Handling dental emergencies

by Maj. Ann Alexander
86th Dental Squadron

Do you have a toddler who is beginning to walk? Do you have very active children who love to bounce around both in and outside? If yes, then you may be at risk for dealing with a dental injury.

It is reported that 30 percent of all children have an injury to their baby teeth and an additional 22 percent injure their permanent teeth. Most frequently, the anterior teeth are affected. Here is what you need to know in the case of an emergency:

» If your child has an injury affecting their head and mouth, try to remain calm and assess the situation. Signs of a more serious head injury include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache, sleepiness, seizures, difficulty speaking or loss of consciousness. In the presence of these signs, immediately bring your child to the emergency room. 

» If you are able to tell that the injury is without other complications and related to their oral cavity, then you can follow these instructions. Control any bleeding with a cold, dampened washcloth. After the bleeding is controlled, check the injured area to assess the extent of injury. If the tooth has been knocked out, locate the tooth and store it in milk, saliva, plastic wrap, saline or contact lens solution. Do not store or rinse the tooth off with water. If the tooth is a baby tooth it will most likely not be put back into the socket, but it is good for the dentist to see the amount of root structure that remains. If the tooth is a permanent tooth, it is crucial to act quickly. The sooner the tooth is replaced in the socket, the better long term prognosis. Make sure you call your dentist immediately and explain the incident so they can assess what needs to be done.

» If you find that the injury is a chip, see if you can locate the other fragment of the tooth. If you think that the fragment might still be lodged in the gums, make sure you make the dentist aware of that when you call. Most likely, if the tooth is a baby tooth and the chip is small, the dentist might simply smooth the rough edge. If the chip is larger and involves the dental nerve, the tooth might need to have a root canal or be removed. For an adult tooth, the dentist will definitely want to see your child and assess the damage to see what can be done.

Though it is difficult to prevent dental injuries, make sure your children have a protective mouth guard if they play sports, and properly wear seat belts or are strapped into their car seats. It is recommended to visit a dentist starting from 6 months of age, six months after their first tooth erupts, or no later than age 1. By doing so, you will build rapport and reduce the anxiety of finding a dental professional in the event of an emergency.

For details, call the 86th Dental Squadron at 479-2210.