Frequently Asked Questions

Start by cleaning the area around the area where your tooth is hurting.  Brush, floss, and rinse with Listerine or warm salty water.  Make sure that there isn't any food lodged between your teeth or under the gum (example:  popcorn kernel husk)  Take an over the counter pain reliever, for instance, Aleve or Motrin.  It you notice any swelling or infection, make sure to see our office as soon as possible for an emergency visit.  If you are unable to go to the dentist, you may go to the nearest walk in clinic or emergency room if necessary.  Do not allow swelling to worsen, it can be serious.  Apply cold compresses to the area affected.  Orajel can temporarily relieve pain, but wears off quickly.  Do not place aspirin or Goody powdered aspirin around an aching tooth, because it will cause an aspirin burn. 

Abscess or Swelling
If you notice that you have an infection or swelling in your mouth caused by a wisdom tooth or infected tooth from caries or an infected nerve, it is important that you see a dentist or your physician quickly. You may also go to the Emergency Room or an Urgent Care center, if you are in pain or swelling is getting worse.  There are also Emergency Dental Walk In clinics here in Tampa that are available for extended times, on weekends and holidays. If you are a patient of record, seen in our office, you may call the office to contact the dentist after hours. It is important that you are given antibiotics to prevent the infection from traveling from the tooth to other parts of the body and bloodstream.  Call the office and tell the receptionist that you have an infection.  The infection needs to be diagnosed and treated.  Usually the treatment for a dental abscess is either a root canal or an extraction.   Rinse your mouth with salt water, clean and floss the area, but most importantly, have it looked at by a doctor or dentist as soon as possible.  Delaying treatment can cause increased pain and a more severe infection.

Broken or Chipped Tooth
Rinse the area with warm water.  Put a cold ice pack or compress near the area to reduce swelling of the facial tissue, if injured.  Find all the pieces if possible, and place in a baggie or plastic wrap. (For a knocked out tooth, see the category below for more instructions).  Call the office for an emergency visit.  If bleeding, put pressure over the area with gauze or clean cloth.  Broken teeth that are bleeding internally may need immediate root canal treatment.  Make sure you do not delay if you see pink or red inside the tooth.  Try not to put any biting pressure on the tooth until you see the dentist.

Crown or Temporary Crown Comes Off
If you can easily get Fixodent denture adhesive, it is best to place that inside your crown and place the crown back over your tooth in the right direction. Before trying to glue it temporarily with denture adhesive, do a trial run by orienting the crown in the correct position, and gently biting down to verify that you are sure you have it on in the correct direction.  If you are able to do so, place a little bit of adhesive inside the temporary or crown and place it back over the tooth. We do not recommend over the counter temporary cement, because we have found that most patients don't put the crown back correctly, and if put on wrong, it can cause the bite to be off, putting more pressure on the tooth, or could cause the tooth to fracture.  Denture adhesive is best, or simply leave it off until you can see the dentist. Call the office to let the dental office know that you will need to have your crown or temporary re-cemented. We will try to see you right away.

*** If you leave your crown out for more than a few days, there is a very good chance that it cannot be recemented back on.  Teeth shift very quickly.  At times, the dentist can adjust the contacts of the crown, and sometimes even the bite, but if there has been too much movement, most of the time a new crown will need to be made.  Your dentist will determine what needs to be done when you come in for your appointment.  It is very important that you see the dentist soon if you have a temporary that is broken, chipped, or has become loose or no longer cemented.  Your permanent crown may not fit if the temporary isn't held in place the entire period of time before the permanent crown is delivered and cemented.

Broken Braces or Wires
Ideally you should call the orthodontist for treatment.  If it is lodged into the gum or painful, cover any protruding edges with wax, cotton balls, gauze, or even chewing gum.  Emergency attention is usually not required for loose or broken appliances that are not causing any pain or discomfort.

Cut or Bitten Tongue, Lip, or Cheek
Apply pressure to stop the bleeding with a piece of gauze, a clean cloth, or tea bag (dampened and slightly dried).  If bleeding profusely, or if bleeding doesn't stop after 10-15 minutes, you may want to seek emergency treatment at an urgent care center. If the tongue, lip, or cheek is swelling or bruised from the trauma, apply ice.

