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How to Handle a Dental Emergency

How to Handle a Dental Emergency

Let’s face it: nobody wants to deal with a dental emergency. From aches and pains to broken teeth, there’s no doubt that dental emergencies can be alarming and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, they happen, and understanding how to deal with them effectively is a critical part of keeping your mouth healthy and happy for years to come.

Here’s what you need to know about how to handle a dental emergency for yourself or a family member.

Dental Emergencies, Categorized

Obviously, there’s a large difference between a simple toothache and a true dental emergency. But how do you tell the difference between the two? What requires immediate care from a professional and what can you tend to at home? Here’s a list of true dental emergencies to watch for:

  • Missing teeth. Knocked-out permanent or adult teeth are common forms of dental injuries, and are especially prevalent in people who play contact sports, such as hockey or soccer.
  • Cracked teeth. Cracked teeth can vary in severity, but are always essential to pay attention to. In some cases, a chunk of the tooth can come missing. In others, the entire tooth may crack in half, exposing the root and creating a painful situation.
  • Bit tongues or lips. While it’s one thing to bite your lip while chewing your food (and is decidedly not an emergency), it’s entirely another to bite through your lip or tongue during an impact. This is a true dental emergency that requires attention from a professional immediately.
  • Objects stuck in the mouth. From food particles to foreign items, anything stuck in the mouth requires immediate dental professional attention.  

Other dental emergencies may include infections, fractures, and acute dental pain.

Handling Dental Emergencies

The way you’ll handle a dental emergency depends, in large part, on what, exactly, the emergency comes from. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common dental emergencies and how to handle each:


Toothaches vary in severity from the inconvenient to the nauseatingly painful, and all must be dealt with accordingly. If you’re suffering from a toothache, start by rinsing your mouth with warm water or warm saline solution.

Using dental floss, floss gently  between each of your teeth. This will help to dislodge any stuck food. If the mouth is swollen, apply a cold compress to the outside of the cheek, over the area that is in pain.

Take an aspirin to reduce inflammation and contact your dentist for an appointment as soon as possible. If the toothache is surface-level, you may also apply a topical analgesic like Orajel to numb the pain.

Chipped or Broken Teeth

Chipped and broken teeth are some of the most damaging dental emergencies, and can lead to infections and pain if left untreated. To handle a chipped or broken tooth in the short-term, rinse the mouth with warm water or saline solution.

Swish gently over any broken pieces. If the tooth is bleeding, apply a firm gauze compress to stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding has stopped, add a cold compress to the outside of the mouth, cheek, or lip around the area of the broken tooth. This will help reduce swelling and pain and prepare the area for treatment.

Contact your dentist for an appointment as soon as possible.

Knocked-Out Teeth

Knocked-out teeth are about as bad as chipped teeth when it comes to pain and long-term destruction. To deal with a knocked-out tooth, retrieve the lost tooth by the crown, rinse it with water if the tooth is dirty, and put the tooth into a small container of milk, or salted water.

Make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. If you can see the dentist within an hour of having the tooth knocked out, the chances of the tooth being returned to your socket are very high.

Loose Teeth

If you have an extruded (partially dislodged) tooth, it’s essential to see your dentist immediately. While there’s not much you can do to threat this dental condition at home, applying a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek can help cut down on pain and reduce swelling.

When you see your dentist, they’ll be able to come up with a plan to help replace the tooth in its socket and get you on your way again.

Objects Stuck Between Teeth

If you have an object caught between your teeth, use dental floss to remove the object, if possible. Be gentle so as not to disrupt your gums or cause bleeding or irritation. If you can’t remove the object, contact your dentist.

Whatever you do, do not use a pin, knife, or other sharp object to attempt to dislodge the object. This approach can cut gums, scratch the tooth surface, and make it more difficult to promote good dental health.

Missing Fillings or Crowns

When a crown or filling goes missing, it’s an alarming feeling. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a complete emergency. If you lose a filling or crown, stay calm. In a pinch, you can apply a piece of sugarless gum to the area where the cavity is exposed.

Over-the-counter dental cement will also work to fill the space and prevent your root from being exposed and vulnerable. If you managed to find the crown or filling, keep it with you and make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.

Broken Braces

Braces are durable and long-lasting, but that doesn’t mean they don’t break from time to time. If a wire on your braces breaks or is sticking out of the bracket or band, use the eraser of a pencil to push the wire back into a more comfortable position. If you can’t reposition it, cover the end with something like gauze until you can get to the doctor’s office. Don’t cut the wire, as it could put you at risk for inhaling it, or damaging the overall integrity of your braces.

