Survival Skills: Emergency Dentistry in the Field
If you’re like me, you still cringe when you think of the “home dentistry” scene in Castaway, when Tom Hanks’...
If you’re like me, you still cringe when you think of the “home dentistry” scene in Castaway, when Tom Hanks’ character knocks an abscessed tooth out of his own mouth by using an ice skate and a rock as a hammer and chisel. And he wasn’t successful on the first attemp. Dealing with tooth trouble in the middle of nowhere really is a nightmare scenario.
Dealing With Dental Trauma**
Falls and other types of outdoor injuries can cause teeth to be cracked, splintered, or completely knocked out (technically referred to as avulsed). Unless teeth or blood create a choking hazard, dental injuries do not represent a life threatening emergency in the short term. However, in the long term tooth damage can come back to haunt you in the form of infection, which could be life threatening if antibiotics are not available.
Teeth that have been cleanly knocked out can be saved and restored, if you are lucky. You can try to insert the tooth back into the socket, and tie the tooth to neighboring teeth with dental floss to stabilize it. Cracked and splintered teeth can be similarly tied up with floss to stabilize them. Orajel, oil of cloves, and other oral pain relievers can be used on the gums to ease the pain from any of these injuries. I also carry a generous supply of ibuprofen for all kinds of pain management, including tooth pain.
Covering Cavities And Exposed Roots**
If a large cavity develops during a long trek, or if a broken tooth leaves you with a painfully exposed root, you may be able to plug or cover up the problem temporarily with a dental wax or a field dentistry product known as Cavit. These products can be purchased without a prescription and are often included in larger emergency dentistry kits. These materials typically harden when exposed to air or saliva, giving you some comfort until you can reach proper dental treatment.
Got a bad-tooth story? Let’s hear it in the comments.