Prepper’s Guide to Dental Equipment and Dental Exams

Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: February 16, 2021
Prepper’s Guide to Dental Equipment and Dental Exams

Dental equipment and dental exams are not often written about within the context of long-term survival.  This is surprising because our mouths are a portal into our body.  Oral bacteria and decay can quickly move throughout our system using saliva as a carrier.  The result is sickness and a compromised immune system.

In this newest article in our Survival Medic Series, Dr. Joe Alton explains what procedures and supplies we need to know about when dealing with dental health.

Why Dental Health is Important

Many of our readers are surprised that “The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for when Medical Help is Not on the Way devotes a portion of its pages to dental issues. Indeed, few who are otherwise medically prepared seem to devote much time to dental health. Poor dental health can cause issues that affect the work efficiency of members of your group in survival settings. When your people are not at 100% effectiveness, your chances of survival decrease and anyone who has experienced a toothache knows how it affects work performance.

A survival medic’s philosophy should be that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It doesn’t take a dentist to know that. When it comes to your teeth, enforcing a regimen of good dental hygiene will save your loved ones a lot of pain (and yourself a few headaches).

This article will discuss procedures that are best performed by someone with experience. Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to have a dentist in your party. The information here will give you a basis of knowledge that may help you deal with some basic issues.

The Survival Dental Kit and Exam

The prepared medic will have included dental supplies in their storage, but what exactly would make sense in austere settings? You would want the kit to be portable, so dentist chairs and other heavy equipment wouldn’t be practical.

We’ve mentioned that gloves for medical and dental purposes are one item that you should have in quantity. Don’t ever stick your bare hands in someone’s mouth. Buy hypoallergenic nitrile gloves instead of latex. For additional protection, masks should also be stored and worn by the medic.

Other items that are useful to the survival “dentist” are:

Dental floss, dental picks, toothbrushes, toothpaste or baking soda

Dental or orthodontic wax as used for braces; even candle wax will do in a pinch. Use it to splint a loose tooth to its neighbors

A Rubber bite block to keep the mouth open. This provides good visualization and protection from getting bitten. A large eraser would serve the purpose

Cotton pellets, Cotton rolls, Q-tips, gauze sponges (cut into small squares)

Commercial temporary filling material, such as Tempanol, Cavit, or Den-temp

Oil of cloves (eugenol), a natural anesthetic. Often found in these commercial preparations such as these:  Red Cross Toothache Medicine (85% eugenol) and  Dent’s Toothache Drops (benzocaine in combo with eugenol)

Note:  It’s important to know that eugenol might burn the tongue, so be careful when touching anything but teeth with it.

Oral analgesics like Hurricaine or Orajel (Benzocaine)

Zinc oxide powder; when mixed with 2 drops of clove oil, it will harden into temporary filling cement

Spatula for mixing (a tongue depressor will do)

Oil of oregano, a natural antibacterial

A bulb syringe to blow air and dry teeth for better visualization, and as a diagnostic tool to elicit discomfort in damaged teeth

An irrigation syringe to clean areas upon which work is being done

Scalpels (#15 or #10) to incise and drain abscesses

Dental probes, also called “explorers”

Dental tweezers

Dental mirrors

Dental scrapers/scalers to remove plaque and probe question- able areas

Spoon excavators. These instruments have a flat circular tip that is used to “excavate” decayed material from a tooth. A powered dental drill would be a much better choice, but not likely to be an option off the grid.

Elevators. These are thin but solid chisel-like instruments that help with extractions by separating ligaments that hold teeth in their sockets. #301 or #12B are good choices. In a pinch, some parts of a Swiss army knife might work.

Extraction forceps. These are like pliers with curved ends. They come in versions specific to upper and lower teeth and, sometimes, left and right.

There are more types of dental extractors than there are teeth, you should at least have several. Although every dentist has their preferences, you should consider including the following in your dental kit:

#151 or #79N for lower front teeth
#150A or #150 for upper front teeth
#23, best for lower right or left molars
#53R, best for upper right molars
#53L, best for upper left molars

Blood-clotting Agents: There are a number of products, such as Act-Cel, that help control bleeding in the mouth after extractions or other procedures. Act-Cel comes in a fabric square that can be cut to size and placed directly on the bleeding socket or gum.

