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News | Sept. 6, 2023

TRICARE Tips to Protect Your Teeth in a Dental Emergency

By TRICARE Communications

When it comes to medical emergencies, your dental health may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But dental emergencies do happen, and they can happen anywhere, at any time.
 
Fortunately, the TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) covers emergency dental care. As noted in the TRICARE Dental Program Handbook, you’ll pay no cost-share for emergency dental services regardless of your pay grade or location. But there are still steps you may need to take to ensure your teeth and gums stay protected. Remember, the most important step in any dental emergency is to get to a dentist as soon as possible.
 
“In any emergency, it’s important to act quickly,” said Doug Elsesser, program analyst with the Defense Health Agency’s TRICARE Dental Program. “With a bit of preparation and knowledge, you may be able to keep the damage to a minimum.”
 
Preparing for a dental emergency
If an emergency does happen, it’s important to find a dentist right away. Remember to always keep your dentist’s contact information with you so you’re ready if an emergency arises.
 
You can also prepare a dental emergency kit to help you deal with pain, bleeding, and other problems until you can see a dentist. This kit should contain items such as:
  • Cotton balls and swabs
  • Dental floss
  • Dental mirror
  • Latex gloves or vinyl gloves
  • Salt
  • Cold compress
 
Identifying a dental emergency
Wondering what may be considered a dental emergency? These symptoms may require emergency care:
  • Bleeding in the mouth or gums that doesn’t stop
  • Painful swelling in or around your mouth
  • Pain in a tooth, teeth, or jawbone
  • Gum infection with pain or swelling
  • After surgery treatment (dressing change, stitch removal)
  • Broken or knocked out tooth
  • Denture adjustment for people receiving radiation or other treatment for cancer
  • Snipping or adjusting wire of braces that hurts your cheek or gums
  • Biopsy of abnormal tissue
 
Remember, you’ll need to contact a dentist first to identify a true emergency. If you don’t have a regular dentist, you can use the Find a Dentist tool.
 
Responding to a dental emergency
Contacting your dentist is key, but there are other steps you can take if something serious happens to one of your teeth.
 
If you have a cracked or broken tooth, you should rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area surrounding the affected tooth. Then, apply a cold compress to reduce swelling.
 
If your tooth is knocked out, take the following steps to protect it until you reach the dentist:
  • Recover the tooth, if possible.
  • Hold it by the top, not the root, and gently rinse the root of the tooth with water, milk, or a saline solution. Don’t scrub it or remove attached tissue.
  • In some cases, you can temporarily put it back in the empty socket. Otherwise, place the tooth in a container of milk or saline solution. Don’t put it in water.
 
In the event of a dental emergency, remember to keep calm and use these tips to help you prepare, identify, and respond.
 
Looking for more dental health tips and information about your TDP benefits? Check out the latest TRICARE Dental Program Health Matters Newsletter
 
Would you like the latest TRICARE news sent to you by email? Visit TRICARE Subscriptions, and create your personalized profile to get benefit updates, news, and more.
 
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