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teeth pain

There’s never a good time to experience a dental emergency. But while you’re on vacation is an especially bad time. It doesn’t have to be a disaster, though!

Preparing for a possible dental emergency before you leave home – by packing a dental emergency kit, by researching dental care facilities in your destination, and by creating a “cheat list” on how to handle common emergencies – will ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

If you have questions about dental emergencies, or anything else, we’re happy to help! Call 1st in Smiles at 972-380-8105.

What to Include in a Dental Emergency Kit

You can buy a dental emergency kit online, or you can make your own. Amazon sells more than 300 emergency kits, many of them for less than $10. That said, many of them focus on one or two problems (such as temporary repair of a filling, crown or dentures) and will need to be supplemented with more general-use items.

This one has a few essential components and comes in a small waterproof pack that would probably be especially handy on camping trips. It contains enough supplies for two temporary filling replacements, cotton balls and benzocaine ointment, and a tea bag.

A tea bag, you ask? It isn’t for making a calming beverage. The tannic acid in it can help relieve swelling from an impacted tooth.

If you go the DIY route or if you’d like to supplement a purchased kit, we suggest including:

  • Gauze. This serves many purposes, such as applying medication or stopping bleeding.
  • Medical-grade gloves. Wear these whether you’re looking into your kid’s mouth to check out damage or applying some kind of a fix (like a temporary filling) to your own.
  • Small flashlight and dental mirror. These are great for examining your own mouth or a member of your travel party.
  • Tweezers. These come in handy for many things, such as applying a temporary filling or even handling pieces of a broken tooth.
  • Saline solution. This works well for rinsing blood or other substances out of your mouth. You can purchase at most drugstores or grocery stores. It’s also easy to make your own by combining salt and water. (Use half a teaspoon of salt per one cup of distilled water or water that has been boiled and then cooled.)
  • Ice packs. These are handy for numbing pain and reducing swelling.
  • Dental wax. You can use it to avoid irritation from a chipped tooth, to cover a broken wire on orthodontia, or even to temporarily replace a lost filling. You can get it at many drugstores or on Amazon.
  • Save-a-Tooth system. This product extends the amount of time you have to get a knocked-out tooth to a dentist, where it can hopefully be re-implanted. Simply place the teeth in the preservative material and seal the container.
  • Topical pain reliever. To numb a painful tooth, we suggest clove oil, Orajel or Anbesol.
  • OTC pain medication. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen will also help minimize pain. A caveat: Don’t use aspirin if you need to stop bleeding.

Research Dental Care Facilities in Your Destination

If you’re not camping out, you can probably find an emergency dental clinic. Some of them are even open 24 hours. While a hospital emergency room is another option, we recommend visiting a dental clinic if possible. In many cases, an emergency room doctor will simply relieve any pain you’re feeling and refer you to a dentist for restorative dental care. So you’ve spent time and money that would have been better used by seeing a dental specialist in the first place.

Do visit the emergency room, though, if you’ve experience trauma to your face that has resulted in severe swelling or deep cuts inside or around your mouth. If you suspect a broken jaw, you should also go to the emergency room ASAP.

Consider entering the location and phone number of a clinic near where you’re staying into your contacts. In certain emergencies, like a knocked-out tooth, minutes can count.

How to Handle Some Common Dental Emergencies

Finally, here’s a quick review on how to handle some common dental emergencies:


If your tooth hurts, you may have a tooth infection or an abscess. Don’t wait until you get home to consult with a dentist, as the infection can spread and create more serious medical problems. Place a cold compress on your face to relieve any swelling and take a pain reliever.

Broken Tooth

If you break a tooth, put the broken piece or pieces in a container and take them to a dentist. You can use dental wax, if necessary, to cover any sharp edges. Even if you’re not in pain, it’s a good idea to seek dental assistance. Broken teeth can fracture even more under pressure (such as when eating), which could cause you to lose your tooth.

Knocked-Out Tooth

It’s important to get to a dentist ASAP to try to save a knocked-out tooth. If you can, keep the tooth in its socket (holding it by the crown, not the root). You can also place it in the product mentioned on our emergency kit list. If that’s not available, seal it in a container of saliva or milk. If it’s dirty, rinse it in warm water – but don’t scrub or otherwise remove any tissue or other material.

If you had a dental emergency on vacation, it’s a good idea to see Dr. Barfield when you get back. Call 1st in Smiles at 972-380-8105 to make an appointment.