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Dealing with dental accidents

Accidents happen in life, and knowing what to do when one occurs can mean the difference between saving and losing a tooth.

One way to reduce the chances of damage to your teeth, lips, cheek and tongue is to wear a mouthguard when participating in sports or recreational activities that may pose a risk. Avoid chewing ice, popcorn kernels and hard candy, all of which can crack a tooth. Cut tape using scissors rather than your teeth.

In the case of a bitten lip or tongue, clean the area gently with a cloth and apply cold compresses to reduce any swelling. If the bleeding doesn't stop, go to a hospital emergency room immediately.

If you have a toothache, rinse your mouth with warm water to clean it out. Gently use dental floss or an interdental cleaner to ensure that there is no food or other debris caught between the teeth. Never put aspirin or any other painkiller against the gums near the aching tooth because it may burn the gum tissue. If the pain persists, contact your dentist.

If a tooth is knocked out, hold the tooth by the crown and rinse off the root of the tooth in water if it is dirty. Do not scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. If possible, gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket. If that's not possible, put the tooth in a cup of milk and get to the dentist as quickly as possible. And remember to take the tooth with you.

Most dentists reserve time in their daily schedules for emergency patients. Call your dentist and provide as much detail as possible about your condition. Pain is a signal that something is wrong, a problem that may not disappear even if the pain subsides.

If you're concerned about visiting the dentist because you have limited or no dental insurance, ask your dentist if the practice offers a convenient outside monthly payment plan. If the answer is yes, you can submit an application online and get an immediate credit decision–and the emergency care you need.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

2/16/2009

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