While it seems obvious to stockpile first aid supplies for emergencies, not many people have an emergency dental kit (aka “a survival dental kit”).
Even many of the “hardcore” preppers I know still don’t have emergency dental supplies beyond some pain reliever and extra tubes of toothpaste.
I’ll be honest: I only recently built my emergency dental kit.
I’d been delaying it under the thought process that I was clueless about dentistry and wouldn’t know what to do anyway.
It turns out that survival dentistry isn’t as complicated as you might think – so long as you are prepared.
Why Do You Need an Emergency Dental Kit?
In all of the articles I’ve read about emergency dental kits, the reason given is as follows: “Remember that time you had a toothache?”
Yes, toothaches are painful.
But I want more data than this to explain why dental kits are essential!
So, I started researching what would happen if SHTF and no dentists (or toothbrushes) were available.
If SHTF and you could not brush and floss your teeth every day, the plaque would quickly build up on your teeth. Soon, you’d have gingivitis and other periodontal diseases causing severe pain.
Tooth pain means:
- You won’t be able to eat solid foods.
- You’ll have headaches.
- You will probably have trouble sleeping.
- You won’t be able to think clearly because of the pain and insomnia.
Eventually, you’d have to pull the tooth to stop the pain.
I get squeamish at the idea of pulling a tooth without an anesthetic. I get even more squeamish if I think of having to pull out my wife’s or daughter’s tooth!
Many people don’t realize that poor dental health can cause other problems in the body.
Bacterial infections in your mouth can travel to other places and cause infection.
Here are some of the infections that can occur from bad oral health.
- Respiratory diseases like pneumonia
- Brain abscesses
In short, you need to take oral health seriously in your emergency preparedness plans!
Emergency Dental Kit Checklist
This dental kit checklist is for emergencies. It does NOT include everyday hygiene items such as toothpaste and floss.
Of course, prevention is critical, so you should stockpile oral care items.
See this List of Non-Food Emergency Items to Stockpile.
*Note that some of these items should already be in your standard first aid kit.
See a Complete First Aid Kit Checklist here.
Or see this Bug Out Bag First Aid Kit Checklist.
How Do I Use the Emergency Dental Kit?
It is easy to rub pain gel on your teeth or even use temporary dental cement.
However, what if you have to go longer without a dentist?
You’ll require a bit more in-depth knowledge for those actual SHTF situations.
There are two good emergency dental books that I know about.
They won’t make you into a dentist, but they will help you prepare for (and avoid) dental emergencies.
- Where There Is No Dentist
- Emergency Dentistry Handbook
Great book with clear instructions. Gives you the basics for dealing with dental issues when there is no access to a dentist.
Written in straightforward language, so you won’t need a Ph.D. in dentistry to understand it.
This book is made for medical students, including dentistry students.
Because of that, the book is a bit dry and reads like a textbook. However, it is really informative.
Bonus Tip: Make Your Own Toothbrush
I can’t emphasize how important it is to brush your teeth daily to prevent dental emergencies when SHTF.
The problem is that it’s easy to get separated from your toothbrush.
Some of you who regularly read the Primal Survivor blog know that I am following the Syrian war crisis (I do not want to start a political discussion. Rather, I believe that these modern-day disasters can teach us a lot about preparedness!).
When one aid worker went to Syria with a mobile dentist van, she found that many families weren’t brushing their teeth.
The reason why?
Because it seemingly made more sense to use what little money they had for food, not toothbrushes.
Too bad those people don’t know these hacks for making a toothbrush.
Option 1: Twig Toothbrush
In ancient times, people didn’t have toothbrushes. Instead, they’d get a small twig or branch and chew the end. When the end was adequately frayed, they’d use it to brush their teeth.
Option 2: Rag + Saltwater
If you are near the ocean, you can use this method to make an emergency toothbrush.
Take a rag, dip it into the saltwater, and then use it to clean your teeth. The salt is a natural antibacterial. Plus, some people claim it is better to rub your teeth than using a toothbrush.
What if You Run Out of Toothpaste?
Just because you don’t have any toothpaste, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t brush.
Here are some options. If you know of other toothpaste alternatives, let us know in the comments!
- Baking Soda: Dip your toothbrush (or tooth stick) into the baking soda and brush regularly.
- Sea Salt: Sea salt is coarse and could cause abrasion. To prevent this, dissolve the sea salt in some water first and use this “brine” to brush your teeth.
- Coconut Oil or Olive Oil: Apparently, “oil pulling” is a big craze in the health world. The oil is supposed to draw toxins and bacteria out of your teeth and mouth. I tried it. I didn’t do it long enough to say whether it has benefits, though I can say it feels bizarre to brush with oil!
- Non-Toxic Soap: I wasn’t sure about this one when I read it. However, soap will also create suds that remove gunk from your teeth.
- Peppermint Oil: Essential oils are great to stockpile for your SHTF first aid kit. You can also make oil out of mint, which is another reason to grow it in a Medicinal Survival Garden.
- Fire ash: Thanks to reader Stephen for this one. In the African bush, they use ash from the fire.
- Dry Brushing: If you have nothing, brush your teeth without any toothpaste. It will get the gunk off your teeth and help prevent infections and plaque. You won’t get that minty-clean feeling that comes with brushing, but it is better than nothing!
Have you made an emergency dental kit yet? What’s in yours?
Leave a comment
You can now get a numbing gel that would also come in handy for times like that.
Good tip, Thanks Tina
Could you tell me the name of that please? Maybe a link to buy if possible. Thank you!!
