What is Considered a Dental Emergency?

One of the worst things for a parent is to see our children in pain. When it comes to helping them with a dental emergency, you should not feel helpless. In fact, developing a plan before you need it is the best way to handle any dental emergency. Kid's Choice Dental is always here to help guide parents through everything regarding their children's teeth.

Let's start by talking about the things that are considered a dental emergency. The American Dental Association (ADA), describes emergencies as a dental situation that can be "...potentially life-threatening..." requiring immediate treatment.

Noticing When Your Child Is in Pain

Kids are great at hiding pain. The biggest reason is that they don't want to stop playing. As a parent, knowing what to look for is a great beginning. If your child has a toothache, they often don't know how to verbalize that. If you notice your child chewing oddly, being hesitant to eat, or shying away from cold favorites like a popsicle they may be experiencing dental pain.

As children lose their primary teeth, they may have some pain with a loose tooth, accompanied by slight bleeding. Although this is normal, it should not be ignored. By age seven, your child has probably cycled through all or most of their front primary teeth. As the adult teeth erupt they may have some pain. Using an oral analgesic gel normally provides relief. We find it helpful to have a mental chart of pain severity for judging when a child's pain warrants a trip to the dentist:

  1. Severe pain should never be ignored. Contact your dental care provider immediately.
  2. For a lost primary (baby) tooth, rinse the area. Make sure bleeding stops. Use a cold compress if there is lingering pain.
  3. For a lost adult tooth, please see the guide below.
  4. Loose primary teeth are normally not much of a concern. Loose adult teeth, especially in a child, can be a sign of more significant issues. Although not a complete emergency, this should receive quick treatment.
  5. Signs of an infection are always a matter of concern. Swollen cheeks, neck, tenderness in and around the mouth, or redness should all be treated as an emergency.
  6. Signs of bleeding from the gums while brushing could point to more significant problems. Please discuss this with your child's dentist.

Although not every problem is a potential emergency, parents should keep open communication with Kid's Choice Dental.

The Parent's Guide to Handling Almost Any Dental Emergency

While we can't predict every dental issue your children will have, we can cover the most common things we see. Using a simple rhyme to handle something you are unsure of can help guide you also.

When you are in doubt, make a call and check it out.

The staff at Kid's Choice Dental in Washington state is happy to assist you. We also have a chat feature on our website for quick questions.

Bleeding or Swollen Gums, Mouth, or Jaw

Parents should monitor bleeding gums. You should discuss bleeding or swollen gums with your child's dentist at their next routine appointment. This is generally not an emergency but can be a sign of other potential problems.

A swollen mouth or jaw is an emergency. Call the Kid's Choice office immediately. They may make a same-day appointment, make a referral, or instruct you to go to the local emergency room.

Unexplainable Toothache

Do not ignore a toothache, even if it seems minor. Children will not always tell you about tooth or mouth pain. If you notice them acting out of the ordinary while eating, talk to them. Make an appointment as soon as possible to have a dentist check the toothache.

Exposed Nerves

This is another thing that children may not know how to talk about. Be watchful. If you see your child wincing while eating a popsicle, check it out. What begins as a small twinge can quickly develop into extreme pain. This situation is a potential emergency.

Abscessed Tooth

Never ignore a potential abscess. Symptoms of an abscess include:

  • Swelling
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Toothache
  • Possible swelling (lymph nodes, neck, and face)
  • Visible sore or bump in the mouth near the infected tooth

This is a dental emergency and should be treated by medical or dental personnel immediately.

Knocked-Out Tooth

When primary teeth get knocked out during rough play, most people don't worry much. But if your seven-year-old is playing Little League T-ball and forgets to use their baseball mitt their brand new front tooth may suffer. According to the American Association of Endodontists, the following emergency procedure should be followed:

  1. Find the tooth, being careful to handle it by the crown and not the root.
  2. Rinse the tooth with plain water. Do not scrub the tooth, use toothpaste, or soap.
  3. Replace the tooth into the empty socket if possible. DO NOT FORCE IT.
  4. Keep the tooth moist. If you were able to reinsert it, the mouth will keep it moist. If you could not reinsert the tooth, place it in a small, clean container with milk.
  5. Take your child to a dentist immediately. In many cases, if a child is seen by their dentist within 30 minutes a tooth that was knocked out can be saved.

Dealing with a knocked-out tooth can be one of the most harrowing experiences for a parent. It's no fun for the kid either. Remaining calm will help. We hope that the instructions above help you in dealing with this potential problem should it arise.

Food Stuck Between Teeth

Kids often have small gaps between their primary teeth. Food can get caught in these gaps. When these particles remain, they can cause decay and other problems for children. If your child has trouble brushing and flossing to remove food, try to help them. If you are not successful, please make an appointment.

Regular Dental Care is the Best Preventative

Beginning with your child's first tooth, they should have regular dental checkups and cleanings. As they grow, being comfortable in the dentist's office will make your job as a parent much easier. At Kid's Choice Dental, we understand kids. Call us at (253) 848-7000.

From their first tooth to their final wisdom tooth, we help kids and their parents with all things dental in a warm and inviting environment.

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