Almost everyone will experience a dental emergency of some sort within their lifetime. There are simply too many things that can go wrong to get lucky for 80 years straight.
For most dental emergencies in adults, the solution is fairly simple. If it’s not something that requires serious medical help, you can simply use over-the-counter solutions until a dentist can book an emergency treatment session, and then you go get it taken care of.
With children, it’s a lot more complicated. They don’t usually understand what’s going on, most medicines aren’t suitable for them and can even be dangerous, and they tend to have a harder time dealing with the pain that accompanies the emergency.
So, how do you deal with the pain in a child-involved dental emergency?
We’re going to walk you through each step.
1: Identify the Emergency
First, you need to determine whether there’s actually a dental emergency or if something less serious has happened. Children might not be able to identify what’s going on, they could feel the situation is more serious than it truly is, or they could underestimate the issue and leave you to believe nothing is wrong. This is even more of an issue if your child isn’t speaking yet, or if they have a particularly high or low reaction to pain.
Start by checking your child’s mouth yourself. Major dental emergencies tend to stick out like a sore thumb. Breaks, large amounts of bleeding, missing teeth, foreign objects wedged between teeth, and similar situations can all constitute aemergency and are easy to notice.
Smaller issues, such as a cavity accompanied by signs of pain in your child, teeth growing in awkwardly, and similar issues aren’t necessarily emergencies, but you should still call your dentist to schedule an appointment.
2: Determining the Right Course of Action
Once you identify that there is an emergency that requires action, it’s time to determine what appropriate action looks like in that situation.
First and foremost, any situation involving foreign objects penetrating the mouth, becoming lodged in the throat, or similar injuries are not dental emergencies. Some of them can be life-threatening events, and even if that’s not the extent of it, getting immediate emergency treatment is crucial. It’s best to go to the ER.
For true dental emergencies, your first course of action should be to call your child’s pediatric dentist and inform them of the problem. If they’re capable of taking immediate action, you might be able to get the problem resolved right away.
However, even when there’s a lot of pain involved, dental offices can only stay open for so long and rearrange appointments so much. So, it might be a day or two before you can get in the office. With children, this tends to be less of a problem.
Once you call, the general pediatric dentistry specialist will gauge the severity of the situation and determine if immediate action is possible, or if not, recommend solutions.
3: Minimizing Panic
This is something you should do throughout the process, because your child is going to pick up on your emotions, and their emotions will be amplified accordingly. Stay calm, and focus on mitigating your child’s sense of panic, too.
This can be a scary experience for you and the child, but it tends to be a lot easier when everyone stays calm.
4: Minimizing Pain
Unfortunately, your classic child dental emergency is accompanied by pain. There are so many nerves in the mouth, and when teeth are seriously damaged, it’s painful.
If your dentist is immediately available, your primary focus should be on getting into the office. However, since that’s not always possible, minimizing pain should be a consideration.
This is complicated when it comes to children. Depending on their age and weight, they might not be able to use certain medications that we all take for granted.
For example, clove oil is a common home remedy for adults. However, it’s not known if it’s safe for children to consume, and it’s nearly impossible to keep them from swallowing it, and it can destroy the gums and tooth pulp. More potent pain relievers are typically too strong for children and can create life-threatening situations, and even simple OTC oral treatments like numbing gel can be dangerous.
For safety’s sake, basic, children’s strength, ibuprofen or Tylenol is your best bet. Carefully read the instructions and administer it appropriately. This might not be enough, but safety comes first.
5: Clean the Teeth
This is especially useful if you have to wait a day or two to get into the dentist’s office. It can be uncomfortable to brush or use mouthwash with a broken tooth or similar issue. However, allowing food and drink to sit on the teeth can irritate the injury even more.
A gentle, child-friendly, toothpaste and gentle brushing can remove debris, and gurgling warm water can also help.
6: Avoid Problematic Foods and Drinks
This can also be difficult with children, but limiting the child’s diet to water and soft foods that don’t contain sugar or other problematic substances is crucial. Hard foods and sugary drinks can cause pain levels to skyrocket.
It’s also important to ensure anything eaten isn’t very cold or hot, because many dental emergencies will create temperature sensitivities.
7: Call the Right Dentist
Finally, the best tip we can give you is to make sure you have the right pediatric dentist available for your child.
A lot of the problems that come with child dental emergencies occur because the chosen dentist can’t accommodate them in a timely fashion, and it becomes a lot more difficult to manage the issue the longer it draws out. Especially with limited over-the-counter medications available to truly mitigate pain.
Having a high-quality pediatric dentist can help ensure you get into the office for treatment ASAP, and you can rest assured that the dentist will be able to help you manage the situation effectively until you arrive.