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Tips for Handling Common Pediatric Dental Emergencies

Kids are curious, adventurous, active explorers. And while that’s exactly what they need to be to learn about their world, sometimes those adventures lead to accidents and damage to their teeth, gums, lips, or tongue. While these incidents can be alarming to kids and parents alike, knowing how to manage them can help keep everyone calm.

What to do When Injuries Occur

Follow these procedures to ensure the best outcome for any dental emergencies you encounter:

  • Loosened tooth. Keep the tooth in place using gentle pressure. Stop the bleeding with gauze or paper towel, and use a cold compress on the cheek or chin to reduce swelling. Administer over-the-counter pain relievers as needed following the directions on the package and get the child in to see the dentist as soon as possible.
  • Dislodged permanent tooth. If you are able to retrieve the tooth, hold it by the crown (avoid touching the roots) and rinse it carefully with warm water. Do not remove any tissue attached to the tooth. If possible, reinsert the tooth in the socket in its natural position. However, only do so if it won’t result in further damage to gum tissue. If reinsertion is not possible, put the tooth in a glass of milk if available, or water with a pinch of salt. Administer over-the-counter pain relievers for pain as needed and get the child to the dentist immediately. The more quickly you get assistance, the more likely the tooth can be saved. Note: You should not attempt to reinsert a baby tooth, as there is a risk of damaging the permanent tooth below.
  • Chipped/broken tooth. Collect any pieces of tooth you can find and rinse them gently with warm water. Have the child swish warm water in their mouth and let it drain out without spitting. Address bleeding if there is any with gauze or paper towel. Use a cold compress outside the mouth to keep swelling down. Contact your dentist promptly.
  • Toothache. Have the child gently rinse their mouth with warm water. If you think food trapped between teeth may be causing the pain, free it gently with dental floss. Use a cold compress to minimize swelling. DO NOT follow the old (and incorrect) advice about holding an aspirin on the gums in the painful area. This can damage the gums! Administer over-the-counter pain relievers as needed and as directed. Contact your dentist.
  • Lost filling. If a child loses a filling, you should get them in to see the dentist as soon as possible. Until that time, you can use a piece of sugarless gum to fill the opening. If the child is experiencing pain, use over-the-counter pain relievers as needed and according to the directions.
  • Soft tissue injury. If a child suffers an injury to lips, cheek, gums, or tongue, there will likely be significant bleeding. First, reassure them that this is normal and they will be OK. Control the bleeding by applying gauze to the injury site for 15 to 20 minutes. A cold compress used outside of the mouth in the affected area may help as well. If the bleeding doesn’t stop or there is a significant injury that may require stitches, see your dentist or doctor promptly, or go to an emergency room.
  • Broken jaw. If you suspect a child may have sustained a broken jaw, hold their mouth closed by gently tying a towel or bandana under their chin and over the top of their head, and go to an emergency room immediately.

Be Prepared to Take Action

Taking the scare out of a frightening pediatric dental incident is all about being prepared and reacting calmly and confidently. Using the tips above, you can handle an emergency like a pro and ensure that any physical damage and emotional trauma is minimized.

We’re proud to provide pediatric dental services along the Colorado Front Range in Lafayette (303.604.9500), Longmont (303.702.9501), and Thornton (303.452.9502). Contact us to make an appointment or learn more about our practice.

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