So your five year old fell off his scooter at top speed and chipped his two front teeth. After the initial shock of the fall wears off, he seems OK, but the rough edges of his broken tooth irritate his tongue and lips. And to top it off, it’s 7:00 PM and South Valley Pediatric Dentistry is closed. What do you do? Do you call the after hours line? Is this a dental emergency? And how urgent is it?
1. Toothache or Mouth Pain
Pain is the most crucial indicator in whether to treat a dental condition as an emergency or to take care of it over time, during regular office hours. If your child is inconsolable, complaining of or indicating severe pain in the mouth, or unable to sleep or eat properly, we’d recommend calling our office, or after hours line as soon as possible.
With this degree of pain we will try to squeeze you into our schedule same-day, or the next day at the latest, if you call during office hours. If you call after hours, our on-call dentist can talk you through home treatment or come into the office, based on his professional opinion of the situation. Please consider, however, that after-hour emergency treatment is more expensive than treatment during business hours, and may incur an immediate out of pocket expense.
We recommend over the counter pain relievers like children’s Motrin to help control dental pain until you can get into the office. Make sure to use medications according to the instructions, and/or follow any doctor’s guidelines on use, especially for children. Other home remedies, such as rinsing an effected area with salt water, and/or applying cold or warm compresses can also help, especially with pain due to injury, infection and/or swelling.
2. Broken teeth
Once again, pain is your indicator here. If a broken tooth goes deep enough, it can cause significant pain, so you’ll want to see your dentist as soon as you can. However, shallow chips or breaks that don’t cause pain, can wait. We will want to take an x-ray to make sure the injury hasn’t damaged the root of the tooth or unexposed adult teeth, but that can wait a few days, provided you keep an eye out for discoloration or infection.
Signs of infection include pain, swelling, heat surrounding the area of infection, or fever. If your child has a white, yellow or clear bump on the gum above a tooth, this could indicate an abscess, a potentially dangerous condition which constitutes a dental emergency!
Sometimes mouth ulcers (canker sores) are confused for abscess. Though they sometimes look similar, you can usually tell an abscess by its raised, rounded, puss filled appearance, while cold sores are usually flat or sunken in open sores.
If you suspect abscess or dental infection, keep the area clean with salt water rinses, use over the counter pain reliever to address any pain or fever, and call our office to schedule as soon as possible. If you suspect an abscess has burst, call our after hours line or come by the office.
4. Displaced adult tooth
If your child has an accident that knocks out or shifts a permanent tooth, come see us immediately. Handle the tooth by the top (crown), not the root portion. Avoid cleaning or handling the tooth unnecessarily. Try to reinsert it in its socket. Have the child hold the tooth in place by biting on a clean gauze or cloth. If you cannot reinsert the tooth, place the tooth in a cup of milk. See the dentist immediately! Time is a critical factor in saving the tooth.
5. Other injuries to the mouth
For bruises on lips, gums or cheeks, ice packs and pain reliever can help with pain and swelling until the area heals. If you suspect a broken jaw, go immediately to the nearest emergency room or urgent care.
For bleeding in or around the mouth, apply gentle, yet firm pressure with a clean cloth or gauze. If bleeding persists, go to nearest emergency room or urgent care as stitches may be required.
Feel free to Call
If you’re not sure what to do, or whether your child has a dental emergency, always feel free to call us during regular office hours and do not hesitate to contact our on-call dentist, if necessary. Our dental team will happily assist you with any questions or concerns regarding your child’s mouth. Reach out any time at 801-489-1301.