Dental Abscesses

Abscesses are infections that take place at or around the root of a tooth, or in the gums and space around the teeth. A serious condition that can lead to bone infections, damaged tissue, and migrating infections that can be very dangerous or fatal.

Because abscesses are some of the most dangerous dental health problems, it’s essential to get to the dentist as soon as possible. In the meantime, rinse your mouth with a saltwater solution (½ teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water) several times a day. Do not try to rupture or pop the abscess, as this can exacerbate infection.

Avoiding Dental Emergencies

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, when it comes to dental emergencies. With that in mind, here are a few actionable tips to avoid dental emergencies in the first place:

  • If you plan to play sports or participate in recreational activities, specifically any sport that involves contact, be sure to wear a mouthguard at all times.
  • Don’t chew hard things like popcorn kernels, ice, hard candy, and anything else that could potentially crack a tooth or cause damage to dental tissue.  
  • Don’t ever use your teeth to open or cut things. Instead, reach for scissors or a knife to do these jobs.
  • Make regular appointments with your dentist, especially if you have crowns, braces, or fillings.

If you do suffer a dental emergency, don’t panic. Dentists understand that dental emergencies happen, and most maintain some time to deal with these emergencies in their schedules. Call your dentist and provide as much detail as possible about your condition to get an appointment quickly. Our team is here to assist you with anything you may need, so give us a call today!

Taking Care of Your Braces & Teeth

Taking Care of Your Braces & Teeth

The moment you get braces, taking care of your teeth takes on a new importance. Don’t worry, though! It’s far from impossible. These smart, dentist-approved tips will help you keep your mouth and teeth healthy, braces and all.

How to Protect Your Face While Playing Sports

How to Protect Your Face While Playing Sports

If you play football, soccer, hockey, or any other contact sport, you know that the attitude surrounding these high-intensity activities has changed in recent years. In football, specifically, protection has become the priority.

Today, athletic trainers want to make sure that their athletes are adequately protected, and that the delicate areas of the face and head remain safe during intense bouts of play. While this shifting mindset does quite a lot to protect players on its own, there are still steps that you can take to protect your head and face while playing sports. In addition to cutting down on unsightly black eyes and bruises, this approach will also help keep your teeth, mouth, and dental arch safe.

Here’s what you need to know:

Injuries to the Head and Face During High-Impact Sports

In high-impact sports, injuries to the head and face are common. These injuries range from concussions to bruises to lacerations and broken noses. Eye and teeth injuries are also common. While there is no way to rule out these injuries entirely, proper protection, whether mandatory or not, can go a long way toward mitigating them.

If you participate in sports that use a small ball, such as baseball, softball, lacrosse, field hockey, and tennis, you probably already know that these sports put you at increased risk of head and face injuries. This risk owes to the high velocity of the ball and the rapid pace of the sport. To protect yourself, it pays to be continually aware of your surroundings and to wear protective gear that will help reduce the risk of getting injured in the line of play.

Protective Gear to Wear During Sports

Here’s a list of some of the protective equipment that athletes should be wearing during any high-impact sport:

Helmets. Helmets are the first line of defense when it comes to protecting the head and face during high-impact sports. Mandatory in most high school sports, such as football, ice hockey, softball, lacrosse, and baseball, helmets are designed to prevent skull fractures, reduce the risk of concussions, and, in the case of full-face helmets, provide some protection for the orbital bones, teeth, and jaw.  To do their jobs correctly, helmets must fit properly. As a general rule, they should not be so tight as to cause a headache, but should not be loose enough that they can be lifted off the head, or pushed backwards.

Facemasks. Face masks work in conjunction with helmets. Required in sports like high school hockey, men’s lacrosse, and football, helmets may also be necessary for softball and some sports. Hockey and lacrosse face masks work to protect the eyes and jaw from impact. In football, a face mask extends across the brow bones and around the jaw, to protect the facial bones and teeth. An interesting but little-known fact is that different football positions require different types of face masks to offer different kinds of protection. For example, a lineman on a football team will have a more closed cage on his face mask then that of a quarterback or receiver.

