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Parenting comes with a lot of firsts: first steps, first words, first tooth. One first parents prefer to evade — the dreaded dental emergency — is unfortunately fairly commonplace. In fact, the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools reports an average of 51 million school hours are missed each year for dental-related injuries.
You can’t catch your child every time they fall, but you can be prepared when it happens. The experts at Dental Depot answer common parent questions about how to handle dental emergencies.
How do I know what constitutes a dental emergency for my child?
The best way for parents to educate themselves on dental emergencies is to establish an early and consistent relationship with your child’s dentist. This helps your child view the dental office as a safe, friendly environment and gives your dentist the opportunity to set a health baseline for your child. Schedule your child’s first dental visit between the eruption of their first tooth and their first birthday. As your child begins to have regular dental cleanings, usually around age 3, and x-rays, typically at age 5, the relationship with a hygienist provides another opportunity to discuss oral health and what to do in a dental emergency.
What do I do if my child chips, cracks or breaks a tooth?
First, rinse the child’s mouth out with cool water and offer a cold compress to reduce any swelling. Call your dentist to schedule an appointment; in the meantime, if your child broke a piece of the tooth off, find and save it to take to their dental appointment. Depending on the damage, the dentist may be able to put the tooth back together or shape the remaining tooth to be more comfortable.
Is it true that if my child loses a permanent tooth I should place it in milk while awaiting an appointment?
If your child knocks out a permanent tooth, first try to replant the tooth in the gums very gently. Only touch the tooth by the crown – the part you see above the gums – and never touch the delicate roots of a tooth. If you are able to replant the tooth, give your child gauze or a washcloth to gently bite down on to keep it in place until you arrive at the dental office.
If the tooth can’t be replanted, then yes, placing it in cold milk or a Save-a-Tooth container (available online and a must-have for your family’s first aid kit) can help keep the tooth viable for replantation. It’s imperative in this situation to get to your dentist quickly; ideally, a tooth needs to be replanted within half an hour.
Should I be concerned if a baby tooth gets knocked out; after all, a permanent tooth will eventually replace it, right?
When a baby tooth is knocked out, it’s still important to schedule a dental appointment fairly quickly to assess the damage. Keep the child’s mouth clean but, unlike with a permanent tooth, don’t try to replant the tooth back into the socket as that can potentially damage permanent teeth below the surface of the gums.
For which sports should my child wear a mouth guard?
If your child is involved in any sport – even those that aren’t meant to be contact – play it safe by protecting their smile with a mouth guard. Your dentist can help you determine which guard is most appropriate for your athlete.
If my dentist’s office isn’t open when my child has an emergency, should I go to the ER?
Most emergency rooms aren’t equipped to deal with a dental emergency so a call to your dentist’s office is always your best bet, even if it’s after hours as many provide an emergency phone number or option to leave a message for emergencies. Save your dental office contact information in your phone so you can call when accidents happen. Some dental practices, including Dental Depot, always see emergencies same-day. Always schedule a follow-up appointment with your child’s dentist after any mouth injury.
Editor’s note: Dental Depot has multiple offices open six days a week, always sees emergencies same-day and provides care for the whole family. To find which Dental Depot office is near you, visit them online at dentaldepot.net/find-location.