What to Do When a Child Dental Emergency Arises

One of the most frightening events for a child and parents alike is when an accidental trauma occurs in the mouth area. It could come as the result of a fall or being hit by a baseball, or any one of a number of other scenarios. Because such an event can happen virtually any time of the day or night, it is essential that parents have a “dental home” that they can call when emergency services are required. Here is a brief parents’ guide for what to do when a child dental emergency arises.

–Broken jaw: If it is obvious that your child has suffered a broken or fractured jaw, then an emergency room visit is in order. Otherwise, a good pediatric dentist with 24-hour contact for emergency services can handle most other dental emergencies in a non-threatening atmosphere and for significantly less cost.

–Toothache: Toothaches can be caused by a variety of different factors including cavities and infections. Parents should gently floss around the tooth to determine whether the pain is simply being caused by trapped food. If the floss is clear, rinse the mouth with warm salt water, apply a cold compress, and call your “dental home:” preferably a good pediatric dentist.

–Broken or chipped tooth: If there is bleeding, apply direct pressure to the gum just above or below the tooth (never on the tooth itself). Rinse the mouth and apply an ice pack to prevent swelling until you can get to the dentist. If possible, gather all pieces of the tooth and place them in a sealed plastic bag with a little water (not milk) and bring them with you to the emergency provider.

–Knocked-out tooth: If it is a permanent tooth, rinse the tooth with water without touching the roots and reinsert it gently into the socket, holding it in place with gauze. If it cannot be reinserted, place it in a plastic bag with saliva or plain water and take it with you to the emergency dentist. For a primary tooth, do not attempt to reinsert the tooth: but there will probably be a considerable amount of bleeding to attend to. Apply gentle pressure on the gums above or below the missing tooth: never on the wound itself. Contact a pediatric dentist right away when emergencies arise.

If your child is into sports, having him or her wear a mouth guard appliance during play is a great preventive measure against accidental mouth injuries. Sports-related injuries account by far for the greatest number of dental emergencies, so having child athletes use mouth guards makes good common sense.