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From the Desk of Dr. Pink

Handling a Childhood Dental Emergency

Dental emergencies can occur in the blink of an eye. They range from a bad toothache, a broken or knocked out tooth, or even a bit lip. Would you know what to do? We have gathered information for some common childhood dental emergencies so you are prepared. Our first suggestion is to keep your dentist's phone number handy so that you are ready to use it in a dental emergency. Many dental emergencies can be handled at the dentist's office rather than the emergency room.

When your child has a toothache, there are some things you can do at home until you can get to the dentist to help relieve toothache pain.

  • Place a cold compress on the side of the face where the toothache is occurring
  • A saltwater rinse can help relieve the pain and inflammation for children old enough to know not to swallow the solution
  • Give your child an oral over-the-counter pain reliever

If your child accidentally knocks out a tooth, here are some things to do:

  • Find the tooth – If the tooth was pushed in the socket rather than falling out, your dentist will need to do an x-ray.
  • Rinse the tooth – Try not to touch the root while handling the tooth and use your child's saliva to clean off dirt and debris.
  • Replace the tooth in your child's socket gently – Ask the child to bite down to keep the tooth in place. If they are too young, then put the tooth in a clean container with their saliva or saltwater to keep it moist.
  • Call the dentist – Let them know you have an emergency. If they can't help you right away, go to the emergency room for immediate care. There is a chance to save the tooth if you act quickly.

For wounds to a child's lip, tongue or cheek, you will want to seek immediate medical attention if the bleeding won't stop, it causes your child any difficulty in breathing or swallowing, or if there are more extensive facial injuries. Wounds that are less severe, like a bitten tongue, usually heal quickly on their own.

A broken jaw is almost as common as a broken nose so it is good to be prepared in the event this happens. Symptoms of a broken jaw can include: child's teeth aren't fitting together properly, they can't open their jaw all the way or swelling on their jaw. This injury needs to be evaluated immediately at an emergency room. Hold the jaw gently in place while traveling to the emergency room.

Chipped teeth can happen easily when children are playing. The important thing is to stay calm and reach out to your dentist for an appointment right away. Depending on the severity of the chip, they might be able to file the tooth down. A more extensive chip could require dental bonding or veneers. If you are able to locate the piece of tooth that fell off, keep it in a clean container with the child's saliva or a saltwater solution so that it doesn't dry out. Your dentist will be able to advise on the proper treatment for who you go in for your appointment.

Sometimes children get things stuck between their teeth and it can cause them pain. To remove things stuck between your children's teeth try waxed dental floss first. If your child is older, you could also have them try swishing water in their mouth and spitting it out to try to dislodge the particle. If neither of these methods work, please contact your dentist for help. It is best not to stick pointy objects like toothpicks into a child's mouth because it can injure their gums.

Dental emergencies can be scary. No one likes to see their child in pain or bleeding. Just try to stay calm and follow our suggestions to get your child the help they need quickly.

  • Author: Michael J. Pink DDS
  • Last updated: 4/1/2021
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