From Our Archives: Dealing with Dental Emergencies

by | Apr 22, 2020 | Dental Health

Measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 have meant the closure of most dental offices to all but dental emergencies. If you’re experiencing pain or swelling, say, or if you’ve lost or broken a tooth, it’s important that you reach out to your dentist for help. Such problems don’t get better on their own, and some situations can become quite serious, even life-threatening.

But what can you do if you can’t reach your dentist right away? That’s the focus of a post we did earlier this year that seems well worth repeating now…


What’s in Your Dental Emergency Kit?

While DIY dentistry is a really bad idea, sometimes, dental emergencies come up, and some self-care is needed to get you through until you can get in to see your dentist. 

And whenever problems do arise – a toothache, a cracked or broken tooth, a lost filling or crown – it’s important that you do call your dentist immediately. The sooner you pick up the phone, the better chance you have of treating or fixing the problem before it gets worse.

Even if the office is closed, you’ll likely hear instructions for what to do in an emergency or where to call next.  

Meantime, what else can you do? 

Natural Home Remedies for Toothache

Toothache pain can feel torturous. While there are over-the-counter pain relievers like Anbasol and Orajel, we don’t recommend them. They work, but their active ingredient, benzocaine, can damage the soft tissues in your mouth, especially if you use it for an extended period. 

Instead, try using garlic or clove oil, both of which are not only very effective for relieving dental pain but also have antimicrobial qualities. Blended oils such as Uncle Harry’s Tooth Ache Relief Oil can also be helpful, as can homeopathic arnica.

woman with toothacheOther home remedies that can be helpful for temporary relief include cold compress and gentle salt water rinses. 

As the most common cause of toothache is infection, it’s vital that you see your dentist as soon as possible to diagnose the cause and get appropriate treatment. But if you’re having trouble breathing or swallowing, running a fever, or experiencing exceptional swelling, you should get to an ER as soon as you can. Oral infections can indeed be life-threatening. 

What to Do If You Lose a Filling or Crown

For a lost restoration, dental wax or even a piece of sugarless gum (preferably xylitol-sweetened) over the opening can help protect the area. 

If you lose a crown, you may be able to just slip it back over the tooth. A dab of toothpaste can help keep it in place for a short while.

In either case, don’t use the affected tooth until your dentist can repair the restoration properly. 

Home kits are available in drug stores for recementing a restoration for up to 48 hours, but if you have known dental sensitivities, you should avoid these and just see your dentist as soon as you can. 

What About a Chipped or Broken Tooth? 

Save any pieces you can and place them in a small container to take to your dentist. Gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water to reduce the risk of infection. 

If the tooth now has a jagged edge, you can place a bit of dental wax or sugarless gum over the site, but avoid chewing on that side of your mouth. If there’s pain, you can try a cold compress or the essential oils mentioned above, dabbing them gently around the site of the fracture. 

A Knocked-Out or Loosened Tooth? 

This is a serious emergency, in large part because the sooner you act, the more likely you’ll be able to save the tooth. Have someone call the dentist for you immediately. 

Avoid handling the tooth by its root. Touch only the crown and sides. If possible, carefully put the tooth back in its socket. If you’re afraid that you’ll swallow it, hold the tooth in place. (Your saliva will help keep the roots moist.)

If the tooth is completely out, gently rinse it if needed to remove any dirt. Then place the tooth in a small container of milk or an emergency tooth preservation kit like this one. Take it with you to the dentist. 

If you can’t find the tooth, it’s still important to have the injury evaluated by a dentist, who can also offer options for replacing it. 

Keeping a dental emergency kit stocked at home can be a big help when accidents happen. It’s no fun to have to hunt down supplies when you’re hurting. Here are some basic pieces to include in yours: 

  • Dental wax
  • Xylitol-sweetened gum
  • Clove, garlic, or other pain relieving oil
  • Cotton gauze and swabs
  • Small container of sea salt 
  • Small container with lid
  • Instant ice pack

Another way to prepare? Practice prevention by keeping up to date with your regular exams and cleanings, and practicing healthful home habits such as good oral hygiene and eating a nutrient-dense diet. And if there’s a nagging ache or pain you’ve been ignoring, get it checked out now. 

Toothache image by

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