Dental Emergencies Part 1: Severe Toothache and Infection

This is part 1 in a 4-part series during National Children’s Dental Health Month. Check back each Monday in February for more information on what to do with chipped and broken teeth, knocked-out teeth, and wounds on lips and tongues.

Dental emergencies are very common in children and adolescents. Just like any first aid situation, knowledge, planning, and preparation are key to minimizing pain, discomfort and long-term damage. The most important way to prepare is to find a pediatric dentist for your child for regular check-ups.

After establishing a relationship with your child’s dentist, you will have someone to call during the day and after hours when the need arises. Keep your pediatric dentist’s phone number with other emergency numbers such as the pediatrician, fire, and police departments.

The following instructions are to serve as a planning tool – it is still very important to call your dentist immediately for definitive instructions on how to handle a dental emergency. If the situation is life-threatening, call 911 or visit the ER first!

Part 1: The Severe Tooth Infection and Toothache

If your child is complaining of a toothache, rinse your child’s mouth with warm water to clean it out. Use a toothbrush and floss to remove all food/debris that might be caught inside or around the tooth to help prevent further infection.

Never put aspirin or any other painkiller against the gums near the aching tooth. This could burn your child’s gums.

It is important for your your child’s dentist to examine your child to determine the cause of the toothache. They may recommend over-the-counter painkillers, or an antibiotic depending on the extent of the infection.

Don’t rely on pain killers and antibiotics as the ultimate cure. They may temporarily relieve pain, but your dentist will need to evaluate and treat the cause of the infection for it to definitively disappear.

(CC Photo Credit: redbettyblack on Flickr)

Elizabeth Cook Miller, D.D.S., M.S. is a pediatric dentist at Atkins, Maestrello, Miller & Associates Pediatric Dentistry in Richmond, VA. She is a new mother, active runner and her favorite movie is "Finding Nemo".

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