Sutures: A kit consisting of a needle holder, forceps, scissors, and a suture material is helpful for the control of bleeding after extraction or to preserve the normal contour of gum tissue. We recommend 4/0 Chromic catgut as it is absorbable and delicate enough for the oral cavity but large enough for the non-surgeon to handle. Don’t forget a small scissors to cut the string. More information on suture materials can be found later in this book

Pain medication and antibiotics. Medications in the Penicillin family are preferred if not allergic. For those allergic to Penicillin, Erythromycin can be used. For tooth abscesses, Clindamycin is a good choice. Antibiotics are discussed in detail in our book and in various sections of our website at

Additional Reading:  Why Store Fish Antibiotics For Survival

The Survival Dental Exam

Because your hands and your patient’s mouth are colonized with bacteria, every exam should begin with hand washing and the donning of gloves. All instruments should have been thoroughly cleaned or sterilized between exams. If an instrument has touched blood, consider using heat in the form of boiling water (or steam from a pressure cooker).

Alcohol or bleach solution may be sufficient in cases where there was no blood involved

Have your patient open their mouth so that you can investigate the area. A dental mirror and dental probe, also called an “explorer”, are good tools to start with. Does the patient have any problems opening and closing their mouth? Are there sores at the corner of their mouths (sometimes seen in vitamin B2 and other nutritional deficiencies)?

Evaluate the cheek linings, the roof of the mouth, the tongue, tonsils, and the back of the throat. Are the gums pink, or are they red and swollen? Do they bleed easily when lightly touched by the probe?

Are there “canker” or “cold” sores? Contrary to popular opinion, these are not the same thing. Cold sore, or fever blisters, start off as small blisters and are caused by Herpes type I virus. They mostly affect the hard gums and the roof of your mouth. Canker sores are less certain in origin. They are shallow ulcers that affect soft parts like the inside of your lips and cheeks, the floor of the mouth, and the underside of the tongue.

Other soft tissues to check out include the tonsils. Are they enlarged? Are they or the back of the throat reddened and dotted with pus? These can be signs of tonsillitis or Strep throat.

Once you have checked the soft tissues inside the mouth, it’s time to examine the teeth.

Using your dental explorer, carefully look around for any obvious cavities. A cavity will appear as a dark pit where bacteria has demineralized the enamel. Search for fractures, missing fillings, or other irregularities. Even if there is nothing visible, however, there may still be serious decay between teeth or below the gums. Patients with this issue may have pain, otherwise known as “a toothache”.

You’ll find information on how to deal with a toothache, broken and “knocked-out” teeth, and other dental issues in The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Medical Help is Not on the Way.

Once you’ve identified the problem area, you can do your best to deal with the problem. With the items above, you’ll be more prepared for most survival dental issues.

Note: Our dental kit is designed to have the materials necessary to function in a survival setting and comes with a free copy of “Where There is No Dentist”. That doesn’t mean that, in normal times, you shouldn’t seek out a dentist; whenever and wherever modern dental care is available, seek it out.

The Giveaway

Note:  This giveaway is now over.

Now that you understand the importance of having the proper tools on hand to perform emergency dental procedures, you may be thinking “Wow, that is a lot of stuff”.  Not to worry, Dr. Joe aka Dr. Bones, and his wife Nurse Amy have put together an Emergency Dental Kit with everything you need tucked into a pack.  The best part is that they are offering one for free to a lucky Backdoor Survival Reader.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Although comments are not necessary to win, you do get five “entries” for answering the giveaway question.  Just remember that you must select the “I Commented” entry in the Rafflecopter to have your comment recorded in the random drawing.  The question for this drawing is:  “Other than the lack of prescription drugs, what aspect of survival medicine concerns you the most?”

The deadline is 6:00 PM MST next Tuesday with the winner notified by email and announced on the Rafflecopter in the article.  Please note that the winner must claim their prize within 48 hours or an alternate will be selected.

