SURVIVAL DENTISTRY – How to deal with dental problems during emergencies

DISCLAIMER

I AM NOT A DENTIST, HAVE NEVER BEEN A DENTIST AND WILL NEVER BE A DENTIST. THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. I HAVE PERSONALLY PRACTICED APPROXIMATELY 5% OF THE FOLLOWING CONTENT. 95% IS MY THEORETICAL KNOWLEDGE ABOUT SURVIVAL DENTISTRY LEARNED FROM VARIOUS SOURCES. BY READING THIS ARTICLE YOU ACCEPT ALL RISKS TO YOUR SELF AND OTHERS SHOULD YOU ATTEMPT TO APPLY THIS INFORMATION IN ACTUAL SCENARIOS. USE THIS INFORMATION AT YOUR OWN RISK!

The end of the summer marks the end of the motorcycle season and for those of us who love the open highways, it is a sad time indeed. As I was trying to muscle my cruiser into position up against the garage wall I remembered the days spent on the road and the warm summer nights by the campfire looking forward to the next day’s riding.

One particular memory that stands out in my mind is a time when I was riding through my town when suddenly a sharp pain shot through the right side of my head. It was so intense that I just about dumped my bike. I literally saw stars on a bright sunny day. It turns out that at some point I lost a filling and the tooth became very painful. I ran to the dentist like a baby, while thanking God I wasn’t in a middle of a hunting trip/war/ disaster…

DENTISTRY IN THE FIELD

After the dentist fixed my tooth problem I began to rifle through many of my forgotten outdoor and wilderness publications to find a particular article about survival dentistry. I found it on page 116 of the April 2013 issue of American Frontiersman. The heading reads “Mountain Man Medicine – Lineman’s pliers, a Spyderco and a touch of crazy perform oral surgery.” It was written by Len McDougal who left civilization in 2001 to build a cabin and live the life of a pioneer. To sum up, the article describes in outstanding detail, how Len pulled his own tooth using lineman pliers, Spyderco folding knife and SOG Multi-tool.

I have survived many things in my life including getting shot at, stay at a refugee camp, close encounters with bears, falling through ice and other shenanigans but pulling my own tooth seems way too hard-core for me and I truly hope I will never have to do that. Tooth pain however, is debilitating to the point of not being able to do anything… at all. When a tooth hurts, it could be game over. Infections that take place in the gums or in the roots of teeth are very close to the brain and heart. This could cause various complications and early death. When an expert dentist is not available we have to look after these problems ourselves.

MOST COMMON DENTAL EMERGENCIES

In a survival situation, the first indication of a dental problem will most likely be the pain. This may be a difficult problem to deal with because of the many causes. Oral pain can be one of the most debilitating pains known. If you have ever had a toothache, you know what I mean! 

A toothache due to a broken tooth or missing filling: In many cases, a temporary filling may be applied to the broken tooth with a good result. In some cases where the broken tooth is severely destroyed, it will have to be pulled.

Oral pain due to tooth decay: Generally this will have to be treated or the tooth will become abscessed. Decay is dark and spongy soft. If you happen to have a small spoon excavator, the decay can be carefully removed. These instruments can be obtained in some hobby shops. A medicated temporary filling should be put into the cavity to sedate the nerve and seal the tooth. A form of zinc oxide and eugenol temporary will work well here. One can get some pain relief from the pain associated with decay or a broken tooth by the application of dilute oil of cloves (eugenol) or by placing Anbesol or Oragel on the tooth. Also, you will find relief by taking an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen. The homeopathic medicine Arnica may also be taken with good results.

NOTE:   A note here is in order about Arnica. Of all the homeopathic medicines, Arnica is probably the most important for any dental work. It seems to control bleeding and pain heals sore gum tissue and helps prevent infection. Many consider it a dental “do it all” remedy. Arnica will also help to control bleeding and pain after an extraction.

