Dental emergencies can happen at any time—especially to children. While this can be a scary thought, it means that it’s important to familiarize yourself with the best course of action to take when they happen, and rest assured that a qualified dentist is well-equipped to treat pediatric dental emergencies. Below are a few situations that can be considered dental medical emergencies for kids and the proper first steps you should take to get them on the road to recovery.

My Kid Has a Dental Emergency: What Should I Do?

In general, if your child has a dental emergency, it’s important to remain calm and understand that even though they may react in pain and fear, dental emergencies are rarely life-threatening. One of the main causes for urgency in these situations comes from the fact that certain dental emergencies can benefit from immediate treatment. A few hours can mean the difference between saving a tooth and losing it.

It’s always good to keep your pediatric dentist’s phone number handy in case you need to schedule an emergency appointment. Otherwise, simply remain vigilant and look out for possible causes of a dental emergency like loose or uneven flooring your child could trip over, unsupervised playground equipment, sharp corners or table legs that are child-height, etc. Being aware of your surroundings as well as what is considered a dental emergency will help you feel better prepared to treat them if they happen.

What to Do if Your Child Knocks Out His or Her Tooth

Knocking out, or “avulsing” a tooth is a common dental emergency and can happen as a result of rough play, a sports injury, an accidental fall, or even interpersonal violence. For an avulsed or broken tooth, the best course of action is to recover the tooth or piece of tooth if you can, store it in a glass of milk or saliva, and call your dentist for an emergency appointment. The tooth doesn’t die if it leaves your child’s mouth, and the enzymes in milk or saliva will keep it alive until you can see your dentist. If the tooth is in good enough condition, your child’s dentist can reinsert the tooth and potentially save it.

Avulsing a tooth is often accompanied by pain and swelling around the impact site. Do what you can to calm your child and apply ice to the cheek and surrounding area, but do not put ice in the tooth cavity. After you see your child’s dentist, you can manage pain symptoms and residual bruising with a child-safe over-the-counter pain relief medication.

How to Tell if There Is an Injury to Your Child’s Tongue or Lip

There are lots of blood vessels in the tongue and mouth, meaning that when these tissues are cut due to an accidental fall or a sharp object in the mouth, they tend to bleed profusely—but what is a dental emergency and what is just a scary sight aren’t always the same thing. If you believe your child has suffered a cut tongue, cheek, or lip, start by gently rinsing their mouth with room-temperature water and see if you can locate the cut. Use ice to control any swelling and place gentle pressure on the cut with a piece of clean gauze to stop the bleeding. If the cut continues to bleed or is located in an area that makes it difficult to place pressure, call your dentist for an emergency appointment.

What if Your Child’s Jaw Is Broken?

If you believe your child’s jaw is broken it’s important to proceed very gently. Stabilize your child’s head and neck and prevent the jaw from moving as much as possible. Call your dentist immediately for an emergency appointment.

What to Do if an Object Is Stuck in Your Child’s Mouth

An object stuck in your child’s mouth is not necessarily an emergency as long as they can breathe normally. Try to gently remove the object with your finger or some floss. If you still can’t get it out contact your dentist to make an appointment. If the object begins to obstruct your child’s airway, call 911 for immediate emergency medical services.

What to Do if Your Child Has a Severe Toothache

Is a toothache an emergency? It depends on a few factors. If the pain is caused by an object stuck in their teeth, try using floss to remove it and see if the pain recedes. Dull or inconsistent pain can be a symptom of an underlying dental issue, but does not necessarily need to be treated right away. However, if your child is in extreme pain that is sudden, repeating, or not diminishing with time, it’s best to call for an emergency appointment so your dentist can determine the cause and make a treatment plan.

What Should You Expect From an Emergency Dental Appointment?

Emergency treatment is a crucial part of children’s pediatric dentistry, so much so that one of the best methods for how to choose a pediatric dentist is asking about their emergency procedures and capability of care. Each office will have different preferences and availabilities, but more often than not, if you call for an emergency visit then your dentist will make the time to see your child as soon as possible.

Your child may be frightened or in pain before and during their visit, so it’s important you remain calm and communicate as best as you can that the dentist will help them feel better. Bring some ice on the car ride to the dentist’s office to help control any swelling or pain, and perhaps bring one of your child’s favorite toys or games to distract them from their symptoms.

Once you arrive at the clinic, the staff and dentist will give you clear instructions on where to go and what to do. Your child may prefer that you stay by their side during treatment, and most clinics will accommodate you. However, ask ahead of time to ensure that they have enough space in their treatment facility or room to have you there.