There’s plenty of good information out there when it comes to first aid and the treatment of injuries in a survival/disaster situation, but one of the topics that I rarely see covered is what to do to treat dental problems when you’re unable to get to a dentist.
Having suffered an impacted wisdom tooth myself - many miles away from the nearest dentist, or emergency room - I can tell you that it’s nothing short of pure hell when you have nothing to alleviate that kind of pain. All I could think of was Tom Hanks In the movie Castaway when he used the ice skate to knock out his abscessed tooth. Unfortunately, my problem wasn’t that easy to solve. (Not to mention; performing self-dentistry when you can eventually get to a dentist is just a really BAD idea.)
Everybody prepares for injuries like broken bones, sprains, cuts and burns, but you’re no less likely to suffer a dental emergency like a broken tooth, dislodged crown, or filling, abscess, or a simple toothache in a disaster, or survival situation.
To be prepared for a dental emergency, your medical kit should include:
Medications – Salt, hydrogen peroxide (3%), aspirin, Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), clove oil and Oragel and/or Orabase (Oral protective paste with Benzocaine available at your local pharmacy).
Supplies – Cotton balls, cotton swabs, gauze pads, tea bags, a toothbrush, dental floss, toothpicks, tweezers, some paraffin or candle wax and an ice pack.
TOOTHACHE: The most common dental emergency. This generally means a badly decayed tooth. Treatment involves gently removing any debris lodged in the cavity, being careful not to poke too deep as touching the nerve will cause severe pain. Next rinse vigorously with warm water. Then, soak a small piece of cotton in oil of cloves and insert it in the cavity. This will give temporary relief until a dentist can be reached. You can also mix 3-4 drops of clove oil with 1/4 tablespoon of olive oi, soak up the mixture with a cotton ball and pack it around the affected area.
At times the pain may have a more obscure location such as decay under an old filling. This can be only corrected by a dentist, but there are two things you can do to help the pain:
1. Administer 600 milligrams (3 tablets) of Ibuprofen, every 4 hours. Ibuprofen will help with the pain and reduce swelling, and won’t irritate your stomach like aspirin will. Also high doses of Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be damaging to your liver in high doses (especially if alcohol has been consumed).
2. Dissolve a crushed aspirin in about 4 oz of warm water and hold it in the mouth for several minutes before spitting it out. – DO NOT PLACE A WHOLE, OR CRUSHED TABLET ON THE TOOTH OR AGAINST THE SOFT GUM TISSUE AS THIS WILL BURN YOUR GUMS AND CHEEK. (Trust me, I know this from experience!)
SWOLLEN JAW: This may be caused by several conditions.. The most probable being an abscessed tooth. In any case the treatment should be to reduce pain and swelling. An ice pack held on the outside of the jaw, (ten minutes on and ten minutes off) will take care of both. If this does not control the pain, take 600 mg of Ibuprofen every four hours.
OTHER ORAL INJURIES: Broken teeth, cut lips, bitten tongue or lips.
Rinse the mouth with warm water and place cold compresses on the face. If there is a lot of bleeding, apply direct pressure to the bleeding area. If bleeding does not stop, stitches may be necessary.
PROLONGED BLEEDING: Place a gauze pad or better still a moistened tea bag over the socket and have the patient bite down gently on it for 30 to 45 minutes. The tannic acid in the tea seeps into the tissues and often helps stop the bleeding.
PAINFUL ERUPTING TOOTH: In young children teething pain can come from a loose baby tooth or from an erupting permanent tooth. Some relief can be given by crushing a little ice and wrapping it in gauze or a clean piece of cloth and putting it directly on the tooth or gum tissue where it hurts. The numbing effect of the cold,along with an appropriate dose of aspirin, usually provides temporary relief.
In adults, an erupting 3rd molar (Wisdom tooth) – especially if it is impacted – can cause the jaw to swell and be quite painful. Often the gum around the tooth will show signs of infection. Temporary relief can be had by giving ibuprofen or some other painkiller and by dissolving aspirin in half a glass of warm water and holding this solution in the mouth over the sore gum. Again, do not place the tablet directly on the gum or cheek to prevent burning. The swelling of the jaw can be reduced by using an ice pack on the outside of the face at intervals of ten minutes on and ten minutes off.
No one can predict accidental trauma, like a broken tooth, but the best way to avoid dental problems in a survival situation is prevention. Make sure you take care of any dental issues before they become a problem. No one hates going to the dentist more than I do, but if you ignore it, it’ll only get worse. Dental problems can affect your over-all health, and you don’t want one to come up when medical attention is unavailable.
Disclaimer – I am not a dental or medical professional. The information in this article is based on research and personal experience. I accept no responsibility for the misapplication of these remedies, or the reactions (allergic, etc) that certain individuals might experience.