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Dental emergencies - step by step

Written by Dr Nigel Carter OBE
Thursday, 11 Aug 2011 10:09

It's nothing extraordinary but for many of us our dental routine usually revolves around something as simple as cleaning our teeth for two minutes twice a day and visiting our dentist perhaps a couple of times a year.

Regular maintenance of the mouth, keeping our teeth and gums clean and clear of infection and disease is set in stone from an early age and it is something that we carry throughout our lifetime. All of these measures are used to actively prevent any difficulties before they strike, but what happens when things do not go according to plan?

Dental emergencies are more frequent than you might think, in fact, last year the NHS carried out around four million courses of urgent dental activity in the UK, covering everything from a serious toothache or lost fillings, to knocked-out teeth and broken jaws. But what should we do in an emergency such as this? If we hit our head or have a fall we would know to go straight to Accident and Emergency but injuries or problems in the mouth are a little different.

I hope the below can be of some use!

Knocked-Out Tooth

  • Avoid handling the root.
  • If the tooth is very dirty, rinse it with milk and wipe it with a clean cloth.
  • Hold the tooth by the crown and put it back into the socket firmly, root first. Bite on a clean handkerchief for 15-20 minutes.
  • If you cannot get the tooth back in, keep it in your cheek until you can get emergency treatment.
  • The tooth has more chance of being successfully re-implanted if it is done within 30-60 minutes.

Broken Tooth

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water to keep the area clean.
  • Visit your dentist for advice and further treatment.

Possible Broken Jaw

  • Apply cold compresses to control swelling.
  • Go to your Accident and Emergency Department immediately.

Objects Stuck Between Teeth

  • Gently try to remove the object with dental floss.
  • If you are not successful, visit your dentist.
  • Do not try to remove the object with anything sharp or pointed.


  • Constant and severe pain, pressure or swelling of the gum and sensitive to touch.
  • Any of the above symptoms should be checked out by your dentist.
  • Do not be tempted to put anything such as aspirin or clove oil directly onto your gum. If you are in need of pain relief then take your usual painkiller, otherwise, consult with a pharmacist about alternative products.

Bitten Tongue or Lip

  • Clean the area with a cloth.
  • Apply cold compresses to keep swelling down.
  • If the bleeding is excessive or doesn't stop period of time, go to the dentist or Accident and Emergency Department.

If you do not have a regular dentist

  • Contact your local Primary Care Trust. They will give you details of your local Dental Access Centre who can treat you in a dental emergency. If you're living outside the UK then contact that country's specific dental association.

Keep smiling,


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