Note:  Due to Customs requirements, this giveaway is only open to those with a mailing address in the United States.

The Final Word

This is not the first time dental health has been featured on this website.  Perhaps that is because I was once personally involved in a dental crisis while in the middle of nowhere, on vacation. It was a miserable experience that was resolved a week later when I arrived home.  I can only imagine how bad things might have been if the abscess had been allowed to fester, without treatment.

Although antibiotics are usually a treatment of last resort, I do keep fish antibiotics, clove essential oil, Dentek (for broken fillings and loose crowns), and an irrigation syringe in all of my kits.  I also see a dentist twice a year and brush and floss twice a day.  Dental emergencies are the worst!


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Below you will find the items related to today’s article, including a link to sources for clove oil, the one essential oil that I find most beneficial for toothaches.

The SURVIVAL MEDICINE Handbook: Third Edition:  This book by Dr. Joe Alton is the definitive source of medical information for all Prepper’s and is my go-to bible not only for emergency medicine but for day to day ailments as well.

Deluxe Dental Emergency Survival Kit:  This kit has everything you need to handle a dental emergency.  It includes supplies used for oral hygiene, gum treatment, dental pain, missing fillings, and tooth extractions extraction (yuck!). It is complete with instructions including a copy of the acclaimed book, Where There Is No Dentist.  Be sure to also visit their store for other kits and items that will ensure you are medically prepared.

Where There Is No Dentist:  Community health workers, educators, and individuals from around the world use this book to help people care for their teeth and gums.  The author uses straightforward language and careful instructions to explain how to: examine patients; diagnose common dental problems; make and use dental equipment; use local anesthetics; place fillings, and remove teeth.

Dentek Temparin Max Lost Filling & Loose Cap Repair:  Who would have guessed that this type of product would be cheaper.

Clove Essential Oil:  I use essential oils from Spark Naturals.  They are high quality yet reasonably priced.  In addition, there are no membership fees and a distributor relationship is not necessary to get the best pricing. Interested in checking them out?  Backdoor Survival readers get a 10% discount by using coupon code BACKDOORSURVIVAL at checkout!  A 5ML bottle is only $5.99 before discounts.

Additional Reading:  20 Ways To Benefit from Clove Essential Oil

NOW Foods Essential Oils:  I use essential oils from Spark Naturals.  For healing purposes, I feel they are superior.  On the other hand, NOW Foods has decent essential oils at a budget price..  Here are a few to get you started:  NOW Foods Rosemary Oil, NOW Foods Peppermint Oil, and Now Foods Lavender Oil, plus, of course, Clove Oil.

Dynarex Black Nitrile Exam Gloves, Heavy-Duty, Box/100:  This brand is the #1 seller.  Pick your size; both Shelly and I wear a medium.

3M N95 Particulate & Respirator Mask: This is an inexpensive mask that can be used in a variety of emergency situations. They come in a box of 20 and are NIOSH-certified. The molded cone design is fluid and splash resistant and will greatly reduce your exposure to airborne particles.


Author Bio:  Joe and Amy Alton are the authors of the 3 category #1 Amazon Bestseller "The Survival Medicine Handbook".  See their articles in Backwoods Home, Survival Quarterly, and other great magazines as well as their website at The opinions voiced by Joe Alton, MD, and Amy Alton, ARNP. are their own and are not meant to take the place of seeking medical help from a qualified healthcare provider.
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118 Responses to “Prepper’s Guide to Dental Equipment and Dental Exams”

  1. I work in an OR. I truly worry about a loved one getting hurt that our “stock” of medical supplies can’t handle. My knowledge..will it be enough to handle the situation. Will I have the supplies I need to handle the situation? I want to/need to grow my knowledge of plants and oils to help supplement what I have and what I know.

  2. I have a great fear of blood, and I’m terribly afraid that someone will be hurt and I will be paralyzed by my fear. I also know that I don’t have nearly as much knowledge as I will need to care for people.

