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Handling Your Child’s Dental Emergency

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Knowing how to handle a dental emergency can make the difference between saving and losing your child’s tooth.

Read this page and then bookmark it so you can quickly and calmly handle a dental emergency.

Knocked-out tooth

Go to the dentist right away. It’s best to see a dentist within 30 minutes. Bring the tooth and any tooth pieces you can find.

Baby tooth (Primary)

It’s normal for children to lose baby teeth, but an accident that damages a primary tooth could also harm the permanent tooth underneath.

  • 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.

Adult tooth (Permanent)

  • Unlike a baby tooth that is knocked out, an adult tooth should be put back into the socket.
  • Hold the tooth by the top and not the by root.
  • If it looks dirty, rinse the root briefly with water. Do not scrub the tooth or remove any attached bits of tissue.
  • First, try to gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket with a clean washcloth or gauze pad. If this isn’t possible, try these other options in this order:
    • See if your child can hold the tooth under their tongue or between the cheek and gums.
    • 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

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

Bitten cheek, tongue or lip

  • Clean the area gently with a cloth and place a cold compress on the area (if possible) to keep swelling down.
  • If there is a lot of bleeding or if it doesn’t stop after 1-2 hours, take your child to a dentist or an urgent care center.

Object caught between teeth

  • Do not try to remove the object with a sharp or pointed instrument.
  • Gently try to remove the object with dental floss.
  • If floss doesn’t work, go to the dentist.

Toothache or swollen face

Swelling of the face can be a sign of serious infection. If your child’s face is swollen, take your child to your dentist or physician.

  • Rinse the mouth with warm water to clean it out.
  • Give your child what you would normally give them for pain, but do not put aspirin directly on the aching tooth or gums.

Possible broken jaw

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

Be prepared when you travel

  • Find a dentist at your destination by visiting findadentist.ada.org.
  • 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 www.usembassy.gov.
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