  If something is caught between teeth, try to gently remove it with dental floss, but avoid injuring the gums. Trying to remove it with a sharp instrument is not recommended. If you can't dislodge the object using floss, contact your dentist.

-  If you have bitten your lip or tongue, use a soft cloth to clean the area and apply gentle pressure. You can apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. If bleeding in the area doesn't stop, see your dentist promptly.

-  A cracked or broken tooth may be painful when chewing or might be sensitive to hot and cold liquids. A toothache may be caused by tooth decay, such as a cavity or a defective filling. Removing food or debris that might be caught, or rinsing the mouth with water may provide some relief. Call your dentist for an appointment so the condition can be evaluated. If you notice any swelling of the gums or cheek near a tooth that is aching, you should call your dentist immediately.

-  Gums can bleed or become sore. Use good brushing and flossing techniques and rinse the mouth with warm water. Make an appointment with your dentist to determine why this is occurring.

-  If you have tooth or gum pain, a proper dose of an over-the-counter analgesic, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can be helpful until you can make an appointment with your dentist. Make sure you have no history of allergy or adverse reaction to the medicine. It is not recommended to place pain pills against the gums near the aching tooth because it may burn the gum tissue.

-  Results of tooth trauma can be quite variable. Teeth may be tender and the gums may bleed slightly. A portion of a tooth may be missing. A tooth may be partially moved out of its normal position. If any of these occur, call your dentist.

-  Occasionally a tooth is knocked completely out of its socket. If this occurs, the best action is to hold the tooth by the crown and gently rinse the root, if it is obviously dirty. Do not scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. Insert the tooth back into the socket. If that isn't possible, put the tooth in a cup of milk and see your dentist as quickly as possible.

-  Some severe accidents can result in a broken jaw. Signs of this may include pain, a change in the way your teeth fit together, or swelling. Contact your dentist or an emergency room right away in this case.