By Carolyn Hardin, Development Consultant

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, which is led by the American Dental Association (ADA). Their campaign slogan for this year describes the basics of maintaining oral health: “brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth for a healthy smile.” Mountain Family would add avoid or limit sugary drinks and foods and choose a “dental home” for regular dental cleanings, exams and treatment.

This year the ADA and Mountain Family ask, “Are you prepared for a dental emergency?” Thousands of dental emergencies—from injuries to a painful, abscessed tooth—take place every day. Would you know what to do if your child broke a tooth or you had a bad toothache in the night and couldn’t get to the dentist until the next day? Knowing what to do can lessen the pain and save a tooth that might otherwise be lost.

Keep your dental office phone number and an emergency number where the dentist can be reached after hours with other emergency numbers, such as your family doctor, and fire and police departments. Some families post these numbers on the refrigerator or inside a kitchen cabinet door near the phone. Call the dentist immediately for instructions on how to handle a dental emergency.

Toothache: Rinse the mouth with warm water to clean it out. Gently use dental floss to remove any food or other debris that may be caught between the teeth. Never put aspirin or any other painkiller against the gums near the aching tooth. This could burn gum tissue. If the toothache persists, try to see the dentist. Don’t rely on painkillers. They may temporarily relieve pain, but your dentist should evaluate the condition.

Knocked-out (avulsed) tooth: Try to find the tooth! This may not be as easy as you think if the injury took place on a playground or while skateboarding, so try to stay calm. Hold the tooth by the crown and rinse the root in water if the tooth is dirty. Don’t scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. If it’s possible, gently insert and hold the tooth in its socket while you head to the dentist. If that’s not possible, put the tooth in a cup of milk and bring it to the dentist. Time is critical for successful reimplantation, so try to get to your dentist immediately.

Broken tooth: Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area. Use cold compresses on the outside of the cheek to help reduce the swelling.

Tongue or lip bites or wounds: Clean the area gently with a clean cloth and apply cold compresses to reduce any swelling. If the bleeding can’t be controlled, go to a hospital emergency room or clinic. You may able to reduce bleeding from the tongue by pulling it forward and using gauze to put pressure on the wound.

Objects caught between teeth: Try to gently remove the object with dental floss. Never use a sharp instrument to remove any object that is stuck between your teeth. If you can’t dislodge the object with floss, contact your dentist.

Possible broken jaw: Apply cold compresses to control swelling. Go to your primary care provider or the hospital emergency room immediately.

If your family does not have a dental home, this community has many highly qualified dentists for both children and adults. Most are taking new patients. Ask your friends or co-workers for a recommendation.

If the cost of regular dental care is prohibitive for your family, there are clinics who accept Medicaid, which reimburses dental care for children and some adults who have low household incomes. One of these clinics is All Kids Dental in Glenwood Springs and Rifle. Mountain Family has dental clinics at their health center in Rifle, and mobile dental van in El Jebel. Mountain Family accepts Medicaid and offers a sliding fee discount schedule for those who do not have dental insurance. Learn more at or call 970-945-2840.

There are also several school-based dental programs where students can receive preventative care and referrals to area dentists if further treatment is required, including Mountain Family’s SMILES programs in Parachute and Avon, and Garfield County Public Health and the Aspen to Parachute Dental Health Alliance’s (APDHA) Smiles for Students programs. APDHA also has dental hygiene programs for preschoolers and seniors.

Here’s to healthy smiles in 2018!

Carolyn Hardin is a Development Consultant for Mountain Family Health Centers and other nonprofits, with 30 years of experience in public health and human services in the Roaring Fork Valley. She can be reached at This column was first published in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.