When you meet with a dental emergency, the first person you should be calling is your dentist. A majority of the dentists, if not all, set aside time for emergency procedures. So, in hindsight, make sure to keep your dentist’s emergency contact numbers readily available at all times. There can also be a question of what exactly constitutes a common dental emergencies.

These contact numbers you can store on your handphone and write it down in an address book. This address book should be available to all family members because you don’t know when the emergency will strike. Make a note that these emergency contact numbers may be different from the readily available contact numbers.

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But what if you encounter a dental emergency during a vacation, weekend, or simply in the middle of the night? If you’re dealing with a dental emergency outside normal office hours, you will likely need an emergency dentist or even an emergency room visit.

Whether you are travelling or at home, the following tips can help you manage a dental emergency until you can access the dentist. Remember that seeing a dentist within thirty minutes or less can mean the difference between saving or losing your tooth with some dental emergencies.

Is it a Dental Emergency?

The first and foremost thing is to identify whether the incident is a dental emergency or not. It’s important to understand the difference between a standard dental issue that can wait for normal dental hours and a real dental emergency that can threaten your health or result in tooth loss. 

Re-cementing a crown that has come off and is not causing pain, smoothing a chipped tooth, and repairing teeth by composite bonding are not dental emergencies. Dentists can deal with these problems at the dentist’s office.


If you are unsure whether you have a dental emergency, you must honestly answer the following questions.:

  • Do you have any loose teeth? Adults should never lose teeth. A loose tooth, even without pain, is a serious problem.
  • Do you have any bulges, swelling or knots on your gums?
  • Are you bleeding from the mouth? This is a sign of an emergency.
  • Are you in severe pain? Severe pain and bleeding are signs of an emergency.
  • Have you been injured in the face or mouth?
  • Is there any swelling in the mouth or facial area? It might be an infection or abscess, which can be potentially life threatening.

If your answers to any of the above questions are yes, then you might be having a dental emergency and should get in touch with your dentist immediately. It’s essential to describe to your dentist exactly what has happened and what you are feeling.

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What Isn’t a Dental Emergency

If the dental problem can wait until your dentist can see you in the next couple of days, you cannot term it as a  dental emergency. Often, issues that seem critical can wait for a day or so, provided you take care of yourself.

A cracked or chipped tooth is termed as a dental emergency if it is a painful fracture or it has left sharp fragments that cause trauma inside your mouth. But, if the tooth is chipped but does not hurt, you can wait to visit your dentist.

A toothache can also wait for treatment provided the pain is not severe. Additionally, if you do not have symptoms of an abscess like swelling of the face, bumps on the gums, or a high fever, then you can wait a few days.

If you have lost a crown or filling, you can wait a few days to visit your dentist. You can temporarily stick a piece of sugar-free gum into the cavity after losing a filling.

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Dealing with Dental Emergencies Till You Meet the Dentist

  • If you are experiencing extreme pain caused by warm or hot foods or beverages, you should try drinking ice water. Drinking ice water may relieve the pain. Sipping on ice water and holding some in your mouth will give some relief until you see the dentist.
  • If you have sensitivity to cold or breathing in air is causing pain, you must avoid cold foods and beverages. Breathe through your nose and visit your dentist.
  • If you are experiencing pain in a tooth when you are biting, it might be a sign of an abscess. Having a tooth abscess is an emergency, and you should meet your dentist immediately.

Tips to Avoid a Dental Emergency

Most dental emergencies can be avoided easily by having routine checkups with your dentist. Regular checkups ensure that your mouth and teeth are free from decay and they are healthy as well as strong.

You must wear a mouth guard during sports activities. This will prevent teeth from knocked out or broken, or being chipped. Avoid chewing on hard foods and ice that may damage or fracture your teeth.

Use scissors to cut things and not your teeth.

If you plan to travel abroad or leave for an extended vacation, there are chances that you may not have access to dental care. In that scenario, it is essential to see your dentist for a routine checkup before you leave. 

Your dentist will ensure that you don’t have any loose crowns or teeth. He can also check for decay close to a tooth’s nerve that can cause you pain or develop into an abscess. Detecting these problems means that these can be easily fixed before they become a dental emergency later.

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Most Frequent Dental Emergencies

1 Knocked-Out Tooth

Yes, a knocked-out tooth is a dental emergency that requires urgent attention by your dentist. If the necessary emergency steps are followed immediately after an emergency, the chances are that your tooth can be reinserted and preserved.

It is a painful experience. You have no option and need to act quickly. Call your dentist asap and ask for guidance. If you still have the tooth, place it in a glass of milk. Try not to touch the roots, only pick it up by the top of the tooth. 

Note that the longer your tooth stays out of the mouth, the harder it will be to save it. So try to contact your dentist within 30 minutes of the accident, or you might have to go for a dental implant.

2 Broken or Cracked Tooth

Once your tooth is broken or cracked, use warm water to rinse your mouth. Place an ice pack on the side of your face where the tooth broke. This will prevent swelling. Depending on how minor the injury is, your dentist will either use a filling to fix the tooth. You might also have to go for a root canal or crown.

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3 Toothache

Having a toothache is, in fact, one of the most common dental emergencies. It could be caused by a possible tooth cavity or even teeth grinding. Rinse your mouth with warm water and floss the area to remove any stuck food. To reduce swelling, use an ice pack. Take pain medication if it worsens. Lastly, call your dentist to fix up the next available appointment.

4 Jaw Pain or Broken Jaw

If it’s a broken jaw, the best option is to see your dentist immediately. In this dental emergency, your dentist will guide you on what to do.

Abscessed Tooth – Life Threatening Dental Emergency

Although there are many dental emergencies, none of them is life-threatening other than a dental abscess. An abscessed tooth is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition. In this condition, a pocket of pus in the tooth has led to an infection. The tooth abscess may cause fever, swelling in the face, a persistent toothache, tooth sensitivity to hot as well as cold, tender lymph nodes in your neck, and a pimple-like bump on your gums near the infected tooth.

This condition can lead to an emergency as the infection can spread into your jaw, surrounding soft tissue, and other areas of the body. It is essentially important to get in touch with your dentist before the infection spreads to the jaw and other body parts. It would be best if you rinse your mouth with mild salt water several times before meeting your dentist. This would reduce the pain and draw the pus to the surface.

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Being Prepared for Common Dental Emergencies

No doubt, how many precautions you take, dental emergencies can happen any time and at any place. So, the best thing for you is to remain prepared and don’t let the panic set in. Pack a small dental first aid kit containing the following:

  • A small container with a lid
  • Name and emergency phone number of your dentist
  • Acetaminophen tablets as a pain killer to ease the pain. Aspirin or Ibuprofen are prohibited because they can act as a blood thinner and cause excessive bleeding.
  • Gauze 
  • Clean handkerchief

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Dental Emergency – Prevention 

Dental emergencies and accidents happen, and knowing what to do when they occur can mean the difference between saving and losing a tooth. 

In general, any dental problem that needs immediate attention to stop bleeding, reduce severe pain, or save a tooth is considered a dental emergency.  

When you’ve gone through one dental emergency, then the chances are that you have decided to do whatever it takes to avoid having more crises in the future.  

Prevention is key in dentistry. The same principle works in case of common dental emergencies as well. People getting their routine dental checkups are less likely to face a dental emergency than those who are not having them.