    • Ann, Go to Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy give wonderful mini classes on their youtube channel. Also, the Red Cross offers many first aid courses. Here in Western NC, we have the Heritage Life Skills event each spring and many presenters offer first aid, suturing, bleeding control, etc. A local prepper store called Carolina Readiness puts this three day event on and it is a wonderful place to learn many skills. Go to and click on their events category to find out more info.

  3. To your question: Pain! Dealing with pain is tough…..and all-consuming. We would all be wise to prepare for pain. Also, I have been vulnerable to pneumonia, and it can be a killer… having what I need for that has already been taken care of. The dental issue has not. I’m crossing my fingers on this one.

  4. People with lack of common sense is what scares me the most. Even if you don’t have experience in a situation, if you have common sense you can keep yourself going for a bit.

  5. I worry about every time I have to go to the hospital with my granddaughter. There are always more germs there than in my home. I would prefer to learn how to take care of it myself than to expose her to that danger.

  6. lack of laboratory tests, diagnostic equipment, and trained personnel to interpret them in order to evaluate the status of my health and take proper actions

    • It must be a problem with your device since I cannot duplicate the problem. Here is an alternative for you: //

  7. Rapid spread of disease from unclean water and waste. With people in such close proximity with no clean water and no waste disposal outbreaks of cholera and other diseases may spring up quickly.
    Lack of practical experience, I have the books and equipment but not sure if I am ready to use all of it.

  8. Oh, Gaye…thank you SO much for this article! I’ve been sure to keep the family current with checkups, but this has certainly been a concern if mine when help is not readily available. I bought a cheesyear dental filling kit from a prepper website, but your article has raised my confidence exponentially with aLloyd the great information you have provided. May God continue to bless you in mighty ways!

  9. Hygiene. A decrease in sanitary conditions will create a resurgence of issues that as a “1st” world country most citizens are unfamiliar with dealing.

  10. I have 4 children–ALL GIRLS–so my biggest concern would be pregnancy related issues or problems with the blessed monthly visitor, Flo 🙂

  11. I’ve been prepping for awhile but this is one area where our supplies and knowledge are lacking. Thank you for a great article!

  12. I am worried about not having the experience to care for a lot of the medical things that can go wrong. I guess I need to start learning as much as I can about medical emergencies, just in case.

  13. Not sure what happened with my comment, so I’ll repeat it. I am concerned about potential serious bone breaks and/or deep tissue wounds and their treatments.

  14. Both my husband and I have had severe back issues a few times over the years. When the going gets tough I fear it happening again. I also have a dental bridge I fear failing.

  15. There are so many medical emergencies that will not fare well due to lack of modern medicine in a grid down scenario. Learn as much as possible and that you personally can handle. I too worry about infections, family with asthma and someone who may need surgery. All we can do is our best and hope we have someone close by that is a physician to tap into their services. Stock as many supplies as possible for multiple scenarios of medical care.

  16. I am concerned that I may not be able to sufficiently ease the pain and suffering from traumatic injuries caused by civil unrest or terrorism.

  17. I worry about running out of medications, gloves, equipment in a long term SHTF situation. I stock as much as I can, but eventually it will run out…..

  18. Dental emergencies are the very thing that worry me most if we were in a grid down situation. When you have a toothache or broken tooth or cracked veneer – I feel very unprepared. What if the pain stops you from eating or drinking? I’ve had lots of dental work done and having the proper anesthesia has been key in getting through the procedures. This is an area I need help in!

  19. This has been one of my biggest fears. sure water and food, or protection no problem. we have basic medical knowledge at our house (army) but what do you do about your mouth?? personal having 2 teeth pulled during times of no insurance to have another options, and days of pain and no sleep. i can’t imagine never having relief!

    this read was really helpful. i have a decent checklist now of what i should try to put together. thank you!

  20. i worry about what to do when the meds my husband takes regularly are not available. I haven’t seen any “natural” substitutes or remedies we could use.

  21. My step mom was a dental tech in an oral surgeon office and she would bring home old tools that were to be tossed – I have collected the good ones to get started with – I got the book some of the equipment but I hope I am never in a situation to need either

  22. I’ve been in spots where I needed emergency dental work and couldn’t get it. This looks like a good thing to have.

  23. My background is surgical nursing but even with the right equipment and knowledge, I’m concerned what toxic (infectious) environment we will be in to use it. It’s the same uneasy feeling I have thinking about what I’d do in an earthquake situation, here in California. When the earth gives way, planning or not, it may not be in your hands.