  • Goggles. Although goggles aren’t designed to protect your teeth, they are an essential part of your overall protective gear. Goggles are specifically helpful in small bat sports, such as Racquetball and tennis. When worn correctly, protective goggles guard your eyes and the bones surrounding them. If you play basketball or football and have had a previous eye injury, goggles can also help prevent it from being injured further, and give you the protection you need to play confidently.
  • Ear Protection. While most people don’t think about the ears when it comes to face protection, the ears are some of the most delicate and vulnerable parts of the face. In sports like wrestling and water polo, ear protection is required. This is important, seeing as ear injuries can easily create Oral & Maxillofacial pain down the road.
  • Mouth & Throat Protection. Talk to your dentist, and he or she will tell you that this is one of the most essential types of face protection you can wear. And for a good reason! Fitted mouthguards protect your teeth, dental arch, tongue, and surrounding tissues from impacts, abrasions, and cuts during high impact sports. Today, fitted mouthguards are required in high school field hockey, ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, and football. Mouth guards are inexpensive, effective, and easy to wear, which makes them a no-brainer when it comes to protecting your face and teeth. Throat guards take this protection to the next level and are required by some schools for high school hockey goalies, as well as some catchers in baseball and softball.

Protecting the Teeth During Sports

Did you know that approximately 39% of all dental injuries are related to sports injuries around the face or head? With a statistic like that in mind, it’s clear that protecting the teeth during high-impact sports is essential.

Sports like football, hockey, basketball, and other contact sports are common causes of concussions, tooth injuries, and more. While it may seem that these injuries are minimal, the truth is that they can cause long-lasting repercussions. Dental injuries typically take the form of chips and brakes, dislodged or knocked out teeth, and fractures, that can cause discomfort and pain for years down the road.

What to do if You Suffer a Head or Face Injury

Even if you take all precautions while playing a high-impact sport, face and head injuries are always a possibility. Here’s what to do if you suffer one of them while playing your favorite sport.

  • Stop playing immediately. This is possibly the most important tip to ensure healing and reduce the risk of further injury. If you continue to play after taking a hard hit or suffering an injury, you run the risk of making the injury worse or creating a situation that is harder to repair down the road. Instead, stop playing, remove yourself from the field, and assess the situation.
  • Deal with immediate needs. If there is bleeding, bruising, or pain, take some time now to deal with those things before you head to the doctor. Check out our recent post on how to deal with dental emergencies if the injury or suffering has to do with your teeth. In all other situations, use basic first aid skills to stop bleeding or resolve pain before you can seek help.
  • See your doctor or dentist. The next step is to make an appointment with a specialist. If it’s a head injury you’re suffering, make an appointment with your doctor. For tooth and mouth injuries, get into your dentist as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that some headaches and pains are caused by dental injuries, which may be underlying or hard to diagnose. With this in mind consider seeing a dentist even if your injuries seem to have more to do with your head.

Staying Safe During High-Impact Sports

Just because there’s a risk of harm associated with High Impact Sports does not mean you have to stop playing. Instead, take these steps to keep yourself safe, and protect the Integrity of your mouth, face, and teeth while you play your favorite sports.

6 Tips for A Winning Smile

We live in the age of selfies, photo sharing, and cameras in every pocket. In a world like this, it’s imperative to be photo-ready at all times, but how do you do it?

Here are our top six tips for a winning smile, naturally!

Sensitive Teeth and Whitening: What you Need to Know

Sensitive Teeth and Whitening: What you Need to Know

No matter what kind of teeth whitening product you use, you’re at risk of encountering some type of dental sensitivity afterward. This is true even for people who have healthy, strong teeth and get them whitened at a dentist’s office. Unfortunately, tooth sensitivity is just a part of whitening and can lead to discomfort for anyone who undergoes the procedure.

Don’t worry, though: there’s good news.

If you do suffer from tooth sensitivity after dental whitening, there’s hope. In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When you take steps to reduce sensitivity before you undergo your whitening procedure, you’ll set yourself up for a more comfortable and streamlined experience in the dentist’s office or with your at-home whitening.

Let’s explore why sensitivity occurs and what you can do to cut down on it.

What Causes Dental Sensitivity?

Dental sensitivity is an uncomfortable situation with many causes. Depending on who you are and where your dental habits land, there are dozens of reasons you could be suffering some ongoing sensitivity. Here are a few of the most common culprits when it comes to dental sensitivity.

