We all know how unpredictable life can be. The best laid oral health care plans and practices can seemingly be undone by an accident or trauma that leads to a dental emergency.

Dental emergencies can come in many forms. Accidents can result in people biting their tongues or lips. They may lead to broken or chipped teeth, or even to teeth being knocked out.

Prompt action in all these circumstances can be highly beneficial. In fact, you might be surprised to discover that it can even save a tooth you might otherwise have given up on!

If some form of trauma leads to you biting either your tongue or your lip, you will want to keep the area as clean as possible while controlling the bleeding. Use a cloth to try to clean the area, and then apply a cold compress to control the bleeding.

This will usually be sufficient to deal with minor cuts. However, if the bleeding proves difficult to control, you may require medical attention. You should get to an emergency clinic, hospital or dentist as soon as possible as you may require stitches to close the wound.

A cracked or chipped tooth can also benefit from prompt attention. Again, you will want to ensure that the area is kept clean and that a cold compress is applied to deal with any swelling. Once you have dealt with those immediate needs, get to your dentist right away!

Treatment options will vary depending upon the severity of the crack. Minor ones may be sealed quite easily. More serious cracks may result in the need for a root canal and crown to protect the pulp or living portion of the tooth. Let your dentist make the assessment and discuss the treatment options with you.

If a tooth is knocked out, you might be surprised to know that you still might be able to save it! The first ten minutes from the time it is knocked out are crucial. If you can replace the tooth into the socket within ten minutes, there is a good chance it will take root again. The more time passes, the less likely you will succeed in saving the tooth.

When handling a knocked out tooth, try to touch only the crown. Do not touch the roots. If the tooth is dirty, rinse it in water to clean it. You can then try to replace the tooth into the socket.

If you are unable to do this yourself, or you are concerned that the tooth might be swallowed, place the tooth in a glass of milk. You then need to seek the help of a dentist immediately.

Of course, sometimes we have to accept that an accident does mean the end of that tooth. However, it does not mean the end of an attractive smile or a healthy mouth. With options such as implants, crowns and bridges, nobody needs to ever know that you have had a tooth replaced.

Regardless of the outcome, the best way to protect your oral health in the face of an emergency is to make sure you take quick action and get to your dentist. Because acting quickly in an emergency is a healthy habit…and healthier habits lead to healthier lives.

Dr. Peter Georgopoulos

Dental Surgeon