  24. I worry about what to do for big internal problems such as appendicitis, bowel obstruction, then sepsis. How to diagnose, then treat these things if there is no other medical help.

  25. Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy are a plethora of needed information to be ready for emergencies big or small. I found them elsewhere, glad to see their information here too.

  26. I watch Nurse Amy videos on you tube and have learned a lot from her.
    This giveaway is just what we need to be prepared for emergencies.
    Thanks, Gaye

  27. Infections and surgical proceedings. Infections can become deadly with something as simple as a papercut if you have no way of treating it.

  28. Puncture wounds. Not sure if I’ll be able to clean them effectively enough to avoid infection, which will be a serious problem if it’s TEOTWAWKI.

  29. lack of medical professionals in more than basic situations as in surgeries, broken bones, dental needs

  30. I would say the knowledge and skills to treat problems when there are no doctors to run to. I have made myself knowledgeable of treatments with essential oils and herbs.

  31. Really any “serious” medical issue in a grid down situation is of concern. Broken bones, significant wounds, illnesses requiring surgery, etc. All very bad news. When asked about my prep levels, I usually say that I have the ability (at least theoretically) to live self sufficiently at my home indefinitely “barring any significant illness or injury”.

  32. I am concerned about dental emergencies. Extracting someone’s tooth would be a difficult and worrisome thing to do. Infections from dental work can enter the blood stream and cause systemic sepsis.

  33. Would never want to have to do any type of surgery on a loved one, but it was the only option it would be great to have the correct tools.

  34. i am a disabled mom of 3 grown ups and 1 has a wife and small child, they want more children and her first was an emergency c section, I worry that she would need another and I would have to perform this on her,

  35. In the event of a large scale SHFT affecting broad swaths of a country or the globe I don’t think we as people will be able to handle the loss of life resulting from simple medical issues. Today with our vast medical expertise, advanced medical technology what was incurable just a few generations ago is now curable or manageable. Infections are prevented with OTC ointment, diabetes is manageable, kidney disease is treatable and in some case curable with a transplant.

    It will be difficult to grasp the tragedy of the loss of life as a result of once treatable conditions because we have experience with treatments. If the resources evaporate, the stress of coping with loss of life will compound the tragedy.

  36. A lack of dental care is going to be huge. Medicine in general will be a problem, but there are a lot of people with at least some medical training, like nurses, paramedics, and wilderness first aid training; Dentistry is different. Finding a copy of “Where there is no Dentist” is much harder than “WTIN Doctor”. My teeth are not great now. Afterwards?

  37. Restocking items that are perishable and not replaceable is a concern. Overall safety from looters is too. Bullets are consumables that will eventually run out too.

  38. Anything involving surgery, I run out of the room screaming if my husband watches anything with blood or gore.

  39. Lack of hygiene, unsanitary conditions and the inability to properly clean and treat infection, especially in places like AZ where there is limited water. I think we could all figure out how to suture up a wound if necessary, but if the person gets an infection, it’s going to be rough treating that… even if we have our stock of fish antibiotics. We all know that there are lots of bugs out there that are becoming resistant to antibiotics, so our more common ones just aren’t going to be a sure bet for treatment.

  40. As a former paramedic, I have a basic modicum of knowledge, experience, and equipment for dealing with trauma. Dental not so much. Thanks for the article, timely and needed as I have come to expect from you, Gayle.

  41. when and how to stitch up wounds AND how to set broken bones when there is no doctor. (If anyone knows where to purchase surgical kits please let me know)

  42. Sanitation is a big concern when it comes to treating injuries. Open wounds can initially be treated properly and yet infection due to contamination later can be a challenge.

    Thanks Gaye for your informing articles.