  • Brushing too hard. If you brush your teeth with too much gusto, you can wear down the protective layers of your teeth and expose the canals and tubes that lead down to your dental nerves. Over time, this causes discomfort when your teeth are exposed to extreme temperatures or sticky foods. Fortunately, switching to a brush with softer bristles can go a long way toward helping resolve the issue.
  • You’re eating acidic foods. Do you have a thing for very acidic foods? If so, they could be wearing down your enamel and causing discomfort when you consume them. This is likely the case if you notice discomfort when eating lemon, grapefruit, kiwi, and pickles.
  • You grind your teeth. If you grind your teeth while you sleep, you could be wearing down your tooth enamel and exposing the hollow tubes that eventually lead to dental nerves. This, in turn, creates dental discomfort. Wearing a dental mouthguard can help stop you from grinding, and get rid of some of the sensitivity that may act up during whitening or similar procedures.
  • You whiten too much. Sometimes, ongoing dental sensitivity can come from over-whitening your teeth. This is common if you whiten weekly and use a tooth-whitening toothpaste. If your teeth are more sensitive than standard teeth, you might want to cut down on your whitening, meaning switching to toothpaste without whitening chemicals in it.

How to Decrease Sensitivity During Whitening

Now that you understand what causes dental sensitivity, you can take proactive steps to address them. Here are a few smart ways to navigate around your sensitivity issues:

1. Use Sensitivity Solutions

Did you know that there are many desensitizing toothpastes and prescription solutions available on the market today? If you find that whitening your teeth causes undue sensitivity, you may consider trying one of these options.

Desensitizing toothpaste, for example, commonly has twice as much fluoride in it than standard toothpaste, which can help reduce sensitivity after whitening. For best results, start using this toothpaste up to two weeks before your scheduled whitening appointment.

2. Take an OTC NSAID

Some things are truly as simple as taking a bit of Motrin before you whiten your teeth. If you get headaches from whitening, this solution could work wonders for you.

600 mg of Motrin should be enough to stave off many of the unpleasant side effects of whitening. You can also take Advil or Tylenol, if that works better for you.

3. Avoid Cold Foods

After you whiten your teeth, they may feel additionally sensitive. Cut down on the sensation by avoiding cold or hot foods for a few days after whitening. You may also want to reduce exposure to sticky foods, like caramels or candies.

4. Whiten Less Frequently

Before you jump to any conclusions about the reason for your dental sensitivity, start by reducing the frequency and duration of your whitening treatments. If you know you have sensitive teeth, there are a few options you can explore. One of these options is simply whitening your teeth less often.

This may also involve changing the type of whitening solution you use. For example, if you typically use an at-home strip system, you may consider changing your approach to include dental whitening visits. While these will be more expensive, they’re also more effective and will mean you can whiten less frequently without sacrificing results.

Alternately, you can cut down on the duration of your whitening. Instead of whitening for two hours in your whitening tray, for example, cut it down to 90 minutes.

5. Talk to Your Dentist

If whitening is very important to you, but you’re suffering from dental sensitivity, talk to your dentist about your options. He or she may be able to make a recommendation that will help you get the white teeth you want without the sensitivity.

As you can see in this post, there are dozens of options for people with sensitive teeth. In most cases, there are dozens of ways to resolve dental sensitivity without taking excessive steps.

Additional Tips to Keep Teeth Strong

Strong teeth hold up to sensitivity issues better than weaker teeth. With this in mind, take these smart steps to keep your teeth healthy and happy for years to come:

  • Brush twice daily. Be sure to brush teeth after meals, whenever possible, and use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. This is easier on teeth and allows you to reach the back of your mouth more effectively.
  • Use fluoridated toothpaste. Fluoride is critical to good dental health. Designed to strengthen enamel and reduce your risk of dental decay, fluoride helps you avoid cavities and other dental problems.
  • Brush thoroughly. As a general rule, tooth brushing should take 2-3 minutes. Any shorter and you’re selling yourself short on your dental hygiene.
  • Floss daily. Use a slow, gentle sawing motion to floss between and around your teeth.
  • Limit exposure to acidic foods. Food acids can soften dental material over time and may dissolve the minerals in your tooth enamel, making teeth more vulnerable to cavities. With this in mind, limit your exposure to these foods and focus on keeping teeth clean between meals.

Stronger Teeth Start Here

If you’re looking for ways to reduce dental sensitivity and keep your teeth strong and healthy, starting with these smart tips is a great option.

While everyone’s dental care should be individualized, the building blocks to excellent dental health are predictable: brush daily, brush thoroughly, floss, and avoid lifestyle choices, foods, and beverages that are damaging to your mouth and dental health.

When you follow these tips, along with seeing your dentist regularly, it’s easier than ever before to enjoy outstanding dental health for years to come.


Need to schedule a checkup or cleaning? Contact our office today. We’re happy to help.