Knocked Out Permanent Tooth
Find the tooth and hold it by the crown (top) of the tooth that you normally see, not the root end.  If there is dirt on the tooth, very lightly rinse the tooth, but do not over-handle it or scrub it.  Place it back into the socket if possible,  and hold it in place with a piece of gauze, or clean tissue.  If you are not, able to place it back into the socket, place the tooth in milk  (or water if milk is unavailable) and put it into a cup.  Immediately call your dentist and let them know what has happened.  TIME is CRITICAL, you must see your dentist immediately if possible.

Broken Jaw
If your jaw is broken, try to stabilize it as much as possible with a cloth or tie, and seek immediate attention in a hospital emergency room.  Do not delay.

Bleeding After an Extraction or After a Baby Tooth Falls Out

Fold a piece of gauze and place it tightly over the bleeding area, putting pressure over the area that is bleeding.  Do not rinse, spit, drink through a straw or smoke cigarettes.  All these motions can cause the clot that needs to form over the area, to become dislodged, preventing healing.  In the case of a baby tooth, most of the time, bleeding will stop within a few minutes.  Keep in mind that saliva, when added to blood, appears like a lot of bleeding.  By keeping pressure over the area and keeping the area slightly dry with gauze, there is less of an appearance of bleeding, which can frighten young children.  If bleeding continues for more than 20 minutes, call your dentist.  Another trick to help slow down bleeding is to place a dampened and dried tea bag over the area covered with gauze or a thin, cut paper towel.  The tannic acid in a tea bag can help to slow bleeding.

Cold Sores or Canker Sores
Cold sores are usually on the outer lip and are associated with the Herpes 1 virus. Unfortunately, the Herpes virus is not curable, so keeping out of the sun, avoiding stress, taking your vitamins, especially Lysine, and getting consistent rest, is important to minimize the frequency of outbreaks. Cold sores are VERY contagious.   It is important not to share cups, silverware, towels or food/drink with others to prevent the spread of this virus.  Cold sores usually begin with a tingling or burning feeling, and progress over time to an encrusted, weeping sore which is filled with virus particles.  If you are not careful, you can spread the virus to other areas of your mouth, or body, and most importantly, you can spread the virus to your eyes.  Herpes that gets into your eye, called Ocular Herpes, could cause blindness and ulceration of the eye.  People that have active cold sores, should not have dental work done, unless it is an emergency.  There are now prescription medications that can shorten the time it takes to heal from Herpes cold sores, and others, like Valtrex that can minimize future outbreaks.  The virus will never return to that particular spot again.  Ask Dr. Hilton-Foley at your next visit if you would like more information.  

Canker sores are usually  are located internally in the mouth as opposed to the outside of the lip, like cold sores.   They usually occur on the inside of the lips, tongue or cheek.  They are usually red, ulcerated, and very painful to the touch and when eating or drinking acidic foods, like orange juice, ketchup, vinegar, etc.  Canker sores are usually started when there is a trauma to the gum tissue, like you bite your cheek, or brush too vigorously with your toothbrush and slip.  They are not viral, but rather caused by a form of Streptococcus bacteria.  In the mouth, you do not get scabs like you do on your skin if you have a trauma.  Instead, in the mouth a traumatized area, will get an ulcer.  Fortunately our bodies heal very quickly in the mouth.  Other causes of ulcerations, like canker sores, are due to allergies to certain ingredients in toothpastes, gums, etc.  Many people cannot tolerate an ingredient in toothpaste called Sodium Laurel Sulfate.  There are toothpastes without SLS, like Toms' and Rembrandt. Check the label for this ingredient.  Many people cannot tolerate cinnamon flavoring in gums, mouth rinses, and toothpastes.  If you frequently have cold sores, it is a good idea to eliminate these items from your diet, and hygiene practices.  If after you have eliminated, SLS and cinnamon flavorings, you still suffer from canker sores, there is a topical treatment and a laser treatment that we can perform in the office, quickly and painlessly, to quickly heal your canker sores.  Ask us at your next visit, or call the office for an appointment if needed. 


Cosmetic & Family Dentistry

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​​Angela Hilton-Foley, DMD

(813) 891-1212