Seek care for after-hours dental emergencies during quarantine

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Now that spring is upon us, more favorable weather typically draws people to participate in sports and other outdoor activities. Being more active can increase the likelihood of dental-related injuries requiring emergency care by a dentist.

In recent times, however, we are finding ourselves in the confines of our home and not as likely to participate in as many high-risk activities. But what happens if something happens at home?

In an effort to combat boredom, children may become boisterous and could become injured in the home. Although many dental offices continue to offer emergency care, appointments are difficult to come by. The outside contact may pose a potential threat for exposure to COVID-19. Knowing how to handle and even prevent a dental emergency at home can be highly beneficial during this time of social distancing and disease prevention.

The American Dental Association provides helpful information about ways to prevent and care for an emergent dental situation:

Are you prepared for a dental emergency?

Keep your dental office phone number and an emergency number where the dentist can be reached after hours with other emergency numbers. Some families post these numbers on the refrigerator or inside a kitchen cabinet door near the phone. Call the dentist immediately for instructions on how to handle a dental emergency.

Toothache

Rinse the mouth with warm water to clean it out. Gently use dental floss or an interdental cleaner to remove any food or other debris that may be caught between the teeth. Avoid putting aspirin or any other painkiller against the gums near the aching tooth. This could cause burns to gum tissue. If the toothache persists, try to see the dentist. Don’t rely on painkillers in the long term. They may temporarily relieve pain but your dentist should evaluate the condition as soon as reasonably possible.

Knocked-out (avulsed) tooth

Try to find the tooth! This may not be as easy as you think if the injury took place on a playground, basketball court or while skateboarding, so try to stay calm. Hold the tooth by the crown and rinse the root in water if the tooth is dirty. Don’t scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. If it’s possible, gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket while you head to the dentist. If that’s not possible, put the tooth in a cup of milk and bring it to the dentist. Time is critical for successful reimplantation, so try to get to your dentist immediately.

Broken tooth

Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area. Use cold compresses on the outside of the cheek to help reduce the swelling.

Tongue or lip bites or wounds

Clean the area gently with a clean cloth and apply cold compresses to reduce any swelling. If the bleeding can’t be controlled, go to a hospital emergency room or clinic. You may be able to reduce bleeding from the tongue by pulling it forward and using gauze to put pressure on the wound.

Objects caught between teeth

Try to gently remove the object with dental floss. Never use a sharp instrument to remove any object that is stuck between your teeth. If you can’t dislodge the object with floss, contact your dentist.

Possible broken jaw

Apply cold compresses to control swelling. Get to the hospital emergency room immediately.

Prevention methods

According to the American Dental Association, “Studies show that athletes are 60 times more likely to suffer harm to the teeth if they’re not wearing a mouth guard.” If you know you or your child will be participating in a sport or activity where facial trauma can occur, using a sports guard (also known as a mouth guard) can help protect the teeth from impact of an object or in the event of a fall. This is especially important for those with braces, as an injury to the mouth can not only dislodge the brackets, but also cause significant injury to surrounding soft tissues. Mouth guards can be found in the dental section of most stores and provide simple instructions for ensuring proper fit.

Relevant to recent events, activities in the home or playing outside have become the new norm, and it is important to not only know how to prevent injuries, but also to be prepared in the event an injury does occur.

Please see additional guidance from the American Dental Association regarding dental emergencies in light of COVID-19 concerns: https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2020-archive/march/ada-develops-guidance-on-dental-emergency-nonemergency-care

Portions of this article are courtesy of the American Dental Association.

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