As a parent, there’s nothing worse than seeing your child in pain. And, unfortunately, a dental emergency can happen in a flash, especially since kids are so active. While it’s perfectly natural to panic in these situations, the best thing you can do is try to stay calm and call a pediatric dentist as soon as possible. It’s also helpful to learn a few tips on handling the most common emergencies at home until your child can be seen. Although you can’t always prevent accidents and injuries, you can at least be prepared!
When Your Child Cuts Their Lip or Tongue
Children can sustain cuts or lacerations from accidental bites while eating, falls or accidents, or biting down on something sharp. Start by having them rinse with lukewarm water. Then apply pressure to the area with a clean towel or piece of gauze. If there’s still bleeding after 15 minutes or the cut is severe enough to need stitches, call a children’s dentist or go to the nearest hospital or urgent care center.
When Your Child Gets a Toothache
A child’s toothache can mean different things. Start by asking them to describe how it feels and make sure they don’t have anything stuck in between their teeth (in which case, gently floss the area).
Once you’ve ruled out more superficial reasons for tooth pain, give them over-the-counter children’s pain reliever as directed and hold a cold compress to the outside of their face. Next, call to make the first available appointment with a pediatric dentist. If your child has a fever or swelling and you can’t make it to a dentist within a few hours, get medical attention. They may have an infection that requires antibiotics as soon as possible.
When Your Child Knocks Out a Tooth
How you handle this depends on whether it’s a baby tooth or a permanent tooth:
- Baby tooth – In some cases, a knocked-out baby tooth would have fallen out soon anyway. In others, it happens far too early. After calling to make a dental appointment, apply gentle pressure to the area with a clean towel and put the baby tooth in a glass of milk to bring with you (milk is preferable – only use water as a last resort). Don’t try to put the baby tooth back in its socket because you could potentially harm a permanent tooth that’s about to come in.
- Permanent tooth – If a permanent tooth has been knocked out, it’s important to act fast and try to be seen within an hour. Handle the tooth as little as possible and only touch the crown, not the root. Gently rinse it off and put it in a glass of milk (if milk isn’t available, you can use water as a last resort). It’s crucial that the tooth stays moist until you make it to the dentist.
Dental emergencies are scary for both kids and adults alike. But by getting children’s emergency care as soon as possible and taking the right steps at home, you can minimize any damage and help protect your little one’s smile.
About the Author
Dr. Mira Albert is a board-certified pediatric dentist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. As a mother herself, she knows how alarming emergencies can be for parents. With a warm, calming chairside manner, she’s able to put even the most frazzled patients (and their parents) at ease. If you have any questions about dental emergencies, she can be reached via her website.