What to Do in a Dental Emergency

Tips for what to do in a dental emergencyIts a Sunday, and far from relaxing with family and friends in preparation for Monday morning, you are in agony with a toothache. You’ve tried all of your Aunt Matilda’s home remedies for minor toothaches and nothing is working. What now?

This is what is often referred to as a dental emergency. every year millions of people suffer dental emergencies. Most are the result of complications after an oral surgery or trauma, such as knocking out a tooth or injuring the jaw in some way. A dental emergency, by definition, is a dental problem that requires IMMEDIATE attention. Slowly developing problems like minor tooth pain or sensitive gums should be addressed during normal visits.

How can you tell the difference? Do you have:

  • painful swelling of the tissues in and around the mouth including gums and soft pallet
  • a painful and persistent toothache
  • bleeding that won’t stop
  • a missing permanent tooth
  • a loosened permanent tooth

All of these symptoms constitutes a dental emergency and should be treated right away.

So what should you do if you find yourself in the middle of a dental emergency?

First things first. Call your dentist. Even if it is after-hours, most dental offices have an emergency number for your to call. You will either be referred to a local emergency dental office that can see you or directed to a local hospital, in the event that the condition is potentially life threatening like an abscess in the mouth. AS a rule, if your emergency involves uncontrolled bleeding or unbearable pain, proceed to your local emergency room if you cannot make contact with your dentist.

In the event that your emergency doesn’t require immediate care, your dentist will most likely see you as soon as possible. He or she will recommend actions to be taken at home to alleviate the problem and ease the pain. Remember to stay calm and follow instructions carefully. Now is not the time for more of your Aunt’s home remedies. Common instructions include:

  • rinsing the mouth out with warm salt water to clear away irritants and reduce swelling
  • flossing to remove particulates that may be impacting the tooth
  • cold compresses for swelling
  • swishing with hydrogen peroxide to avoid infection
  • and putting the dislodged tooth in a cup of milk until you can see the dentist


If you are one of the lucky people whose dental emergency happens during doctor’s hours, then the first step is clear, again. Call your dentist. Most dentists schedule time in their day to see emergency patients. Call ahead to make sure that a slot will be open for you. Most dental offices will be able to handle almost all of your needs in-house, including cracked teeth and missing crowns.

If you were hit in the face, lost or loosened a tooth, and may have injured yourself, go to the emergency room first. Your teeth can be dealt with as a secondary issue, but injuries to your skull and jaw are the primary concern.

If your concern is lingering pain, contact your dentist and schedule an appointment. Some kinds of tooth pain can become extreme in a very short amount of time. Don’t wait until it is excruciating. Call your dentist early and be sure to explain all of the details of your situation to him or her. You may be instructed to take a pain reliever in the meantime, but your dentist will want to see you soon. Most tooth pain will only get worse if it goes untreated.

And, of course, swelling, discoloration, severe pain, strange tastes or odours associated with oral surgery are all considered emergencies and you should seek immediate care. Oral surgery is surgery. The same standard of self-care should be applied, regardless of the type or location of the procedure. If your dentist cannot see you right away, go to the emergency room.

A dental emergency, in short, should be handled the way you would handle a sudden illness or injury. Calling your care provider is imperative to receiving comprehensive care. Don’t forget that the best way to care for your teeth is to avoid emergencies in the first place. Wear mouth guards when you play sports. See your dentist twice a year for a comprehensive check. Never use your teeth to cut or pry open packages. Practice good oral hygiene daily, and don’t forget to floss.

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