You're relaxing in a chaise by the pool on a gorgeous summer day while your kids belly flop off the board, when suddenly you hear a sickening crack. Your 10-year- old’s last attempt left him hitting the diving board, and now he’s got a bloody mouth and a missing tooth!
Being prepared for such emergencies can go a long way in keeping everyone calm. Brookview Dental’s Dr. Brad Barricklow, DDS, offers his advice on handling common dental emergencies.
What should a parent do in the knocked-out tooth scenario? If it’s a baby tooth, first find the tooth to make sure it wasn’t inhaled or lodged in the throat. Other than that, “a knocked-out baby tooth requires no treatment outside of reassuring the child,” Dr Barricklow advises. “An adult tooth should be rinsed off quickly in water or milk and immediately re-implanted into the socket. Then, immediately see a dentist to get it splinted for four to six weeks.” If you can’t get the tooth back in place, put it in a small container with some milk and take it to your dentist right away.
Soft-tissue injury to the inside of the mouth, causing bleeding from biting or other injury, is also fairly common. Dr. Barricklow informs these superficial wounds usually resolve in a couple of days. Sometimes a stitch may be required, but usually cleaning the wound and applying ice to the area will suffice.
The Elusive Toothache
If your child is complaining of a toothache, a good rule of thumb is to have it checked by a dentist. Toothaches are most often caused by cavities. The bacteria from cavities “eat the tooth away, causing nerve pain. While Ibuprofen and Tylenol can help with pain, a visit to the dentist is the only way to fix the diseased tooth,” Dr. Barricklow cautions. If a tooth is merely chipped or cracked, an appointment to the dentist within a day or two to have it checked is recommended, unless it is sharp or it hurts, in which case a dentist should be seen sooner.
Painful Sores in the Mouth
Some 20% of kids suffer from canker sores (small ulcer-like sores on the inside of the cheeks, lips, or gums). Caused by injury to the mouth or stress, canker sores are not contagious but can be extremely painful, making eating, drinking, and brushing difficult. The sores can last up to 10 days. Dr. Barricklow suggests treating the sores for pain by using Ambesol. To speed healing, he recommends “treatment by the dentist with an agent that mildly burns the area to allow healing, or applying homemade preparations like hot sauce on a Q-tip.”
Also common are cold sores, caused by the herpes simplex virus. Found on the lips and around the exterior of the mouth, they are contagious and extremely painful. “Antiviral medications can be prescribed. Abreva can be bought over the counter,” Dr. Barricklow offers. A medication called Viroxyn, available at a dentist’s office, can be applied to the affected area at the onset of symptoms to greatly decrease duration and severity.
Care for Your Smile
Dr. Barricklow gives some precautions to help kids prevent injury to their mouth and teeth: “Wearing a protective mouth-guard is essential to prevent mouth injuries, especially during sporting activities … Helmet use is important. Concussions have lifelong consequences and (helmets) can help with facial injuries. Full face shields should be required for sports like football, lacrosse, softball, baseball and hockey.”