Our hockey players are all-too familiar with the risk of tooth loss or damage while playing the sport and, as a result, it is difficult to find a player who doesn’t understand the benefits of prevention. Players in high-injury sports like hockey, boxing and rugby have been using mouth guards for years to prevent their teeth from trauma. But in sports, as in any other area of life, surprises happen. If you or someone you care about is experiencing a dental emergency, do you know what to do?
In order to be able to respond properly when a dental emergency presents, it is important to have the right tools on hand. First-aid kits should always be kept where they are easily accessed – one in the home and one in each vehicle. This is to ensure that the care you provide is clean and will not introduce any bacteria to the site, if the skin is broken. Your kit should contain:
- Dental wax – This wax can be pressed over the edges of sharp tooth breaks or on braces to limit aggravating the cheek.
- Gauze – Gauze is very useful in dental emergencies to help stop bleeding. To use it, take a square and roll it up from edge to edge. Get it in place and bite down gently to put pressure on the wound in order to encourage clotting. When the gauze becomes saturated, it is time to replace it. If you think that the gauze may stick, a few drops of clean water or saline can help the material to release.
- Peroxide – Doesn’t sting like rubbing alcohol and still disinfects.
- Floss and Toothpicks – For items which become lodged between teeth.
- Ice – Ice is important to decrease pain and inflammation and can be placed on the outer cheek.
- Over-the-counter pain and inflammation meds – like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Single-use saline vials – important to rinse away debris and clean teeth without introducing harmful bacteria.
- Chewing gum – gum can be pressed over lost fillings to protect from pain until you can see a dentist.
What Makes it an Emergency?
In general, an oral health concern is an emergency if a tooth has been lost or broken or if infection is causing significant pain (any pain that can’t be managed with the over-the-counter medications listed above). If the injured person sustained a head injury, it is always important to prioritize their head injury and get them to the nearest medical emergency room.
Signs of Infection
If you have taken pain medication with no results and pain persists, you may be suffering from a tooth infection. It is hard to identify the exact source of the pain, since its cause is likely hidden by gum tissue. Some infections manage to drain into of the mouth if a pustule forms on or near the gums. In this case, the presence of the pustule (like a pimple with a white head) on the gums is a tell-tale sign. The pustule may or may not rupture on its own, but we do not recommend bursting it if it has not done so on its own. Where there is no pustule, you may instead taste bitter or metallic saliva that does not go away with brushing. This indicates that the infection is inside and needs treatment. Since infections can spread throughout the body and have serious health implications, it is important to call your dentist for an emergency visit as soon as possible.
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If your teeth have taken an impact, there are a number of things that can go wrong. You may break, crack or chip the tooth, or it may be knocked out altogether.
Breaks and chips may be able to be repaired, so it’s important to find the broken pieces and bring them along with you to the dentist. To transport them, keep them in cold milk or inside your cheek.
A knocked-out tooth needs to be seen right away in order to maximize the likelihood of being saved. After being rinsed, the tooth can be transported to the dentist in milk or the cheek. The tooth may have a small piece of tissue at the end of the root – it is important not to remove this.
In many cases, injuries occur when away from home or on vacation. Don’t hesitate to see a dentist near you to handle your emergency if necessary. If you are not sure whether yours is a dental emergency, we recommend calling our clinic to speak to someone who can help determine how soon you need to be seen. While some injuries need to be seen the same day, others can safely wait 24 hours.
If you have questions about this or other services offered by our general dentist, contact our clinic today.
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