Are You Ready Series: Dental Emergencies

As health conscious as we are these days, many of us have failed to recognize the correlation between healthy teeth and gums with our overall health and nutrition level. Your teeth and gums are living body parts that respond to vitamins, minerals and fatty acids just as your skin, hair, muscles and organs do. When teeth do not get the proper amounts of vitamins and nutrition, their overall health diminishes.

Be Proactive

Being proactive and scheduling regular dental visits now and learning good dental hygeine habits will ensure your teeth and gums stay healthy. When the dentist makes suggestions about elective procedures, do it now while you have the opportunity to. The last thing you would want to handle during a shtf scenario is a dental emergency. In addition, start flossing now. Every dentist emphasizes the importance of flossing, so lets listen to their medical expertise on this one.  Another course of action you should take is to limit your sugar intake. The bacteria in your mouth thrives in a high-sugar environment. This will only antagonize any existing dental issues you already have. Failure to treat any dental emergencies can result in the following scenarios:

  • Loss of the tooth
  • Mediastinitis
  • Sepsis
  • Spread of infection to soft tissue (facial cellulitis, Ludwig’s angina)
  • Spread of infection to the jaw bone (osteomyelitis of the jaw)
  • Spread of infection to other areas of the body resulting in brain abscess, endocarditis, pneumonia, or other complications


To create a good stockpile of dental supplies, begin with a good resource, such as When There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson (click here to download a PDF version).  According to reviews, this invaluable resource uses straightforward language and careful instructions. There is also a special chapter on oral health and HIV/AIDS, which provides the dental worker with a detailed, well-illustrated discussion of the special problems faced by people living with HIV/AIDS, and appropriate treatment. Having  multiple reference materials gives you a broader spectrum in how to provide different types of dental treatments. There are also online resources such as where you could find additional resources.

Natural Alternatives

Having essential herbs, oils and tinctures on hand for pain relief would be beneficial to those who are suffering from a dental emergency.

  • Valerian root: This root is a mild sedative that induces both psychological and physical relaxation; however it should not be consumed by pregnant or nursing ladies. Valerian root is available as a capsule, tea, tablet or liquid extract.
  • Clove oil: Clove oil contains eugenol, a natural pain killer and antibacterial. Mix 2 to 3 drops of pure clove oil with 1/4 teaspoon olive oil. Saturate a cotton ball with the mixture and place the cotton ball beside the tooth.
  • Kava kava: Kava kava is an effective muscle relaxant and a mild sedative. This remedy should not be taken with antidepressant medications.
  • Passion flower: This flower has sedative and relaxing properties without habit-forming properties. This may however pose a threat to pregnant and nursing women. Passion flower is available as infusions, teas, liquid extracts and tinctures.
  • Charcoal: Activated charcoal is available at many drug stores and natural health food stores. Mix two teaspoons of activated charcoal powder with just enough water to make a paste. Apply it to a piece of gauze and place the gauze on the tooth. Bite down.

Along those same lines, acquiring vitamins to store for long-term emergencies is also a proactive course of action you could take to maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Not only do vitamins assist in maintaining your body’s daily functioning, overhall health, immunity and mental capacity, but they also assist in oral health. Taking these 7 vitamins daily will assist in maintaining  healthy teeth and gums as well as prevent gum disease.

Get Some Supplies

Having some dental supplies to rely on during short-or long-term emergencies would be opportunistic to say the least. These dental supplies should emcompass dental emergency resources, first aid supplies, pain relief, anti-infammatory needs and, if possible antibiotics.

Short-Term Emergency Dental Kit

  • Dental emergency resource
  • Dental exam gloves
  • Toothpaste (in quantity)
  • Toothbrushes (multiple quantities of soft bristled brushes)
  • Floss (3)
  • Toothpicks
  • Fluoride rinse (3 bottles)
  • Tongue scraper
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton gauze pads
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3%)
  • Orabase with Benzocaine
  • Aspirin or acetaminaphen (Tylenol)
  • Temporary cap filler
  • Instant ice packs
  • Dental mirror
  • Salt (for rinsing)
  • Clove oil (for tooth aches and antimicrobial properties)
  • Penlight or headlamp 

Longer-Term Dental Emergency Supplies

  • More quantities of the above supplies
  • Vitamins
  • Additional dental resources
  • Dental tool assortment
  • Monofilament or suture “thread”
  • Suture needles
  • Celox or quikclot
  • Instant ice packs
  • Antibiotics

Most Likely Dental Emergencies To Prepare For

According to Douglas W. Stephens, D.D.S., the most common types of dental emergencies are:

Toothache: The most common dental emergency. This generally means a badly decayed tooth. As the pain affects the tooth’s nerve, treatment involves gently removing any debris lodged in the cavity being careful not to poke deep as this will cause severe pain if the nerve is touched. 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.

