Would you superglue a chipped tooth? According to a survey conducted by the Chicago Dental Society, 70 percent of dentists reported that they've seen patients who try to fix their dental problems on their own before going to their dentists. People most often try to superglue broken dental work such as crowns and dentures, the dentists said. They also see people use emery boards to file chipped teeth and overuse pain-killing gels. Some people even go so far as to use power tools to give themselves root canals in order to save money [source: Koretzky].
Obviously, taking a power tool to a tender tooth is not a great idea, but is it ever safe to use do-it-yourself dental instruments?
DIY dental kits usually come with single or double-sided probes, those pick–like instruments your dentist uses to scrape your teeth to remove plaque build-up. They also feature a mirror so that you can inspect your teeth and spot hard to see spaces in your mouth. Some kits even include items to repair fillings, chipped teeth and dentures. While you can use these kits to temporarily repair a tooth or check on the general health of your teeth, you should still follow up with a dentist visit.
While you might think that doing it yourself will save you money, you may cause costly damage to your teeth. You can't reach all of the areas of your mouth that a dentist can access, and you might be setting yourself up for a cavity or worse if you attempt to give yourself a professional cleaning instead of seeing a professional dental hygienist.
But what should you do if you have a dental emergency and can't make it to the dentist? There are some quick, easy and safe temporary alternatives if you're in a pinch. First off, you should always have the following items on hand in case you can't get to the dentist right away:
- salt packets
- cotton swabs for the problem area
- Ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory painkiller
- a small container or bag in case a crown falls out or a tooth chips
- a dentist's phone number
- sugar-free gum
If you're experiencing pain due to a dental mishap, take over-the-counter pain relievers. If dentin, the underlying layer of your teeth, is exposed and causing pain, cover it with sugar free gum or wax. This will only work for 48 hours, so see a dentist as soon as possible. Do the same thing if you break or chip a tooth.
If a filling falls out, try to keep it to show your dentist. Keep the tooth clean by brushing it gently with toothpaste and warm water, and avoid eating with that area of the mouth. You can buy temporary over-the-counter zinc oxide repair materials such as Temparin and Dentemp OS to use until you see your dentist [source: Mann].
If you lose a crown, clean it out well, buy paste in a drugstore or mix your own using Vaseline and cornstarch; put paste on crown, put the crown on the tooth, and bite down until it's sealed [source: Mann].
Over-the-counter pain relieving gels such as Anbesol and Orajel can provide temporary relief for gum pain. Always go to a dentist if gum pain or bleeding persists because you might have a bacterial infection.
- Chicago Dental Society. "Surprising Number of Patients Try Super Glue Before Visiting Dentist." February 25, 2011. (Aug. 29, 2011). http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/surprising-number-of-patients-try-super-glue-before-visiting-dentist-116906178.html
- Dental Fear Central. "DYI Dentistry and Dealing with Dental Emergenices." (September 7, 2011). http://www.dentalfearcentral.org/faq/diy-dentistry/
- Dental Kit. "Emergency Dental Kit." (Sept. 7, 2011). http://www.dentalkit.com/
- Koretzy, Micahel. "Do-It-Yourself Dentistry: Never a Good Idea." Money Talks News. March 10, 2011. (Aug. 30, 2011). http://www.moneytalksnews.com/2011/03/10/doityourself-dentistry-good-idea/
- Lyall, Sarah. "In a Dentist Shortage, British (Ouch!) Do It Themselves." New York Times. May 7, 2006. (Aug. 30, 2011). www.nytimes.com/2006/05/07/world/europe/07teeth.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1
- Mann, Denise. "Do-It-Yourself Dentistry." WebMD. (Aug. 30, 2011).