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Emergency Care and Tooth Trauma

Dental emergencies can be uncomfortable and stressful experiences, but understanding the different types of emergencies and how best to respond can help minimize discomfort, oral damage, and stress in the event a dental emergency arises. Preventative action is the best way to minimize or entirely avoid damage from oral health emergencies and dental trauma.

Common Dental Emergencies

From sporting activities to tooth decay, dental emergencies can arise from a number of situations. Cavities and decay can cause a severe toothache to develop, which warrants an immediate call to a child's pediatric dentist. To ease the symptoms until the appointment, cold compresses to the face and a gentle mouth rinse with cool water may help the child feel better.

Dental trauma also requires rapid follow-up with a pediatric dentist, whether a child sustains a chipped or knocked out tooth or other oral injury. In some cases, children should be taken to a hospital emergency room, with a call to the dentist to follow afterward. Such situations include a severe blow to the head, a broken jaw, or any injury that results in uncontrollable bleeding.

Knocked Out Teeth

For chipped or knocked out teeth, responses differ for children of different ages. A knocked out baby tooth should not be placed back in its socket to protect against damage to the developing permanent tooth. However, close follow-up with a pediatric dentist is important to ensure the maintenance of proper spacing until the permanent tooth comes in. Knocked out permanent teeth, however, necessitate a rapid response.

In many cases, it is possible to save the tooth with quick action. First, the recovered tooth should be rinsed off with water only (never rinse a tooth with soap or anything other than water). If possible, the tooth should then gently be placed back in its socket and held in place with a clean cloth or gauze on the way to the dentist's office. If a knocked-out permanent tooth is lost or cannot be saved, a pediatric dentist will review other options such as implants, dental bridges, or dentures.

How to Prepare

Mindful preparation can help to minimize the stress and discomfort of a dental emergency. Particularly if a child is starting or enrolled in sports activities, discussing strategies to prepare for emergency situations with their pediatric dentist is an important step. Keeping phone numbers such as the dentist office's emergency line for after hours readily accessible is critical to minimizing response time in the event of a dental emergency. Parents and caregivers, along with children themselves, should have this contact information with them at all times.

Knowing the location of the nearest children's hospital or emergency department can also help to minimize stress and response time if a dental emergency arises. This information is also important to learn while traveling to reduce potential response time and anxiety.

Prevention is Key

The very best way to minimize or avoid damage and stress from dental emergencies is prevention. Preventing emergencies from tooth decay includes maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing twice each day and flossing daily. Other methods to protect teeth include avoiding chewing ice and maintaining a proper, balanced diet, as well as keeping up with regular visits to a pediatric dentist every six months.

To prevent oral trauma from sports activities, proper protective equipment is critical. Mouth guards are a common preventative measure to help protect a child's teeth during potentially high-impact sports such as football, wrestling, or hockey. A pediatric dentist can offer advice on choosing the right mouth guard as well as proper use and cleaning. Other safety gear such as helmets and face shields can also help to prevent dental injuries in sports. Discussing upcoming sports activities with a pediatric dentist is the best way to receive important preventative information to help keep your child safe.

Dental emergencies can be stressful for both the parent and the child. Understanding the different types of dental emergencies, as well as the proper responses, can help to minimize pain, anxiety, and damage from injuries or decay. In many cases, responding quickly and taking appropriate actions can put a child on-track to a full and complete recovery following a dental emergency.

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