Common Dental Emergencies in Kids and What Parents Need to Know!

April 14, 2022

Dental injuries can be scary when you’re not sure what is an emergency and what can be taken care of at home. At Let’s Smile Dental, we’re here to help. Below is a guide outlining some of the most common dental injuries and emergencies we see, what you can do at home, and how to determine when you should call us or when to head to the ER. 

Our hope is that having read this information, you’ll be calmer in an emergency because we’ve equipped you with a reference point. That said, please know that you can ALWAYS call us to schedule an emergency visit - 703-719-5828. 

Keep in mind that these guides are to help you if a dental emergency occurs. In many cases, if you cannot contact our office immediately we recommend you take your child to the emergency room right away, especially in some of the more severe injuries such as head or jaw trauma.

Cracked Tooth

Whether it's a fall on the floor or a slip on the playground we have seen our fair share of cracked teeth in kids. And it’s the front teeth that bear the brunt of most of these injuries. For this type of injury, we recommend you rinse your child’s mouth out with warm water to clean up the area then apply a cold compress to the face to keep down any swelling that might occur. You can also give them a pain reliever like children’s Tylenol. Then, call us.

Cut or Bitten Tongue, Lip or Cheek

Yeah, that hurts. We’ve all done it. Bitten down hard on something or a bump in the road causes us to bite our tongue, cheek, or lip. Most times it’s no big deal but know that mouths tend to bleed a lot - that’s normal. That said, if there is blood the first thing you should do is apply pressure to the injured area using a clean cloth or gauze. You can also apply ice to the affected area to reduce any swelling. If you cannot stop the bleeding there might be a need for sutures. Head to the emergency room right away or call 911.

Knocked-out Tooth

Whether it’s a sports injury, an accident, or horsing around, at some time or another a child’s tooth might get knocked out. This type of emergency can cause panic in the child (and let’s face it, the parent too). Try to remain calm. There will be different things to do depending on whether it's a permanent tooth or a baby tooth.

In primary (aka baby teeth) try to find the tooth to bring to our office. In most cases, if a baby tooth is knocked out it’s not an emergency but call us to make sure. We might want to take an x-ray to make sure the whole tooth has come out. Also, you don’t have to try to replant the tooth; primary teeth cannot be replanted.

Permanent teeth are a different story. Recover the tooth if it’s knocked out and do not touch the roots, holding it by the crown (top) of the tooth. Rinse off the tooth and try to gently replant it, meaning try to put it back into the socket. Then have your child hold it in place with some gauze. If it can’t be replanted or you don’t want to try, put it in a glass of milk (not water) and call our office ASAP. We will attempt to replant a permanent tooth unless the damage to the tooth has been too great. It’s important to get to us right away and not let the tooth dry out. As always, if you suspect your child has a more serious injury like head trauma, call 911 or visit an emergency room.

Bad Toothache

Toothaches are very common and can be caused by a number of underlying conditions like a cavity, an oral ulcer, an abscess, gum issues, a loose tooth, or even something stuck between the teeth. Rinse out the mouth or floss to dislodge anything stuck between their teeth, which is sometimes the case and can be relieved easily. Problem solved! If, on the other hand, your child is experiencing a toothache and you can’t find the cause or pain persists, call the office and we will schedule an appointment to check things out right away.


If there is severe pain or swelling it can be symptoms of an abscess, which can become very serious if left untreated. An abscess is an infection that occurs inside the root of the tooth, creating a pus pocket. Call us immediately if you suspect an abscess - we will definitely want to check it out. 

Tooth Sensitivity

If your child is sensitive to hot or cold food all of a sudden this could also be the symptom of some other condition like a tooth injury or cavity. In this case, schedule a visit and we will examine them to find out the cause.

Something Stuck in Between Teeth

As we mentioned, getting something stuck in between teeth is a common and painful occurrence. Use floss or rinse to try to remove whatever is stuck. Flossers are great for little kids because they can handle them much more easily than regular floss. Do not use any sharp or pointed instrument to remove a stuck object.  Call us right away if you can’t seem to remove it.

Lost or Loose Fillings

A lost filling can cause pain because it exposes the unprotected tooth underneath. Bacteria can get into the area leading to further tooth decay. We will need to replace the filling as soon as possible - call us! 

Dental Concussion

A tooth that is knocked around but not knocked out is called concusses. This can lead to a tooth becoming discolored - turning dark or black - meaning that the tooth is dying. While not a critical emergency it’s good to give us a call to schedule an evaluation.

Broken or Fractured Jaw

This type of injury is much more serious and usually requires a trip to the emergency room rather than to our office. You also need to be very careful. For jaw injuries, try not to let your child move the jaw, carefully tying a scarf around their head if needed to prevent younger children from moving it. You can very gently apply a cold compress to the area to reduce swelling as well.

So, what can you do proactively? 

Injuries are scary for your kiddos too - and it’s always less scary to go to a doctor you know. We would love to see your child for a regular dental cleaning every 6 months to build a relationship with them. Then, if an injury occurs, they know they’re going to a safe space with a doctor they trust. 

In an emergency, trust your gut.

As we said, in extreme emergencies, it’s best to call 911 or take your child to the ER. But for most other dental issues, call us at 703-719-5828 and we can help assess the situation and determine if an emergency visit is needed. 

Stay safe out there!

Keep your little one smiling by joining our 7&Up Club

7&Up Club members enjoy complimentary yearly check ups from Let's Smile's board-certified orthodontists, fun gifts once they sign up and on their birthday as well as many perks from local businesses!  Keep your child’s dental health on track and set them up for a lifetime of smiles :)

Club members also receive special discounts on retainer replacements, teeth whitening kits and more!

Click here to learn more about our 7&Up Club and to join it!

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