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TRICARE Tips to Protect Your Teeth in a Dental Emergency

Dental emergencies happen, and they can happen anywhere, at any time. Fortunately, the TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) covers emergency dental care. As noted in the TRICARE Dental Program Handbook, you’ll pay no cost-share for emergency dental services regardless of your pay grade or location. But there are still steps you may need to take to ensure your teeth and gums stay protected. 

In the event of a dental emergency, remember to keep calm and use these tips below to help you prepare, identify, and respond. Remember, the most important step in any dental emergency is to get to a dentist as soon as possible.

Preparing for a dental emergency

If an emergency does happen, it’s important to find a dentist right away, you can use the Find a Dentist tool for quick results. You can also prepare a dental emergency kit to help you deal with pain, bleeding, and other problems until you can see a dentist. This kit should contain items such as:

  • Cotton balls and swabs
  • Dental floss
  • Dental mirror
  • Latex gloves or vinyl gloves
  • Salt
  • Cold compress


Identifying a dental emergency

Wondering what may be considered a dental emergency? These symptoms may require emergency care:

  • Bleeding in the mouth or gums that doesn’t stop
  • Painful swelling in or around your mouth
  • Pain in a tooth, teeth, or jawbone
  • Gum infection with pain or swelling
  • After surgery treatment (dressing change, stitch removal)
  • Broken or knocked out tooth
  • Denture adjustment for people receiving radiation or other treatment for cancer
  • Snipping or adjusting wire of braces that hurts your cheek or gums
  • Biopsy of abnormal tissue

Remember, you’ll need to contact a dentist first to identify a true emergency.

Responding to a dental emergency

Contacting your dentist is key, but there are other steps you can take if something serious happens to one of your teeth.

If you have a cracked or broken tooth, you should rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area surrounding the affected tooth. Then, apply a cold compress to reduce swelling.

If your tooth is knocked out, take the following steps to protect it until you reach the dentist:

  • Recover the tooth, if possible.
  • Hold it by the top, not the root, and gently rinse the root of the tooth with water, milk, or a saline solution. Don’t scrub it or remove attached tissue.
  • In some cases, you can temporarily put it back in the empty socket. Otherwise, place the tooth in a container of milk or saline solution. Don’t put it in water.



*Visit Tricare or the Defense Health Agency for more tips and advice.


  • Defense Health Agency

    The Defense Health Agency is a joint, integrated Combat Support Agency that enables the Army, Navy, and Air Force medical services to provide a medically ready force and ready medical force to Combatant Commands in both peacetime and wartime. Their mission is to provide a medical benefit commensurate with the service and sacrifice of more than 9.6 million active duty personnel, military retirees and their families.


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