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Your Guide to Handling Common Dental Emergencies

From a dislodged adult tooth to a broken crown, dental emergencies are common occurrences. Knowing the first steps to take while on your way to see the dentist can mean the difference between saving your tooth or a long haul of dental work.

While we enjoy spending time with our patients at Cherry Family Dental in San Jose, California, we’d rather not be spending it correcting a mishandled dental emergency. In order to keep our visits to annual cleanings and quick repairs, here are a few steps you should take in a dental emergency.

Is it an emergency?

One of the first things you need to assess is whether you’re dealing with a health emergency or a dental emergency. If you or a loved one is in severe pain and the injury continues to bleed, we urge you to get to your local emergency room first. As well, if the dental injury is a result of a blow to the head, please let caution prevail and seek emergency care -- head injuries can be very serious.

If your injury or pain is confined to your mouth and any bleeding is controlled, let’s talk dental emergency. The most common reasons that drive our patients to seek emergency care are teeth that are knocked out or fractured, followed closely by damaged dental work (think fillings that come out or crowns that break).

As well, if you’re in moderate to severe pain, with no plain injury, that means that something is going on inside your tooth, such as an abscess, and you should get in to see us so we can help relieve your pain and clear up the infection. And the same goes for your gums.

A knockout

If your tooth, or your child’ tooth, has been knocked out, the first order of business is to locate the tooth. Believe it or not, that tooth is still very viable if you follow a few simple steps. You should also be calling us at this point to arrange to come in.

If you find the tooth, handle it only by the top portion and not the root area. If the tooth is dirty, and your mouth, too, gently rinse each with water. Please don’t use any cleansers or attempt to scrub your tooth. Simply rinse both areas and avoid handling the tooth as much as possible. With the tooth and socket free from debris, try and stick the tooth back into the empty socket -- it’s the best place for it. To keep it in place, use a compress or a moistened tea bag and bite down gently.

If the tooth doesn’t go back into the socket, place it in a jar of milk, or your own saliva, to preserve it until you get in to see us. By “your own saliva,” we mean tucking it between your cheek and gum or under your tongue, taking care not to swallow it.

If the tooth in question is one of your child’s primary teeth, we urge you to complete the steps above. Even baby teeth can be reintegrated, allowing your child’s secondary teeth to continue to develop naturally.

If you’re unable to find the tooth, place a compress over the socket to stem the bleeding and protect the area.

Fractures and fillings

If you’ve cracked or loosened your tooth, but it’s still in place, gently bite down on a gauze compress or a wet tea bag to prevent the tooth from moving until you see us. The same holds true if it’s a crown. Anything you can do to keep the tooth in place, whether it’s real or not, helps protect your tooth’s underlying root structure.

If a filling has fallen out, it’s important that you prevent debris from getting into the exposed hole. Rinse your mouth with water, cover the area, and avoid eating anything until you get to Cherry Family Dental.

Chips and cracks

If you or a loved one has chipped or cracked a tooth, but no nerves were involved (believe us -- you’ll know when they are!), it’s generally not a same-day dental emergency. Still, give us a call, so we can get you an appointment sooner rather than later.

At Cherry Family Dental, Misty Henne, DMD and Chloe Chu, DDS want to help protect your teeth, and make every effort to accommodate all emergencies. If you or a loved one is in pain or sustained an injury, please call us for prompt attention at 408-495-4730. You can also request an appointment online.

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