Dental First Aid

If you have a dental problem while you are away on a trip, here are some ideas on how to handle things until you get home.


If you discover a “gum boil” next to your tooth or have gum/facial swelling, see a dentist as soon as possible even if it doesn’t hurt! In the meantime, you will want to allow the abscess to drain. Rinse with or hold very warm liquids in your mouth near the swollen spot as often as you can. Make an appointment with us as soon as possible.


If gums are red, swollen or sore, use our toothpaste recipe for sore gums for one or two days, and make an appointment to see us when you can.


If you think your jaw is broken, do not move it. Wrap a scarf, handkerchief, tie or towel around your head to keep your jaw from moving and go to a hospital emergency room immediately.


For temporary pain relief, apply an over-the-counter gel that has benzocaine, or rinse with diphenhydramine (eg. Benadryl®) elixer. These will numb the area. Avoid hot, spicy foods. A pain reliever can be swallowed but do not apply the pill directly to the sores (even if that’s what your Grampa did!). If sores do not heal within 7-14 days and/or signs of fever and pain persist, make an appointment to see us.


Save any pieces as in some situations they can be re-bonded to your tooth. If your tooth is very sensitive or you can see a red dot on the fractured area see a dentist as soon as possible, otherwise call us for an appointment.


See a dentist right away. Until you reach a dentist’s office, to relieve pain, apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek in the affected area. Gently move the tooth back into its normal position if you can do so easily. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever if needed, and call our office for an appointment as soon as you can.


Retrieve the tooth, hold it by the crown (not the root), and rinse any dirt off the tooth root with water. Do not scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. If possible, try to put the tooth back in place. Make sure it’s facing the right way! Never force it into the socket. If it’s not possible to reinsert the tooth in the socket, put the tooth in a small container of milk (or cup of water that contains a pinch of table salt, if milk is not available) or a product containing cell growth medium, such as Save-a-Tooth. In all cases, see a dentist as quickly as possible. Knocked out teeth with the highest chances of being saved are those seen by a dentist and returned to their socket within 1 hour of being knocked out.


If a crown falls off, make an appointment to see a dentist as soon as possible and bring the crown with you. If you can’t get to the dentist right away and the tooth is causing pain, use a cotton swab to apply a little clove oil to the sensitive area (clove oil can be purchased at your local drug store or in the spice aisle of your grocery store). If possible, slip the crown back over the tooth. Before doing so, coat the inner surface with toothpaste, or denture adhesive, to help hold the crown in place. Do not use super glue!, and if the crown is very loose, remove it before you sleep to prevent choking on it. Lost crowns should be replaced within 24 hours to prevent your teeth from drifting out of place.


Temporarily reattach loose brackets with a small piece of orthodontic wax or denture adhesive, or use the wax to protect your cheek from irritation. See your orthodontist as soon as possible. If the problem is a loose band, save it and call your orthodontist for an appointment to have it re-cemented or replaced.


As a temporary measure, stick a piece of sugarless gum into the cavity (sugar-filled gum will cause pain) or use an over-the-counter dental cement. If your tooth is sensitive, see a dentist as soon as possible, otherwise make an appointment with us when you can.


Although not usually a serious condition, this can be very annoying! Try using dental floss by flossing down between your teeth and pulling it out sideways. A knot tied in the floss can help. Gentle use of toothpicks or other inter-dental cleaners may also help. If this is a common problem please let us know!


Gently massaging the site and using an over-the-counter  pain reliever can help. Do not apply the pill directly on gums (even if that’s what Grandma did!). An over-the-counter gel that has benzocaine can be used directly on the gums. Follow directions on medicine label. If pain continues or is accompanied with swelling contact a dentist.


If a wire breaks or sticks out of a bracket or band and is poking your cheek, tongue or gum, use the handle of a spoon to push the wire into a more comfortable position. If you can’t reposition the wire, cover the end with orthodontic wax, a small cotton ball, or piece of gauze until you can get to your orthodontist’s office. Never try to cut the wire, as this usually just pulls the wire out further to make things worse, and if you are successful you could end up swallowing it or breathing it into your lungs.


Injuries to the tongue, cheeks, gums and lips, can result in bleeding. To control the bleeding, here’s what to do:

  • Rinse your mouth with a mild room-temperature salt-water solution.
  • Use a moistened piece of gauze or tea bag to apply firm gentle pressure to the bleeding site. Apply pressure for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • To both control bleeding and relieve pain, hold a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek in the affected area for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • If heavy bleeding doesn’t stop, see a dentist right away or go to a hospital emergency room. Continue to apply pressure on the bleeding site with the gauze until you can be seen and treated.


First, thoroughly rinse your mouth with water. Some toothaches will be relieved by cold; others feel better with lukewarm water. Use dental floss to remove any lodged food. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever if needed. If you have sinus congestion, try a decongestant because sinus pain can feel like a toothache. Never put aspirin or any other painkiller against the gums near the aching tooth because it may burn the gum tissue. See a dentist as soon as possible.

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