Accidents happen, and it’s rare that they wait for the perfect moment to occur. If you or a loved one has an accident that results in a broken or missing tooth, or if some other dental emergency occurs, will you be prepared to handle the situation? Take our quick quiz below to find out.
There are three basic steps to being prepared and properly handling any dental emergency, and only one of them involves what you do at the time of the accident.
Have a dentist picked out who can help in an emergency situation
One of the most important steps in preparing for a dental emergency is having already established a relationship with a dental professional or practice you trust, and that can assist in an emergency situation.
If you already have a dentist you visit for your semi-annual cleanings and exams, simply contact them and confirm that they are equipped to handle emergency appointments. This means they have adequate staff on hand to fit in an emergency visit the same day as — preferably, within an hour of — the accident or injury.
Most family dentists do offer this important service, but they likely have reasonable limitations as well, such as “only during office hours.” Make sure you’re aware of their procedure and requirements, and write them down along with their phone number in a prominent place where you can access it quickly in the case of an emergency.
This not only ensures you’re not scrambling to figure out who to call or where to go at a point when it’s not as easy to think straight, it also offers peace of mind. The more prepared you are, the calmer you will be, which will help reduce pain and make treatment easier.
QUIZ QUESTION #1
Do you have a specific dentist or dental practice you’re already comfortable with, who is ready, willing, and able to assist in the case of an emergency, and do you have their contact information with you at all times?
- I have a dentist picked out, but I’m not sure if they can handle an emergency situation.
- I have a dentist picked out who can handle an emergency situation, but I don’t have their contact information handy.
Prevention is the best preparation
The most common dental emergencies involve trauma caused by trips, falls, or sports-related injuries. Less common, but still important, are injuries sustained by misuse of the teeth, such as using them as a bottle opener or biting down on hard objects or food.
In all these cases, some common-sense tips and basic safety guidelines will go a long way to help prevent emergency dental care — and prevention is the best method of preparation.
- Anyone who is participating in sports should wear the appropriate protective equipment, including helmets, face shields, and/or mouthguards to prevent tooth and jaw damage where possible.
- Maintain a safe working and living environment (by cleaning up clutter, guarding against wet floors, and removing obstructions like loose cords,) to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
- Be mindful of food that’s routinely connected to chipped and broken teeth, like bones, pits, and hard candy. Chew carefully until you’re sure those items aren’t going to be a problem.
- Never, ever use your teeth for any purpose other than biting and chewing food.
QUIZ QUESTION #2
Are you following all four of these common-sense injury prevention guidelines to protect your teeth?
- I’m strictly following three out of four of those guidelines.
- Sometimes I think about these kinds of things, but not always.
What to do when an emergency occurs
The final step in preparing for a dental emergency is knowing exactly what to do if and when one occurs in order to mitigate suffering and maximize the chance your dentist can repair the damage.
If you break or chip a tooth:
"In all these cases, some common-sense tips and basic safety guidelines will go a long way to help prevent dental emergencies — and prevention is the best method of preparation."
- Locate any pieces, rinse them in clean water, and bring them with you to the dentist.
- Rinse your mouth out with lukewarm salt water.
- If there is any bleeding, apply light pressure with gauze until the bleeding stops.
- If necessary, chew up a small piece of sugarless gum and carefully place the wad over the broken tooth to prevent it from cutting your tongue or lips.
- Take over-the-counter pain medication if needed (although minor chips and cracks may not hurt much at all) and apply a cold compress to keep swelling down.
- Contact the dentist and arrange a same-day appointment, although immediate care is probably not necessary.
If one or more of your teeth is knocked out:
- Locate the teeth, rinse them in clean water, and, if possible, reinsert them in the socket(s), holding them in with clean gauze or a towel.
- If the teeth cannot be reinserted in the sockets, place them in a container of milk or salt water and bring them with you to the dentist.
- There will be significant bleeding, so apply light pressure with gauze until the bleeding stops.
- Rinse your mouth out with lukewarm salt water.
- Take over-the-counter pain medication if the pain becomes unbearable, but avoid NSAIDs (like aspirin and ibuprofen) which can thin the blood and result in excess bleeding, and apply a cold compress to keep swelling down.
- Contact the dentist and arrange a same-day appointment, within the hour if at all possible. It’s important to note that your dentist has the best chance of saving the teeth and promoting a full recovery if they are out of place for an hour or less.
QUIZ QUESTION #3
Are you familiar and comfortable enough with these important steps to guarantee you’ll remember and use them if a dental emergency occurs?
- I think so, but I should probably save them on my phone or write them down.
- I guess so, for the most part.
- No, I don’t think a dental emergency will happen to me or anyone I care about.
Now, look back at your answers to the quiz questions and give yourself 100 points for every time you responded with “A,” 50 points for every “B,” 25 points for every “C” and zero for any “D.”
How did you do?
- 300 points - You’re well prepared for a dental emergency. You, your family, and friends can sleep easy knowing if and when a dental emergency occurs, you’ll be ready to step up like a superhero and save the day!
- 200-299 points - You’re most of the way there, but there’s room for improvement. If and when a dental emergency occurs, you’ll probably get the job done, but there’s a chance more pain, suffering, and long-term consequences than necessary could be involved. (Where you answered with anything other than “A,” review that section and take the necessary steps to get to “yes.”)
- 100-199 points - Chances are good you’ll be able to identify a dental emergency when it happens, but you may not be well-prepared to deal with it. Review all three sections again and work on improving that score before an emergency occurs.
- 0-199 points - Revisit the above options and be sure you're aware of a dental emergency and how to respond to provide the best chance of protecting your oral health.
For more common-sense tips to help you care for your oral health, bookmark our blog and check back often! To save 20% to 50% on both regular and advanced dental care, consider a dental discount program.