Guide to Dental Emergencies


General Dental Problems:

Toothache: If the child’s face and/or gums are swollen, apply ice packs to the area.  Do not apply heat and do not put aspirin products on the tooth or gum.  Contact your pediatric dentist promptly.

Swelling for no obvious reason – with teeth sore to touch:  The child is most likely dealing with an infection and should see their dentist (or hospital emergency service if appropriate) as soon as possible.

Injury to Lip or Tongue (bleeding): Apply pressure, using a clean, cold cloth or ice in a towel to bleeding area.  You should seek hospital emergency services if bleeding does not stop and see your pediatric dentist as soon as possible.

Broken tooth:  Contact your pediatric dentist immediately.  Quick action can save the tooth, prevent infection and reduce the need for extensive dental treatment.  Rinse mouth with water and apply cold compress or ice to reduce swelling if lip is also injured.  If you can find the broken fragment, place it in cold milk or water and bring it with you to the dental office.

Jaw or Head Injury: You need immediate medical attention.  A severe head injury can be life-threatening. Keep in mind that an emergency medical team might be able to reach you faster than you can get to the hospital.

Knocked out (avulsed) permanent tooth: Find the tooth and rinse it gently in cool water (Do not scrub or clean with soap-only use water). If possible, replace the tooth in the socket immediately and hold it there with clean gauze or washcloth.  If you can’t put the tooth back in the socket, place the tooth in a clean container with cold milk, saliva or water.  Get to your pediatric dental office immediately.  Call the emergency number if after hours.  The faster you act, the better your chance of saving the tooth.

Knocked out baby tooth: Contact your pediatric dentist as soon as possible.  The baby tooth should not be reimplanted because of the potential damage to the developing permanent tooth.


Prevention and Response

Many dental injuries can be avoided by following a few simple rules.  These are preparedness steps you can take, as the success of dental treatment after trauma often depends on timely action.

Automobile safety:  children should be correctly fastened into a car or booster seat.  The seat should be age and weight appropriate and should be installed properly.

Sports Safety: Make sure your children wear helmets when skating or riding bicycles, scooters, and skateboards.  Mouth guards and face masks should be worn while playing contact sports.

Safety at home:  About half of all dental injuries occur at home!  Be prepared and keep your pediatric dentist’s phone number close by.  Become informed as to your school and sports groups’ procedure for handling dental emergencies.