With 53 mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation in Colorado, do you have what it takes to reach the top? These beloved “Fourteeners” or 14ers, are a pride of our state but offer a tremendous challenge to climb. In addition to the training, supplies, and mental courage needed, what happens if you have a dental emergency on your way up (or down or at the top) of these peaks?
Let’s have a look at some useful tips and supplies needed on how best to deal with a dental “emergency” while hiking a 14er!
Colorado’s mountains are rugged. It’s easy to trip on a rock or tree root, especially if you are tired, or the light is dim. If you, or someone you’re with, knock out a tooth during a climb, remain calm. Treat the gap in the mouth carefully to avoid damaging the tissue further. Wet a cloth or tissue or paper towel with your drinking water and stop the bleeding by firmly pressing the towel to the area. It’s critical to take the time to rest and stop the bleeding.
Quickly try and locate the tooth and take care of it to minimize further root trauma. Don’t touch the root tip but just hold it by the crown. Try to clean it by carefully rinsing it lightly with water. If you can slip it back into the socket (make sure it’s facing the right way out!), it may help save the tooth.
Whoever has been injured needs to get down, off the mountain and find a dentist. Take care on the descent; it’s better to get to the car slower but with no further injuries. An emergency dentist can help assess the situation and hopefully work to the save the tooth.
Broken or loosened tooth
A broken tooth is fairly common in hiking and many other sports. If a tooth is broken or chipped, try and locate the broken piece. This chip will be fragile so take care of it by putting it into a water bottle or wrap it in a wet cloth to keep it moist. If you can’t find the chipped piece, don’t worry too much. There are amazing things we can do to help repair and rebuild a broken tooth!
If a tooth is loosened, gently push it back into the socket. Applying firm pressure will allow the root and nerves to recover. Avoid jiggling the tooth! The sooner you can get off the mountain and to an emergency dentist, the sooner efforts can be made to try and save the tooth.
There are many things that can cause a toothache, ranging from a cavity to an infection to a change in altitude. If you find yourself or a hiking partner with a throbbing tooth while scaling a 14er, rinse your mouth several times during the trip. It’s best if you can add a ½ teaspoon of salt to the water to clean any infected or aggravated areas.
If the pain will not subside, and although a pain in the tooth or mouth may be a minor issue, it means you should see the dentist. This may cut your hiking short, but it’s best to get any discomfort treated, as it is an indicator that there is a problem.
While some emergencies vary in their severity, if there is an infection – or an environment where infection could breed – you need to get treated by a dentist. Untreated dental infections will not only make your 14er hike miserable, but they can be very dangerous to your health.
If you are aiming to bag yourself a Fourteener, be sure to plan ahead. A small dental emergency kit can help manage a serious issue and is like insurance for you to have a safe and enjoyable climb. You can purchase ready-made kits or make your own with supplies such as dental floss, salt, extra water, pain reliever, Ziploc plastic bag to hold a tooth in liquid, and tea bags that can be used to help curb pain and reduce inflammation.
While no one wants an emergency of any kind, being prepared for a dental emergency the next time you’re hiking makes for an even safer and more enjoyable trip!