Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry

Managing Pediatric Dental Emergencies

Reviewed by Dr. Henry Martinez, DMD

Reading time: 8 minutes.

Welcome to the final blog in our series on pediatric dental care. So far, we’ve discussed common dental problems in kids, the role of diet and nutrition in pediatric health, and preventative measures parents can take to improve their kids’ dental health.

This final blog in our series aims to give parents the knowledge and tools they need to handle dental emergencies confidently.

Key Takeaway

Children can be prone to accidents, and dental emergencies can happen anytime. Being prepared with a dental emergency kit and knowing how to act in different situations can help parents respond quickly and effectively during emergencies.

Common Pediatric Dental Emergencies

Knowing how to handle different dental emergencies can make all the difference in preventing further damage and reducing pain.

Here are some common pediatric dental emergencies and what you can do about them.

Toothaches and Dental Pain

Toothaches can happen for several reasons, including:

  • Tooth decay: The most common cause where cavities can inflict pain.
  • Tooth fractures: Cracks or breaks in the teeth from falls or biting hard objects.
  • Loose teeth: Natural or accidental loosening can cause discomfort.
  • Gum disease: Less common in children but can cause pain if present.
  • Impacted teeth: Especially as wisdom teeth emerge in older children.

Here are some tips to relieve toothache pain:

  1. Use warm salt water to reduce discomfort and cleanse the area.
  2. Apply a cold pack on the cheek near the aching area to reduce swelling and numb the pain.
  3. Administer children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen as directed, but avoid aspirin in children.

Taking action promptly and seeking professional help can prevent further damage to your child’s dental health. You should consult your pediatric dentist if:

  • The pain persists for more than a day.
  • The child experiences severe discomfort that impedes eating or sleeping.
  • You notice signs of infection, such as swelling, red gums, or a bad taste in the mouth.
  • The cause of the pain is due to a dental injury, such as a broken or knocked-out tooth.

Broken or Knocked-Out Teeth

Children are more likely to experience accidents that can cause broken or knocked-out teeth. Injuries often happen during play, sports activities, or falls. Children are always on the go and still learning to coordinate their movements, making them more susceptible to dental injuries.

If you act quickly, you can significantly improve the outcome of these dental emergencies.

Here’s what you should do if your child has a broken teeth:

  1. Quickly determine the severity of the break. If your child is in severe pain or the break is substantial, seek emergency dental care immediately.
  2. Have your child rinse their mouth with warm water to clean the injured area and reduce the risk of infection.
  3. Apply gentle pressure with a piece of gauze or a tea bag to any bleeding areas until the bleeding stops.
  4. Apply a cold compress to their face to reduce swelling and relieve pain.
  5. To ease discomfort, use children’s pain relief medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. 
  6. If you can find any broken tooth pieces, put them in a container of milk and bring them to the dentist.

If your child’s tooth is completely knocked out, here’s what you should do:

  1. Immediately locate the tooth and handle it by the crown, not the root.
  2. If the tooth is dirty, rinse it gently with cold water. Avoid scrubbing the tooth or using soap.
  3. Try to place the tooth back in its socket if the child is calm and old enough not to swallow the tooth. Hold it gently in place while seeking immediate dental care.
  4. If reinsertion isn’t possible, keep the tooth moist by placing it in milk or saliva. Avoid storing the tooth in water.
  5. Time is critical in saving a knocked-out tooth. Head to a pediatric dentist or an emergency dental service immediately, ideally within 30 minutes to 1 hour of the accident.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Lacerations to the tongue, inside the lips, or gums can occur from falls, accidents, or even biting down too hard. These injuries tend to bleed heavily because of the rich blood supply to the head and neck region. Understanding how to manage these injuries can significantly reduce pain and prevent complications.

Here are some first-aid measures parents can take to manage these soft tissue injuries at home:

  1. Rinse the mouth with a mild saltwater solution to clean and disinfect the injury site. 
  2. If there’s bleeding, use a clean, damp gauze or cloth and apply gentle but firm pressure to the injured area. Continue this until the bleeding stops for about 10–15 minutes.
  3. Apply a cold compress to the affected area to minimize swelling and bruising. Use a cold pack or wrap ice in a cloth and hold it against the injury for short intervals.
  4. For pain, consider giving your child the appropriate dose of an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for children. Avoid aspirin, which can increase bleeding risks.
  5. Watch for signs of infection in the following days, such as increased swelling, redness, warmth, or a fever. If any of these symptoms occur or the injury does not seem to be healing, consult your pediatric dentist or doctor.
  6. Encourage your child to stick to a soft diet to avoid further irritation to the injury. Avoid hot, spicy, salty, or acidic foods until the injury has healed.

Most soft tissue injuries in the mouth tend to heal on their own, but you should keep an eye on the injury and look for any signs that indicate a need for professional attention. If you notice severe cuts, persistent bleeding, or signs of infection, it’s best to seek immediate care from your pediatric dentist or doctor.

Preparation and Prevention

Emergencies happen without warning, but parents can reduce potential damage and stress by being prepared.

It’s best to prevent dental emergencies altogether by taking proactive measures to reduce the risk of minor and major dental injuries. You can protect your children against common dental emergencies by following these tips:

  • If your child participates in sports or recreational activities, wearing a properly fitted mouthguard can protect against broken or knocked-out teeth.
  • Teach children to avoid chewing on hard objects like ice, popcorn kernels, or hard candy.
  • Encourage a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, and calcium to promote strong teeth and gums. Minimize sugary foods and drinks that can contribute to tooth decay.
  • Child-proof your home to prevent falls and injuries, and supervise young children during play to avoid accidents.
  • Teach children proper oral hygiene habits, such as brushing twice a day and flossing once a day.
  • Schedule regular dental check-ups for your child to monitor their oral health and identify potential issues early on.

It is equally important to prepare for dental emergencies. Have a dental emergency kit ready and easily accessible. 

This kit should include items such as gauze, a small container with a lid, over-the-counter pain medication, and contact numbers for both your regular and after-hours pediatric dentists. Having this kit readily available can save valuable time during an emergency.

For more information on how to build your dental emergency kit, read our blog, “Dental First Aid Kits: What Every Parent Should Have at Home.”

Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry: Your Pediatric Dentist in Phoenix

The best way to manage pediatric dental emergencies is to be informed, calm and prepared. Assess the situation, provide immediate aid, and seek professional dental care immediately if necessary. 

At Big Apple Pediatric Dentistry, we understand how overwhelming a dental emergency can be for parents and children. You can count on Dr. Martinez, our highly experienced and caring pediatric dentist, to offer top-quality dental services in a warm and welcoming environment. In addition, Dr. Martinez is a staff pediatric dentist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, which means your child can receive expert dental care in a hospital setting if needed. 

Don’t hesitate to call us immediately at (602) 935-7427 if your child is facing a dental emergency. We’re here to help!

Thank you for following our series on pediatric dental care. We hope you feel more confident and better equipped to care for your child’s dental health

If you are searching for the ‘top pediatric dentist near me’ or a kids dentist in Phoenix, AZ,’ call (602) 935-7427 or complete the online booking form.