For some people, dental appointments can be stressful, especially if you’re not sure what to expect from the procedure or how your dentist will treat you. But even if you’re not seeing the dentist today, there are things you can do to take better care of your teeth and gums to help prevent future dental problems. To help, here are 10 things that everyone should keep in their dental first aid kit at home or at work.


2) A Cleaning Tool

Brushing, flossing, and using dental picks to clean between teeth is critical for maintaining a healthy smile. Flossing does more than remove food—it removes plaque from hard-to-reach spaces that your toothbrush can’t reach. Make sure you have dental floss handy at all times (and carry some with you when you travel). If a dental emergency arises and you need to perform first aid on yourself or others, it will be there.


3) Gauze Pads

Gauze pads can help to stop bleeding or to clean a wound. They can also be used to absorb any fluids that may have collected around a wound, reducing their ability to soak into surrounding clothing. Gauze pads are readily available online and can be purchased individually or with an assortment of other first aid items. They are lightweight and easy to carry with you on a daily basis.


4) Pain Medicine

It can be difficult to find an over-the-counter pain medicine when you’re on-the-go, and most stores only carry one or two brands. The best first aid kit will have a good supply of OTC medication, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. These medications may help relieve toothaches (at least temporarily) until you get to your dentist.


5) Bandages

Bandages are used to cover wounds and prevent infection. If you suspect that a patient may have broken a tooth, use bandages to protect any cuts on their face or hands. Bandages also work well for covering bleeding gums. For minor dental injuries, it’s best to use non-stick bandages as they’re easy to apply and remove.


6) Antibiotic Cream

The first step in treating a wound, regardless of its location, is to keep it clean. Antibiotic cream applied to any surface helps protect against infection. Consider packing your kit with a small tube for every person you plan on taking on a mission; many brands are available over-the-counter and can be used by children as young as three months. While antibiotic ointments are best when applied immediately after an injury occurs, they’re still effective even hours later—and far better than nothing at all. For example, if someone has a cut that won’t stop bleeding, applying antibiotic cream will help prevent further contamination and ensure that there isn’t an open path for bacteria to enter into their bloodstream.


7) Alcohol Swabs (preferably ethyl)

Doctors recommend using rubbing alcohol to kill any surface bacteria, like E. coli, that could lead to infection or other issues. When cleaning a wound with alcohol swabs, hold them there for at least 10 seconds so they have time to do their job. It’s also recommended that you re-swab your wound if it begins bleeding again. After you’ve cleaned your wound and dressed it with a bandage or gauze, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.


8) Hand Sanitizer

Sanitizing your hands and surface is key to preventing a potential infection. To kill germs and bacteria, you should use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol or by washing your hands with soap and water. Antibacterial soaps can also be used as long as they don’t have ingredients that are not safe for everyday use.


9) Ice Pack/Cold Compress

It is a good practice to use an ice pack for a toothache. An ice pack can help reduce pain and swelling that result from injured teeth. Apply it directly to your face or hold it against your cheek. Don’t hold it on your face for more than 15 minutes at a time or you may get frostbite. Ice packs should never be left on children without adult supervision. Start with a cold compress and move up to an ice pack if needed, but not for more than 15 minutes per application.


10) Tissues

If you’re dealing with an injury or an allergic reaction, tissues can help. Blowing your nose and dabbing at tears will let you avoid other people’s germs, plus they provide a barrier between your face and anything else that might be dangerous.