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5 Tips for Handling a Dental Emergency While Away From Home

No matter where you are, the last thing you want to deal with when you’re away from home is a dental emergency. Following these tips can help you manage emergencies and salvage your vacation or business trip.

Dr. Benjamin Wang at Centerport Cosmetic & Implant Dentistry serves the Portland, Oregon, community by helping patients maintain optimum oral health and achieve their aesthetic goals. He also treats a fair share of emergencies. For our patients who plan to travel this summer and can’t get back in time to see Dr. Wang, here are a few tips that can help you handle a dental emergency while away from home.

1. Know what constitutes a dental emergency

Most dental procedures aren’t considered emergencies. Regular cleanings, X-rays, exams, tooth extractions, and cosmetic treatments can all wait until you get home. But some things require immediate attention:

As with all medical emergencies, the best thing to do if you have a dental emergency is to seek help right away. Depending on the urgency of the problem and where you’re located, you can:

If you can’t reach a dentist where you are, then do your best to take care of the dental emergency until you can. 

2. Be prepared

Prevention is the best way to avoid dental emergencies. Keeping up with your exams and cleanings not only keeps your oral health in the best shape, it also allows us to identify and monitor any potential problems, like gum disease, so you’re not caught off guard when you’re on the road. 

No one expects a dental emergency, but you can prepare for one just the same. If you or someone you’re traveling with wears braces, pack some paraffin wax to cover broken or protruding wires. 

Bring along over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or aspirin. Keep some gauze pads and cotton pads handy as well in case you need them to help stop bleeding. 

Anticipating the unknown can mean the difference between going home early or staying put and enjoying your trip. Here are some things that could go wrong.

3. Broken or lost tooth

If you break your tooth, do your best to keep it clean and comfortable until you can get help. Rinse with warm water and apply a cool ice pack to your cheek. 

If you’ve been in an accident and knocked your tooth out, the same goes about keeping it clean and comfortable, but it’s also important to try to save your tooth. If it’s recoverable, hold it by the crown and don’t touch the root end. Rinse to remove any debris and place it back in the socket, holding it in place until you can get to the dentist. Ideally, you want to see someone within 30 minutes.

If you can’t put your tooth back in the socket, place it in a container of milk and take it with you to the dentist.

4. Bitten tongue

Everyone accidentally bites their tongue or lip every now and then, and it usually hurts a lot but doesn’t warrant an emergency call to the dentist. 

However, if it's a particularly deep puncture or cut, do your best to stop the bleeding by using the gauze you packed or a clean cotton cloth to apply direct pressure. If you can’t stop the bleeding, it’s time to call an emergency dentist.

5. Toothaches

Toothaches are another tricky dental situation to navigate. Most often you can chalk a toothache up to a cavity or tooth sensitivity, neither of which are emergencies. But severe infection and abscesses are definitely causes for concern. 

If you see a white bump (looks like a pimple) on your gum near the tooth, it’s sensitive to hot and cold, or you notice tenderness or swelling in your neck or face, get to an emergency facility as soon as possible. The infection can seep into your bloodstream and become serious. 

Meanwhile, rinse with a mild solution of salt water to draw the infection to the surface and apply a cold compress to your face or neck to reduce inflammation.

We hope you don’t ever experience a dental emergency, or that if you do, you’re close enough to come in and see us. But if you find yourself away from home, we hope these tips will help you handle the emergency and get the care you need. If you have any questions or concerns, call us at 503-212-6754 or book an appointment online.

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