Emergency preparedness includes oral health

October 10, 2022, Kyle Isaacs

It is easy to forget about oral health when there is some sort of emergency or disaster. All too often, oral care is nothing more than a toothbrush, floss, and toothpaste. Thinking ahead about possible issues in the mouth can alleviate fear and prevent pain and suffering. Preventive oral care is essential because the healthier you can keep your mouth, the less likely you or your family will experience pain or a dental emergency during or right after disasters, such as floods, fires, earthquakes, etc. It is important to stay up to date on your dental visits and get all needed treatment done soon after your dentist tells you what you need. Although we can’t prevent all emergencies, we can decrease the possibility and help to avoid serious things like pain and infections by going to your dental provider regularly. Remember that cavities and gum disease don’t get better if you ignore them. They get worse over time if you do not get them treated.

In addition to seeing your dental provider regularly, what else can you do to be prepared? The first thing is to print out a copy of what to do for dental emergencies found in the June 2022 Pollywog issue. Kids & Dental Emergencies – Pollywog (pollywogfamily.org). Laminate it so that you have one side for baby teeth and the other side for permanent teeth.  I would recommend putting together a first aid tooth care kit that you have ready to go with important papers, and be sure to have enough supplies for at least three days for each family member.

Let’s look at what you might want to add to your kit:

  • A toothbrush for each family member – electric toothbrushes generally hold a charge for two weeks. Manual toothbrushes do not require charging and may be best.
  • Dental floss, a variety of kinds depending on personal likes.
  • Fluoride toothpaste – Use a pea-sized amount for ages three and older.  For kids under three, only use a smear of paste the size of a grain of rice. You do not need to rinse with water, so just spit out.
  • Individual toothbrush containers – have one for each person to prevent cross-contamination. You can also just put them in a baggie with a hole so that it gets air.
  • Xylitol mints and gum are great not only for helping to prevent cavities and ear infections but also can be a nice treat during a scary time.

To be prepared for a dental emergency during a disaster, you will also want to add the following to your kit:

  • Clean gauze 2x2s are the best for the mouth, and even cotton balls can work
  • Bottled water to clean an injury –water in a disaster can be contaminated, so you do not want to use that.
  • Salt to mix with water to swish to help with inflammation, clean the wound, and help with healing. Use ½ – 1 teaspoon in about 8 oz. of water. Do not use it on children who do not understand about spitting out. Gargle with the salty water and spit it out.
  • Hydrogen peroxide can also be used to clean wounds as well.ooth and Medicine chest on white background (done in 3d)
  • Ice packs
  • Pain relievers such as Tylenol or ibuprofen
  • Clean cloth like a dish towel to cover an ice pack. You never want to put ice packs directly on the skin.
  • Flashlight to look in the mouth, and if a tooth is knocked out, to look for the tooth.
  • Hand sanitizer 
  • Gloves to keep extra germs out of the mouth. 
  • Plastic bags to hold dirty gauze. 
  • If there is bleeding, put gauze on the wound and apply pressure.
  • A tea bag (black or green) can be placed on an area that will not stop bleeding. Soak it in water for 2-3 minutes (preferably warm, but use what you can), wring out the excess liquid, then wrap in gauze and place on the area and close the mouth to provide some gentle pressure for up to 30 minutes. 
  • Packaged soft foods in case of difficulty eating after an injury to the mouth. This could include things like applesauce and pudding or jello (usually I don’t like sugared foods), but there are times and places for these products. 
  • Homeopathic medicines and other natural remedies that you already use. If you don’t usually use these types of treatments, you can talk to your pediatrician about what to use. I am not suggesting anything specific here as I am not a doctor.

If you need to see a dentist during an emergency, listen to the radio or local TV to find out if oral health care services are available, and also try calling your dentist.  You can always call Benton County Dental Services at 541-766-0123. Check out these dental resources for help with your family’s dental care www.pollywogfamily.org/resources/dental-care/

Dentist teaching a little girl how to brush her teethNo one wants to face a disaster. Being prepared makes it easier and less stressful. This will help your kids, as they are likely to pick up on stress if you are not prepared. If you haven’t been in a while, get appointments with your dental provider and stay on track with your dental care.