At times the pain may have a more obscure location such as decay under an old filling. As this can be only corrected by a dentist there are two things you can do to help the pain. Administer a pain pill (aspirin or some other analgesic) internally or dissolve a tablet in a half glass (4 oz) of warm water holding it in the mouth for several minutes before spitting it out. DO NOT PLACE A WHOLE TABLET OR ANY PART OF IT IN THE TOOTH OR AGAINST THE SOFT GUM TISSUE AS IT WILL RESULT IN A NASTY BURN.

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, an analgesic tablet can be given every four hours.

Other Oral Injuries:Broken teeth, cut lips, bitten tongue or lips if severe means a trip to a dentist as soon as possible. In the mean time rinse the mouth with warm water and place cold compression the face opposite the injury. If there is a lot of bleeding, apply direct pressure to the bleeding area. If bleeding does not stop get patient to the emergency room of a hospital as stitches may be necessary.

Prolonged Bleeding Following Extraction: 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. If bleeding continues after two hours, call the dentist or take patient to the emergency room of the nearest hospital.

Broken Jaw: If you suspect the patient’s jaw is broken, bring the upper and lower teeth together. Put a necktie, handkerchief or towel under the chin, tying it over the head to immobilize the jaw until you can get the patient to a dentist or the emergency room of a hospital.

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 young 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 aspirin or some other painkiller and by dissolving an aspirin in half a glass of warm water and holding this solution in the mouth over the sore gum. AGAIN DO NOT PLACE A TABLET DIRECTLY OVER THE GUM OR CHEEK OR USE THE ASPIRIN SOLUTION ANY STRONGER THAN RECOMMENDED TO PREVENT BURNING THE TISSUE. 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.

Cold Sores, Canker Sores, Fever Blisters: Sores in the mouth, lips or tongue can be caused by many reasons, irritation, injuries which bruise or cut the lip or just a run-down condition. The germs which cause most of these sores are always laying just below the surface waiting for a chance to flare up. Usually these lesions last five days no matter what you put on them. Such preparations as Blistex, Carmex, Butyn Dental Ointment or Spirits of Camphor will relieve pain but it is doubtful whether they cause them to heal any sooner. New studies suggest that high levels of another amino acid, arginine can give the body increased resistance to these painful mouth and lip sores.

Generally, when confronted by a dental emergency, you can only relieve the pain and give temporary treatment until the patient can see their dentist. Sometimes, fast prompt emergency treatment can spell the difference between permanently losing a tooth and saving it.

In Conclusion:

We have a tendency to forget about the importance of having a stock of dental supplies on hand. Without warning, pain, soreness and infection can occur in the gums or teeth causing extreme discomfort. Having supplies and natural alternatives to remedy these flare ups will help keep a bad situation from getting worse. Most importantly, make regular visits to your dentist to keep your oral health up to par. It is best to take care of any existing problems now before they become more aggravated.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published July 7th, 2011
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9 Responses to Are You Ready Series: Dental Emergencies

  1. hh says:

    Good article but even these days you need money to do so.Only to walk in you need to pay $100+estimate+xray+work it has to be done.Sorry to say but many of us can not even walk in………..So I do not know how much it would cost me.Some people have no luck to do so.I’m one of them!!!

  2. TF says:

    1. Some COMMUNITY COLLEGES perform X-rays and dental cleanings for free (at least they did in the past) if they have a DENTAL HYGIENE program of study; and

    2. SCHOOLS OF DENTISTRY  charge you much less for their services. And, depending on the level of care you need –  a dental student, or a dental “resident” will do the work under the supervision of a dentist/professor. (But check with your particular school).

