Dental Emergencies and First Aid Procedures

The following first aid procedures are important steps for handling dental emergencies or facial injuries. They provide temporary relief and help in their proper repair or healing. As with any injury, always follow up with personal care from your dentist or physician.

Bitten Tongue/Cut Lip

Clean gently with a cloth. Apply cold compresses to reduce swelling. If bleeding is severe, go to an emergency services provider. After bleeding has subsided, rinse with warm salt water.

Broken Jaw (Possible)

Don't move the jaw. Secure it in place by tying a scarf, necktie, or towel around the jaw and over the top of the head. Apply cold compresses to reduce any swelling. See your dentist or emergency services provider immediately.

Broken Tooth

Rinse the mouth with warm water. Try to remove any dirt, blood, or debris from the injured area using sterile gauze or a clean cloth and warm water. Apply cold compresses on the face next to the injured tooth to reduce swelling. See the dentist immediately. Place the broken piece in a small container of whole milk.

Knocked-Out Tooth

Annually, more than two million teeth are knocked out accidentally; more than 90% of them can be saved with proper treatment.

Holding the tooth from the crown (top part), rinse off the root. Don't scrub or remove any attached tissue fragments. Gently hold the tooth in its socket. (Young children may accidentally swallow; use your judgment.) If this isn't possible, place the tooth in a cup of cold whole milk. Avoid using low fat milk, powdered milk, or milk products like yogurt. Never put the tooth in mouthwash or alcohol. Avoid scrubbing the tooth or touching the root end. Get to the dentist immediately (within 30 minutes) and take the tooth!

Objects Trapped Between Teeth

Try gliding dental floss between teeth (dental tape is often useful in removing shredded dental floss.) Sometimes tying a small knot in the floss may help, too. Avoid using any sharp or pointed objects. See a dentist if object can't be removed.


Toothaches can result from different causes. Rinse mouth with warm water. Remove any food trapped between teeth with dental floss. Avoid applying aspirin on the tooth or gum tissues. If a cavity is suspected, insert a small cotton ball or cotton tip soaked in oil of cloves (eugenol). Do not cover a cavity with cotton if there is facial swelling or pus. See a dentist as soon as possible.

Always consult with a dentist if you have questions regarding any dental problem.

By Brian J. Gray, DDS, MAGD, FICO

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