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Being Prepared for Dental Emergencies

Each February, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors National Children’s Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of oral health. Here below is information on how families may be prepared in the event of a dental emergency:

Be Prepared

Knowing how to handle a dental emergency can mean the difference between saving and losing your child’s teeth. Here are some tips to help you cope quickly and calmly with a dental emergency.

Knocked-Out Tooth

Baby tooth

 If something happen to any of a child’s primary (baby) teeth, you should take your child to the dentist as soon as you can. If a tooth is completely out, do not try to put it back into the tooth socket. Although it is normal for children to lose primary teeth, an accident that damages a primary tooth could also harm the permanent (adult) tooth underneath.

Adult tooth

Unlike a baby tooth that is knocked out, an adult tooth should be put back into the socket. After you find the tooth, hold it by the crown (top), not the root. If the tooth looks dirty, rinse the root briefly with water. Do not scrub the tooth or remove any attached bits of tissue.If possible, gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket with a clean washcloth or gauze pad. If this isn’t possible, see if the child can hold the tooth under his or her tongue. If that does not work either, put the tooth in a container with milk, saliva, saline (salt) solution, or an emergency tooth preservation kit. If none of those liquids are available put the tooth in water.

Broken or Cracked Tooth

Rinse the mouth with warm water to keep the area clean. Put a cold compress (like an ice pack or a washcloth with ice wrapped inside) on the face to reduce swelling. Go to the dentist right away. If you can find the broken tooth piece, bring it with you  to the dentist. Wrap it in some wet gauze or a wet towel if possible.

Bitten Tongue or Lip

Clean the area gently with a cloth and place a cold compress on the area to keep swelling down. If there is a lot of bleeding or if it doesn’t stop after a short time, take your child to a dentist or an emergency center.

Toothache or Swollen Face

Rinse the mouth with warm water to clean it out. Give your child what you would normally give him or her for pain. Do not put aspirin directly on the aching tooth or gums. Take your child to the dentist as soon as you can. If your child’s face is swollen, take your child to your dentist or physician. Selling of the face can be a sign of serious infection.

Possible Broken Jaw

Apply a cold compress to control swelling. Take your child to the dentist or an emergency center right away.

If a Dental Emergency Happens While You Are Traveling

Go to on the internet and click on “ADA-Find-a-Dentist” to find an ADA member dentist near you. If you are out of the country, contact the U.S. Embassy. Many embassies and consulates keep lists of local medical and dental staff, which may also be available online at