Dentistry in Emergency Situations

1Often  in survival situations, we  are  prepared  for general health problems but do not know what to do when faced  with a dental emergency.   Whether the trouble faced is a  simple  toothache,  pain  from tooth eruption or something  more  serious  like a broken jaw or a abscessed tooth, it may threaten to  spoil  a vacation.

Before leaving on a trip, it is good insurance to see a dentist  in order to make sure there will be no dental problems which  may  give  trouble  in the near term.   It is smart to  add  a  dental  first aid emergency kit to your luggage.

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This should include:
1.   Medications such as, salt, hydrogen peroxide (3%), aspirin  or acetaminaphen (Tylenol), oil of cloves and orabase with benzocaine,  (like  Orabase Oral Protective Paste with  Benzocaine  on  sale at your local pharmacy).
2.    Supplies  should include: cotton   balls,  cotton  swabs,  gauze  pads,  tea bags, a toothbrush, dental  floss,  toothpicks,  tweezers,  some paraffin or candle wax and an ice pack or  a  wet  frozen wash cloth.

TOOTHACHE: The most common dental emergency.   This  generally   means  a badly decayed tooth.   As the pain affects  the  tooth’s  nerve,  treatment involves gently removing any debris  lodged  in  the  cavity  being careful not to poke deep as  this  will  cause  severe pain if the nerve is touched.   Next rinse vigorously with  warm water.    Then soak a small piece of cotton in oil of cloves  and  insert it in the cavity.   This will give  temporary  relief  until a dentist can be reached.

At  times  the pain may have a more obscure location  such  as  decay under an old filling.   As this can be only corrected by  a  dentist  there  are  two  things you can do  to  help  the  pain.    Administer  a pain pill (aspirin or some other analgesic)  internally  or dissolve a tablet in a half glass (4 oz) of warm  water  holding  it in the mouth for several minutes before  spitting  it  out.  DO  NOT PLACE A WHOLE TABLET OR ANY PART OF  IT  IN  THE  TOOTH OR AGAINST THE SOFT GUM TISSUE AS IT WILL RESULT IN A NASTY  BURN.

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SWOLLEN  JAW:  This may be caused by several  conditions  the  most probable being an abscessed tooth.   In any case the  treatment should be to reduce pain and swelling.   An ice pack held on  the outside of the jaw, (ten minutes on and ten minutes off) will take care of both.   If this does not control the pain, an  analgesic tablet can be given every four hours.

OTHER ORAL INJURIES: Broken teeth, cut lips, bitten tongue  or  lips  if  severe means a trip to a dentist as soon  as  possible.   In  the mean time rinse the mouth with warm water and place  cold compresses  on the face opposite the injury.   If there is a  lot of  bleeding,  apply direct pressure to the bleeding  area.    If bleeding  does  not stop get patient to the emergency room  of  a hospital as stitches may be necessary.

PROLONGED BLEEDING FOLLOWING AN EXTRACTION: Place a gauze pad or  better  still  a moistened tea bag over the socket and  have  the patient bite down gently on it for 30to 45 minutes.   The  tannic acid  in the tea seeps into the tissues and often helps stop  the bleeding.    If  bleeding  continues after two  hours,  call  the dentist  or  take patient to the emergency room  of  the  nearest hospital.

BROKEN  JAW: If you suspect the patient’s jaw is  broken,  bring the upper and lower teeth together.   Put a necktie, handkerchief or towel under the chin, tying it over the head to immobilize the jaw  until you can get the patient to a dentist or the  emergency room of a hospital.

PAINFUL ERUPTING TOOTH: In young children teething pain can come from  a  loose baby tooth or from an  erupting  permanent  tooth.   Some relief can be given by crushing a little ice and wrapping it in gauze or a clean piece of cloth and putting it directly on the tooth  or gum tissue where it hurts.   The numbing effect of  the cold,along with an appropriate dose of aspirin, usually  provides temporary relief.

In young adults, an erupting 3rd molar (Wisdom tooth), especially  if  it is impacted, can cause the jaw to swell and  be  quite painful.    Often  the gum around the tooth will  show  signs  of infection.    Temporary  relief can be had by giving  aspirin  or some  other  painkiller and by dissolving an aspirin  in  half  a glass  of warm water and holding this solution in the mouth  over the sore gum.   AGAIN DO NOT PLACE A TABLET DIRECTLY OVER THE GUM OR CHEEK OR USE THE ASPIRIN SOLUTION ANY STRONGER THAN RECOMMENDED  TO PREVENT BURNING THE TISSUE.   The swelling of the jaw  can be  reduced by using an ice pack on the outside of the  face  (At intervals of ten minutes on and ten minutes off.

COLD SORES, CANKER SORES AND FEVER BLISTERS: Sores in the mouth, lips  or  tongue can be caused by many reasons,  irritation,  injuries which bruise or cut the lip or just a run-down  condition.   The germs which cause most of these sores are always laying  just below  the  surface waiting for a chance to flare  up.    Usually these  lesions  last five days no matter what you  put  on  them.   Such  preparations as Blistex, Carmex, Butyn Dental  Ointment  or Spirits  of Camphor will relieve pain but it is doubtful  whether they  cause  them to heal any sooner.  New studies  suggest  that high levels of another amino acid, arginine can give the body increased resistance to these painful mouth and lip sores.

Generally,  when confronted by a dental emergency, you can  only  relieve  the pain and give temporary treatment until the  patient can  see their dentist.liberty2


 By Douglas W. Stephens, D.D.S.

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2 Replies to “Dentistry in Emergency Situations

  1. One other issue is when you are in a predicament where you don’t have a co-signer then you may actually want to try to exhaust all of your financing options. You’ll find many grants or loans and other scholarship grants that will present you with finances to assist with college expenses. Thx for the post.

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