Emergencies always test our ability to think clearly, resist panic and stay calm under the rush of adrenaline—and dental injuries are no different. The best way to help your child? Be prepared and knowledgeable, stay calm and get them the appropriate treatment fast.

Concluding our Family Smiles series, our team at Plancich Dental want you to be as prepared as possible so you can learn, prepare and quickly make the best decisions when your child needs dental help.

How to Prepare

Child observing jaw model

Stay stocked in gauze, ice, cold compresses, and acetaminophen. You’ll need these for any bleeding, cleaning of the injured area, cuts and bites.

Know where to quickly find your dentist emergency line information, like on the refrigerator or in your wallet.

When do you need the dentist versus the emergency room? The emergency room is for the extreme cases of excessive or nonstop bleeding or a broken or injured jawbone. For broken or knocked-out permanent teeth and anything caught or stuck in the mouth (like braces or wires), first call your on-call or regular dentist.

Common First Aid Problems and Solutions

Toothache: Toothaches are generally indicated by pain or swelling in a specific area. Start by cleaning around the sore tooth with gauze and warm salt water and use a cold compress against any swelling. If any food or debris is caught around the tooth, gently use floss to dislodge it. Aspirin/acetaminophen can be given orally for pain, but not applied directly to the area. If pain continues or increases, call your dentist.

Cuts, bruises and bleeding: For any cuts to the mouth, gums or tongue, first apply ice or a cold compress. If you need to stop bleeding, apply gauze with gentle pressure to bleeding areas to absorb and slow/stop the bleeding; if in the mouth, have your child gently bite down on it. If the bleeding continues for more than 15 minutes, take your child to the emergency room.

Broken braces or wires, or other stuck objects: Any kind of dental hardware or piece needs delicate extraction when stuck, and the same is true for any other foreign object that can get caught in the mouth. If the object cannot be easily and gently removed, leave it in the mouth, use chewing gum to cover any sharp or protruding parts, and take your child to a dentist immediately.

Knocked-out or broken permanent tooth: First, save the tooth; it’s critical to act as quickly as possible to be able to keep it. Carefully handle the tooth by the crown only (avoiding the roots, where the nerves are), rinse it in warm salt water, and reinsert if possible, having the child hold it in place with gauze (preferably biting down). If the tooth cannot be reinserted, put it in either saline, saliva, or milk (all chemically basic solutions), and call your dentist immediately. (If there’s no container available, the tooth can be held between the lower lip and the gum.) Have your child apply gauze to any bleeding where the tooth is missing. If your regular or on-call dentist isn’t available, take your child to the emergency room.