    A major COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY may have a school of dentistry, or a major HOSPITAL may have one. 

     Both the dental hygiene school, and the colleges of dentistry do take LONGER to perform their services (and sometimes to book appointments).  That is because the student’s are learning; but remember – they are also going to be graded so they do their best. 

    The fees at the school of dentistry that I went to a few years ago were about 30% of private fees. The work I received in the past from all the schools of dentistry and of dental hygiene,  was EXCELLENT (if not superior to) those of private dental practices. I would highly recommend them if you have the time and patience and cannot afford a private dentist.

    Call or look up: colleges/universities, large local hospitals; and community colleges (associate degree, two-year colleges for cleanings/X-rays only) and ask if they have dental programs with free or discounted services, or if they know which places offer them. 

     Hope this helps!

  3. TF says:

    Tess, you are very welcome!
    I have done the following steps in the past:
    1. Gone to community college for free full series dental X-rays (community colleges with a dental hygiene program usually also have a dental radiology program of study); and
    2. Had a free dental cleaning at the community college dental hygiene department/clinic; and
    3. Requested and received copies of my dental X-rays (at no cost as I recall); and
    4. Taken my dental X-rays to a school of dentistry for [discounted] dental work (I could also have just taken the X-rays to a private dentist). The fees charged to me by the dental schools/hospitals were not income-dependent or sliding scale – they were flat rate; and
    5. I have also just gone straight to a hospital’s dental school/clinic for ALL work: X-rays, cleaning, fillings, crowns, extraction, etc.

    I think that the most economical way is to go through steps 1-4 above, since the X-rays and cleaning were all free (in the past) at the community college. Rather than having to pay anything for them -even if these same services may be offered at a discounted rate at the hospital/schools of dentistry (step 5).

    Some of the programs or terms/fees may have changed since I last used them, and may differ with your location/schools, so you will have to check with each when you contact them.    (BTW, The community college dental hygiene clinics may be closed during the summer)    You will have to check and see what is available to you.  I hope I gave you some good ideas to get you started.
    Good luck!

  4. Erin says:

    TF, I just found all that out from my hygenist…  I asked her, “I’m sure that while you all were in hygiene school, you work on each other…  but you couldn’t do that all the time…  who did you practice on…?”  She said they had a clinic at her school where they took walk-ins.  She said it might take a long time to wait, but your fee would be ridiculously reduced.  I love the idea because it is a great way to give back to the community that supports you, you know?  Folks who would otherwise not have an opportunity to obtain such services are offered them for next to nothing.  I love it!

  5. Marilee Reyes says:

    I would like to add that there are natural/alternative remedies to treat infection and the caries bacteria that people off the grid should research. While I am not a professional practicioner and can only give anecdotal references, I have found that garlic (pills and even raw cloves) and ginger in combination help to fight infection until one can get to the dentist. I’d lost a filling and there was active decay underneath it and when the air hit it, owee. It was a Friday night and couldn’t see anyone until Monday. I also discovered that infection was beginning in my gum, basically what was causing the growing pain. I smashed a clove of garlic and fresh ginger mixed in my faithful lemon water and swilled it down — yes, I reeked of garlic — but within 1/2 hour the pain started to dissipate … meaning the infection was lessening. On Saturday I was able to buy garlic pills (odorless) and continued them with no more pain until a trip to the dentist. I would suggest some links to alternative options for those who are preparing for the shtf scenario.

    • Karen says:

      Several others that will take down infection until one can get to the dentists.
      Barberry root extract, Oregon Grape root extract (they termed the extract Berberis), obviously garlic is a good one. Cayenne pepper and also Turmeric. These are the ones I used to good results. I have been told Rosemary extract will also work, but that’s not one I have any experience before. 

  6. Vickie says:

    I appreciate everyones input, but really looking for post shtf info. I understand the activated charcoal  is one of the best, but where and what do we do ” when there is no Dentist”.Help please.

  7. Gideon says:

    If you’re serious about covering dental issues in such circumstances you need to buy the book “Where there is no dentist”. Follow that up with “Where there is no doctor”. With a little googling you can find all the supplies and info you need but you MUST have a hardcopy. We live off-grid and accomplish our own dentistry. It’s actually not all that difficult when you have a manual and the proper supplies.

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