  43. This is great info along with even better items to put on our shopping list. It really is up to each one of us to see to our future because the government certainly will not help. I actually believe they have plans in effect to ensure the injured do not recover thus more resources. I also keep reading about how the rich are building themselves all sorts of bunkers. I am inclined to believe the elite have a line into something that is just not supposed to get out into the general public because that would just cause a shutdown of society and chaos. If people know a world wide event is coming why should anyone report to work. The rich sure don’t want the drones to do that.

  44. My concern is a broken bone protruding through the skin, such as a broken leg. With loss of blood, extreme infection and not having a skilled Doctor available, I think that’s something I won’t be able to fix. There are so many different variables that without any medical training, you have to make sure you’re as healthy as possible and know your limits, just to survive.

  45. my greatest concern is getting my partner up to speed as well as myself along with our physical preps. she needs more pushing than do i as i see the urgency. being short on funds also makes it harder to put together gear needed for preps but i do it a bit at a times as i can afford it. i have Dr. Bones and nurse Amy’s book and have been getting my partner reading it (though slowly) and once she is finished we will be going through some of the resources and training materials in the book together. it was almost 12 months ago that i read it and she is still only about 1/3 of the way through it. saying that however she is retaining the information she is reading better than me 🙂

  46. I don’t worry so much about antibiotics as I do about broken bones or severe injuries that I may be too squeamish to take care of.

  47. All medical emergencies concern me, but we have severe nut allergies in our family . Once our epi pens expire/go bad, life threatening accidental exposure to nuts scares me.

  48. My biggest concern is having the knowledge I would need to effectively handle an emergency, life threatening health situation in myself or someone else.

  49. My biggest concern is being equipped well enough to handle trauma to more than one member of my family. There are six of us at the house right now.

  50. “Other than the lack of prescription drugs, what aspect of survival medicine concerns you the most?”
    Diagnosis – I am collecting books and hope there will be time to research symptoms should anything happen. Once we know what it might be we can determine how to begin treating it (I’m collecting books on that too).

    Bought some simple dentist tools but I may need to consider more!

  51. Having the right medicine tools for the things I need. Learning skills that I have not learned yet. I would LOVE for you to do an article on suturing. That is one thing I am most concerned with learning.

  52. I worry about a debilitating injury that would require “surgery” by an inexperienced person with no anesthesia or antibiotics.

  53. I have no medical background, my biggest fear is not being able to do what needs to be done when someone in my family is in excruciating pain and I have nothing for it. Mostly with my precious grandchildren.
    I am going to start reading up on the books that was suggested

  54. This is definitely something that needs to be considered in a shtf scenario, and one that I’d often not thought of.

  55. I’m most concerned about the filth and contamination that would arise from the lack of sanitation, and the the spread of diseases (water and airborne) from this and various organisms/pests/animals that would be attracted to the filth.

  56. I worry most about the germs becoming resistance to the antibiotics I have been able to obtain. And there is nothing that can be done about that. I need to learn more holistic ways to deal with things we commonly use antibiotics for to slow down them gaining resistance.

  57. My concern is that a lack of knowledge and experience might result in greater damage by trying to assist than would occur by doing nothing.

  58. My biggest concern would be general wound care, the things we take for granted for cleaning out a wound like peroxide, alcohol, and topical triple antibiotic ointment, bandages, etc. Although I would make use of my supply of honey for the wound covering.

  59. Dealing with crushed or severely infected/damaged extremities. This could be common when using tools, making shelter, etc. If the finger, hand, foot had to be removed to save the patient, that would be traumatic for the victim and the person doing the removal. Likely there would be no anesthetics or good surgical tools. I didn’t see this covered in the When Help is Not on the Way book, 2nd edition. Maybe it’s in the new one.

  60. I worry about the everyday nicks and cuts that we all take for granted. Sanitation is likely going to be a big problem, making even the smallest of injuries very dangerous. Of course, anything that would require surgery or advanced medical support is a huge concern, between the lack of skills, lack of sanitation, and lack of equipment.

  61. The percentage of those who do not feel comfortable going to the dentist can purchase products from AOS INTERNATIONAL and help themselves with their oral
    AOS international have many type of items like ,
    3 way air water syringe, silkcare and much more. Please have a look. I hope it’ll help. ????

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