When it comes to managing a dental injury, time is of the essence.

That’s the message from SA dentists, who have urged parents to brush up on their dental first aid knowledge ahead of the Christmas break. 

“The quicker you’re able to treat a dental injury, the better the long-term outcome will be,” Australian Dental Association SA Branch (ADASA) President Dr Angelo Papageorgiou said.

“Ideally, this means you see a dentist as soon as possible after the injury takes place.” 

To ensure timely treatment of any injuries, Dr Papageorgiou encouraged parents to check their regular dentist’s opening hours over the Christmas period ahead of time.

“Emergencies never come at a convenient time, and the Christmas break is no exception. To help parents to be as prepared as possible, we’re urging people to check if their regular dentist will be open during the Christmas period. 

“If not, parents should be aware of their nearest hospital emergency department – especially if they’re going on holidays – for the treatment of a dental trauma.”

Christmas is traditionally one of the busiest times for dentists. Last year, ADASA’s Christmas and New Year Emergency Dental Treatment Service hotline received 145 calls from South Australians facing a dental emergency – including injuries and chipped teeth – Dr Papageorgiou said. 

“Bikes, scooters, skateboards and trampolines are wonderful presents, but are unfortunately also associated with a significant amount of dental trauma. One in five Australian children will suffer a dental trauma by the age of 14 , and it’s not surprising that many of these occur to kids who get sporting equipment as Christmas presents.”

He encouraged parents to be aware of the basic principles of dental first aid.

“Many parents have first-aid training, but how many people are aware of the principles of dental first aid? A dental emergency is stressful for all involved – children are often upset, uncomfortable and scared. Being prepared can make emergency management as gentle as possible.”

Dr Papageorgiou said baby teeth cannot be reinserted into the gums, but an adult tooth could be replanted. 

“If an adult tooth is knocked out, it can be put back into its socket – provided its clean. If the tooth is visually dirty, rinse it in some plain milk – but don’t scrub it.

“If the tooth won’t go back in, it’s important to keep it from drying out. Always keep it moist by storing it in a small container with enough milk or saline to cover the whole tooth.

“Once that’s done, get to your dentist or hospital emergency department as soon as possible to see about getting the tooth replanted and stabilised.” 

For the treatment of tooth aches and other dental emergencies, ADASA will also run a Christmas and New Year Emergency Dental Treatment Service, Dr Papageorgiou said.

“We always encourage people to first contact their regular dentist. If their practice is unattended, they can then contact ADASA on 08 7111 3462 and we’ll direct them to a dentist who’s open.”

Dental first aid:
If a primary or baby tooth is knocked out,
Do not attempt to put the tooth back in.
Store the tooth in milk or saliva and take it to your dentist immediately.
Attend regular dental check-ups so your dentist can monitor how the adult teeth are developing.

If a secondary or adult tooth is knocked out,
Locate the tooth as quickly as possible and handle it with care - don’t hold the tooth by the root. 
If the tooth is dirty, rinse it with some milk, or if milk is unavailable use tap water, but only for a second or two. Do not scrub or rub the root surface and avoid soaking the tooth.
Insert the tooth back into its previous position in the mouth, making sure it is the right way around and in the right place. Once it’s in, gently bite down on a clean piece of soft cloth or tissue to help keep the tooth in place.
If the tooth is wobbly, fold a small piece of aluminium foil over the area to help keep it in place. If you have a mouthguard, put it into your mouth to stabilise the traumatized tooth.
If you can’t get the tooth back in, don’t force it. Keep the tooth moist at all times by storing it in a small container with a small amount (enough to cover the whole tooth) of milk or saline. The tooth can also be transported in the mouth, by keeping it between the molars and the inside of the cheeks.  Do not place the tooth in water or wrap it in tissue or cloth as this will dry out the tooth.
See a dentist immediately. The sooner the tooth is replaced, the greater the likelihood it will survive.