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Dental Emergencies – Tips from Dr. Weiss

Everyone has had a toothache at some point in their lives, but what do you do when you are in a remote area, traveling in a developing country, or on a back-country expedition?  Below are some tips from AMK’s Founder, Dr. Eric A. Weiss about what to do when you find yourself with a dental emergency far from the nearest dentist…..

Excerpt from A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine, by Dr. Eric A. Weiss.


A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness and Travel Medicine




The common toothache is caused by inflammation of the dental pulp and is often associated with a cavity. The pain may be severe and intermittent and is made worse by hot or cold foods or liquids.


1) If the offending cavity can be localized, a piece of cotton soaked with a topical anti-inflammatory agent such as eugenol (oil of cloves) can first be applied.

2) Place a temporary filling material, such as Cavit® or zinc-oxide and eugenol cement, into the cavity or lost filling site to protect the nerve.


Quick relief of dental pain and bleeding.  Bleeding and pain from the mouth can often be relieved by placing a moistened tea bag onto the bleeding site or into the socket that is bleeding.


Dental pain associated with swelling in the gum line at the base of the tooth might indicate a tooth infection or abscess. Tapping the offending tooth causes pain, but the tooth should not be sensitive to hot or cold. Dental infections occasionally spread beyond the tooth to the floor of the mouth, face and neck. If this occurs, the victim may have difficulty opening his mouth, swallowing or breathing, and fever and swelling of the face may develop.


Make every effort to locate a dentist, as this can lead to serious illness and often requires intravenous antibiotics, as well as extraction of the tooth or root canal therapy. Swelling of the face indicates a much more severe infection and can lead to a life-threatening condition. If a dentist cannot be reached, oral antibiotics (penicillin 500 mg, four times a day) should be started along with warm-water mouth rinses.


If a tooth is knocked out, it may be salvageable if replaced within 30 to 60 minutes.


1) Clean the debris off the tooth by rinsing gently (do not scrub!) with saline, milk or disinfected water and gently replace the tooth into the socket. The tooth should be handled only by the crown and not by the root. If the tooth cannot be replaced immediately, it should be stored in a container containing tissue culture medium, saline, milk, or saliva, in that order of preference.


A tooth that becomes loosened, but not displaced, due to trauma should be repositioned with gentle, steady pressure. A soft diet should be maintained to avoid any further trauma until the tooth heals. See a dentist as soon as possible for definitive treatment.


Replacing a lost filling Melt some candle wax and allow it to cool until it is just soft and pliable. Place the wax into the cavity or lost filling site and smooth it out with your finger. Have the victim bite down to seat the wax in place and remove any excess wax.

A quick reminder that the Dental Medic from AMK has all the dental essentials you may need in case you have an unexpected surprise on your next trip when you’re nowhere near a dentist. So next time you prepare your toiletry kit pack the Dental Medic–just in case….

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