An abscessed tooth

A toothache can also be due to an abscess. An abscess is caused because the nerve has been so traumatized that it has died. The resulting decaying nerve tissue has caused a pocket of infection and debris within the nerve chamber of the tooth and in the bone surrounding the tooth root. This pocket in the bone expands as the puss and gas build causing pressure, pain, and swelling. This boney pocket surrounding the root of the tooth is called an abscess. You cannot get permanent relief from this pain by treating the tooth directly. There are only two options for an abscessed tooth;

  1. A root canal treatment, which can only be done in a dental office.
  1. Extraction of the tooth.

If the tooth has been neglected, then most likely the tooth will be badly broken down and this might complicate the extraction. In a survival situation, without the aid of the proper equipment, the best remedy is to extract the tooth. For palliative treatment, antibiotics, if available, may be employed along with an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen. If the nerve chamber is accessible then it must be left open to drain.

DENTAL PREPAREDNESS

There are many survival, bugout and first aid kits out there and about 90% of them have no first aid for dental problems. This is a major shortcoming that even seasoned preppers often neglect. As a matter of fact, the only time many people start thinking about dental issues is when they happen and even then most don’t do any further research once a dentist is found and the problem is fixed. This is very interesting since dental pain (as mentioned before) can bring even the best-laid plans to a screeching halt very fast.

Even though pulling your own, or someone else’s teeth may seem extreme, a first aid kit specially designed for dental problems should be a part of every individual first aid kit if you are alone, and part of a group first aid pack.

DENTAL FIRST AID KITS

In addition to the medicine mentioned above, one of the best dental first aid kits is probably the ” Dental Medic by Adventure Medical Kits. It will provide you with just about everything you might need to keep your dental problems in check until you can get to the dentist short of tools for pulling them. This kit is highly recommended.

Another useful kit is the Dental First Aid Kit by Dentek. This kit will not do much more than alleviate pain but that just might be enough to find someone who can help you further. Something is always better than nothing. When using this kit a visit to a dental professional will be necessary at some point.

Clove oil is a natural remedy for easing tooth pain. It is not going to do too much more than that and it does have to be used in moderation. Clove oil, however, should be kept in every medicine cabinet and survival first aid kit. It has been used in dentistry since about the 1830’s and it can be used for making tooth filling cement.

LITERATURE

Last but not least, information is your best friend. It weighs nothing and you can take it with you everywhere…provided you can learn it and remember it.  It is beyond the scope of this article to attempt to explain how a tooth might be pulled in emergency field conditions.

In an ideal world, we would have a device and internet connection on demand everywhere but most of us understand that that is not the case so the next best thing would be a book. “Where there is no dentist” has been written just for those who might be faced with performing oral surgery “on the fly”. This book is strongly recommended for all survival and preparedness libraries. I have never seen a negative review of this book and given the lack of attention to potential dental problems, I would suggest everyone has a copy.

That being said, it doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence when you’re poking around in someone’s mouth with some tool in one hand while at the same time holding an instruction manual with the other hand with your face buried in it… Read the book before you need the information. Preferably read the book several times before you need the information.

Ensure that you have manuals and information available once you have bugged out, even if this means only the instruction manual with your dental first aid kit. If you can carry more, do so.

PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE

Prevention is, of course, much better than cure so ensure you have what is needed in your bug out system to take care of your teeth while out in the field. This should include a spare toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss. It is especially important to see your dentist regularly prior to any emergencies and repair any issues as soon as possible.

CONCLUSION

This article is by no means exhaustive. There are many resources which provide outstanding information and more useful tools to help you remedy problems in times and places where there are no experts. If you are serious about preparedness, take it to another level by studying more and learning more skills.

The thought of fixing someone’s teeth seems like a very dark and daunting task to many. We do have to remember, however, that everything seems that way in the beginning. The more information we can acquire beforehand, the more ready we will be and the easier the task will become. Dentistry will be hard to practice but there are many great materials available which will provide you with plenty of quality information to give you enough skill and confidence to do what you must. There are also many people out there like Len McDougal, who have performed dental surgeries with success. Let’s seek them out and learn from them.  And while we’re at it, thank your dentist for being there when you need him, and thank all people like Len McDougal for paving the way and documenting it for us.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu