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Dental 911

Why is it that problems like broken teeth, lost fillings or knocked-out teeth seem to always happen when most dentist offices are closed?

woman with toothache

No matter how well we take care of our teeth, dental emergencies do happen, so here are some tips to help you manage until you can get to a dentist or emergency dental clinic.

Chipped or broken tooth

Chewing gum

Don’t wait too long before seeing a dentist, because the tooth could become more damaged, or you could get an infection, particularly if it’s a break rather than just a chip. Rinse your mouth with salt water to help keep the tooth clean. While you’re waiting, put a bit of wax — the kind people sometimes use with braces — or some sugarless gum on the chipped part.

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Lost filling

Toothbrush in glass

Rinse your mouth with salt water, especially if you were eating when the filling came out. It’s important to keep food particles from getting lodged in the opening. Brush your teeth, paying particular attention around where the filling was. Brush gently but thoroughly.

If you have pain, taking over-the-counter pain relievers (if you can) might help. As with a chipped or broken tooth, sugarless gum can make an effective temporary barrier, covering the opening until you can get to the dentist.

Knocked-out tooth

Many a child has had a tooth knocked out, but adults aren’t immune to this type of accident. If you’ve knocked out a tooth, you have to act fast if there’s any hope of saving it. You must see a dentist as soon as possible.

If you have the tooth, be sure to hold it by the enamel part, not by the root. This is important to help keep it healthy. If the tooth is clean and you can trust the person not to swallow it, put it back into the opening. The Canadian Dental Association says that if the tooth has been replaced within 10 minutes of the injury, there’s a decent chance that it can “take.” When the tooth is back in place, put a piece of gauze, clean cloth or even a wet tea bag on top (or under if it’s an upper tooth), and bite down gently to hold the tooth in place.

If the tooth belongs to a young child or to someone who is unconscious or disoriented, don’t try to put the tooth back. Soak it in a container of cold milk while you get to the dentist. If the tooth is dirty, do not use alcohol or plain water to clean it; use milk or salt water.

Dental emergencies can be stressful, particularly if they involve a child, but with quick thinking and know-how, damage can be minimized.

More on dental health

Common dental issues and how to solve them
Dental hygiene: Taking proper care of teeth and gums
Mouth maintenance: What you need to know

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