I was taught by my grandmother to crush asprin and place on an hurting tooth. I’ve used this and it does help. Also using a high thread count rag containing tootpaste is better cleaner than any abrasive without damaging enamel so bad. Tampons can become a toothbrush. Waxed thread a floss. Which is also like a #11 surgical thread.
On and on.
Thanks for bringing tooth care attention forward.
Great stuff RD. Lots of ideas there.
There are two types of dental forceps for removing teeth. The one shown for the bottom jaw, but there is another type for the top jaw, which would also be good to have in your kit. Having the right tools makes the treatment easier, and it seems a good idea to have both types, in my opinion.
Thanks Art – good point but we are not looking to cover every eventuality with this kit. It needs to be light and portable so some sacrifices must be made. Definitely worth mentioning though and some people may choose to store more dental tools if they think it necessary.
I you can make rope from plastic bottles, then change the width of the rope and you have floss. I’m a dental assistant and everything you have here listed is a proper dental kit. Only suggestion is find a indirect pulp cap(vitrebond) material to place at the base of the cavity to help sooth pain a glass ionomer like IRM is better than that temp filling material, it will last longer and soothe because of the clove oil in its ingredients
The flossing tip is awesome. Knowing how to improvise like this could be crucial.Thanks.
Thanks good info
Another dental assistant here to say what a great post this is!
Minor point about the forceps is that the ones shown are for teeth in the front. They wouldn’t be too good for gripping the wider back teeth, which are the ones most likely to have decay.
Toothpaste is a total scam and you can maintain natural teeth for life without ever using it. Like you said, just keep brushing, or rag-wiping, and floss at least every 3rd day (every single day in an ideal world, but we’re talking shtf here).
I have tried and tried to think of anything that should be added to this collection but I cannot. Very thorough and well-researched post!
Grrr. it hit me right after I submitted…
You might want to give your readers instructions on post-extraction care. Avoiding infection of the open socket is vital to survival, and avoiding a “dry socket”, or loss of the healing clot” is vital to avoiding a hell of a lot of pain! So maybe find somewhere to post the list of dos and don’ts for after-care.
Hey Moro, thanks for the comments. Really interesting info on the post-extraction care. If you have some tips on this and would like to share them for everyone’s benefit – please feel free to add them in here.
I am a dental hygienist and fortunate to have syringes, needles, anesthetic and topical for emergencies. I would use them for any non dental emergency also if I had to. I just had two more thoughts: Keep tea bags on hand. They help constrict blood vessels and will give some relief to a dry socket should you have an extraction or lose a tooth. My other thought is to remember the value of community. I live in the country but there is a dentist that lives less than a mile down the road. Between him, my daughter that is a dental assistant and myself, we could be an asset to the people that live in our area. Now is the time to be aware of the people around you, know who you can trust and be thinking about what you can offer each other in a SHTF scenario.
HI Sandy – really good points you make, the community aspect is very important.
There’s an excellent book available that can teach you almost everything you need to know about emergency dentistry. It’s called “Where There Is No Dentist”, and it was written by Murray Dickson in collaboration with Hesperian Health Guides, a non-profit medical organization. This 200-page book is available for free through Hesperian’s web site. You can read it online or download each chapter (or just one or three, whatever) as a pdf file on your pc, phone, tablet, etc. Go here and scroll down to “Where There is No Dentist”: https://hesperian.org/books-and-resources/
Looks like a good resource. Thanks Tony
The reviews of this book say it’s semi-useful – mostly for pre-emergency care in 3rd world countries – but several preppers said it’s pretty lacking for any SHTF materials for emergencies.
In the African bush they use ash from the fire and a twig, to brush ther Teeth.
RE: oil pulling. I buy the liquid coconut oil, add a few drops of peppermint essential oil, and then 1. Floss my teeth FIRST 2. Take a swig of oil & swish swish swish – up to 20 min, if possible, THEN 3. Brush my teeth. I’ve found thst flossing frees up gunk, swishing pulls it out, then the teeth are ready to be brushed.
After reading all this material on dental care I was left wondering about denture care? I carry a factoids tin of denture reliner kit, denture repair glue, some vetbond, and a bondic uv light plastic repair kit. And backup dentures…for the older set. Great ideas on the regular kit too.
Great advice regarding the denture kit. An often overlooked issue Kevin, thanks for bringing that up.
I’ve been thinking about how to clean my partial denture in an emergency. I probably wouldn’t be carrying a box of cleanser tablets. If anyone has suggestions I would love to hear them.
I would definitely keep a supply of those tablets at home and have at least 3 days’ worth in your bug out bag. Most emergencies are short-term and not SHTF disasters, so you want to at least make sure you have that covered.
Denture adhesive can also be used in a situation to reapply a previous crown that has come loose until a dentist can get to it.
Clove Oil is an excellent it’s to keep in your Emergency Dental Kit. However, it needs diluted as using it straight will cause quite a burn, so have a small bottle of olive or grape seed oil in your kit as well. Eugenol, the active ingredient, is used in medicated fillings still by Dentists. It anesthetizes, and has antiseptic/antibacterial use as well. Even packing whole cloves between your cheek and the affected tooth will give you relief (best if you wrap a bit of gauze around it like a poultice).
I’ve brushed with Dr. Bronner’s Hemp Oil soap before. It didn’t taste lovely, but definitely better than the bar soap mom used when we cussed as kids, LOL. It’s a good soap to have in your preps, anyway, since it is organic, biodegradable, great for shampoo, body soap, dishes & laundry. AND the grey water from it can be used to water your garden without hurting your plants