Emergency dental kits are now available in most high street pharmacies, some supermarkets, and through suppliers on the internet. They are not meant to be a permanent solution to a dental emergency but are sold as a temporary aid to use until you can get to an emergency dentist. The theory sounds good, but are emergency dental kits a wise investment, and in what circumstances are they most useful?

What’s in an emergency dental kit?

Emergency dental kits vary according to the manufacturer but there are typical components that you would expect to be included:

  • Temporary filling material: this can be used to fill a hole in a tooth caused by losing one of your own fillings. It can seal the opening and make it more comfortable to eat until you can get to see a dentist for a permanent replacement filling.
  • Crown cement: this is an emergency dental adhesive that can be used to fix crows that have come loose, or that have detached. Again, this is a temporary fix until you can see your dentist.
  • Pain relieving gel or ointment: this is often clove oil, or it can be a local anaesthetic. It is provided to give mild pain relief and can be used in conjunction with paracetamol or ibuprofen.
  • Cotton wool: useful to bite down on if you have lost a tooth or knocked a tooth out of place, and the gum underneath is bleeding
  • Cotton wool swabs: use to clean areas where you will use emergency dental filling material or crown cement, and for applying pain relieving gel
  • A tooth container: a sterile container for transporting an avulsed tooth
  • Wooden applicator

Some commercial emergency dental kits come packaged in a convenient carrying case that you can use when travelling, or just to keep everything together.

When might you need an emergency dental kit?

Most of the time, you cannot know; no-one plans to be involved in an accident or have a sports injury. In some circumstances, however, having an emergency dental kit is part of being well prepared:

  • Holidays and travelling: if you are going on holiday in the UK, elsewhere in Europe, or a country that has good medical and dental facilities, you will be able to access emergency dental care using your travel insurance. However, if you are staying in a remote area, or are travelling to a country where dentists are not available, carrying an emergency dental kit with you makes sense.
  • Sports events: coaches and trainers often carry an emergency dental kit as part of their emergency medical treatment supplies. Contact sports such as rugby often result in collisions that knock out or break teeth.
  • School medical rooms: having an emergency dental repair kit is a good idea for pupils who fall or damage their teeth playing sports.
  • If you are prone to tooth problems: if you have a hard bite and have had broken teeth, lost fillings, or lost a crown in the past, having an emergency dental kit on hand can reduce anxiety and discomfort until you can see a dentist.

Can you make your own emergency dental kit?

Yes, there is no reason why you can’t put your own emergency dental kit together in a container that you choose, and then take that on holiday or keep it in the bathroom cabinet. You can buy individual components of commercial emergency dental kits separately and choose what you need. A good starter kit might include:

  • Clove oil for numbing dental pain
  • Antiseptic mouth wash: useful for any sort of dental injury or problem. Rinsing with mouthwash can clean away debris, blood, and dirt from a playing field, it can also reduce the risk of infection.
  • Dental floss: although it seems obvious, toothache caused by debris lodged in the teeth is often overlooked. This is, however, the most common cause of toothache in children. Having a good supply of dental floss to dislodge trapped food, then rinsing with medicated mouthwash can solve the problem.
  • A disposable toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste: to complement the flossing
  • Cotton wool, swabs, and wooden applicators, as in the commercial kits
  • Pain killing gel
  • Fixing cement or temporary filler
  • A tooth holder for an avulsed tooth: this can be a small plastic container obtained from your pharmacist or GP
  • Paracetamol and ibuprofen: to cope with toothache

The limitations of emergency dental kits

Emergency dental kits should be used as their name suggests – they are for emergencies only. Temporary fillings and crown repairs should never be left in place for longer than a few days. Most importantly, you should never attempt to fill your own tooth with a temporary filling from an emergency dental kit. You are likely to trap debris under the filler and, if left for a sustained period, this is likely to lead to infection and an abscess.

So are emergency dental kits worth the money?

Like any form of insurance, they are worth their weight in gold if you need them. Most emergency dental kits do not actually cost very much, particularly if you make one up yourself, and their contents do not deteriorate quickly. Purchasing a kit for home or when travelling is a sensible minor investment.


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