You might think that teeth would be nearly impossible to injure since they’re so strong, but even healthy teeth can be damaged. Dr. Joseph A. Catanzano III of Foxhall Smiles in Washington, DC has seen many dental first aid patients and has some advice on how to handle the more common accidents and injuries, and how you should treat them before you can get to the dentist’s office.
How Can Teeth Get Injured?
There are a variety of ways that teeth can be injured, some more severe than others, but all injuries need to be taken seriously and addressed quickly to preserve your oral health. More severe injuries like blows to the face or teeth during sports or auto accidents need to be immediately evaluated by a health care provider to ensure there are not more serious medical issues such as a concussion. So, if your injury is associated with severe trauma, seek emergency medical attention right away. Most hospitals have oral surgeons employed on staff to handle severe injuries, like jaw fractures, emergency tooth removal, or reconstruction of the dental arches.
Less severe dental injuries, such as cracks, chips, or teeth being knocked loose or completely out without blunt trauma can also occur. Chewing or biting down on hard objects, especially things not intended for chewing, can cause an injury. This is more likely if the tooth is already compromised from tooth decay. These cases can usually be addressed at home before you see your dentist, but it’s important to request an emergency appointment as soon as possible.
What to Do in a Dental Emergency
- If the injury was a result of an auto or sports accident, or if there was blunt force trauma, seek immediate medical attention in an emergency room or health care provider. Do not wait to see your dentist.
- For a cracked tooth, rinse your mouth with warm water to keep the area clean. You may also experience some swelling which is normal but can be treated by placing cold compresses on the face. Cracked teeth are much more susceptible to bacterial infection, so keeping the area clean is essential.
- For a knocked-out permanent tooth, keeping the tooth moist at all times will increase the chances of saving it. Gently place it back in the socket without touching the root, or place the tooth in a clean and sealed container of milk. Make an appointment with your dentist immediately.
There may be swelling or bleeding associated with these injuries. To keep swelling down, apply cold compresses to the face. Over-the-counter painkillers can help reduce pain, but never apply aspirin directly to the affected area.
Avoiding Dental Injuries
You can prevent dental injuries by taking simple steps to protect yourself and your mouth.
- Always wear a mouthguard when participating in sports or recreational activities where mouth damage is possible.
- Avoid chewing on hard foods that can crack teeth, or even especially items not meant for chewing such as pen caps, erasers, or finger nails.
- Never use your teeth to cut or open things.
Emergency Dental Care in Washington, DC
Most dentists keep openings in their schedules for dental emergencies, so if you need immediate dental care, call your dentist. Dr. Catanzano sees patients in the Washington DC metropolitan area, so contact us on line or call 202.315.2188 to get more information on dental first aid or to schedule an appointment at Foxhall Smiles today.