Your Guide To Common Dental Emergencies​

Man requiring an emergency dentist

Dental health is an essential aspect of your overall well-being. Promptly recognising and addressing common dental emergencies can prevent complications and ensure your teeth and gums remain in good condition. This guide will help you identify dental emergencies, understand the appropriate steps, and know where to seek help.

How To Identify A Dental Emergency

There are two groups of dental emergencies: those that require immediate attention and those that can wait until regular office hours.

What Is Considered A Dental Emergencies:

  1. A knocked-out tooth (avulsion): A tooth completely dislodged from its socket, requiring immediate dental care to save the tooth.
  2. Cracked or chipped teeth: Damaged teeth with visible fractures or chips can cause pain, sensitivity, and potential infection if not treated promptly.
  3. Lost crown or filling: A dental crown that has fallen out, leaving the tooth exposed and vulnerable to further damage, decay, or infection.
  4. Tooth abscess: A bacterial infection causing a pus-filled pocket to form around a tooth, leading to severe pain and swelling.
  5. Severe toothaches or sudden pain around the tooth: Intense pain in or around a tooth, often signalling an underlying dental issue that requires urgent care.
  6. Bleeding gums or a swollen jaw: Excessive bleeding from the gums or noticeable swelling in the jaw can indicate an infection, trauma, or another dental issue.

Non-Dental Emergencies:

  1. A mouth that tastes like metal: A metallic taste in the mouth can be caused by various factors, including dental fillings, medications, or dehydration, and is typically not an emergency.
  2. One or more loose teeth in adults: Loose teeth in adults can be a sign of gum disease or other dental issues, but they generally do not require immediate attention.
  3. Lesions that won’t heal: Non-healing sores or lesions in the mouth can be a sign of an underlying issue, but they are not typically considered an emergency.
  4. Chronic headaches: Persistent headaches may be related to dental issues, such as bruxism (teeth grinding) or TMJ disorders. However, they are not always considered dental emergencies.

Dental emergencies include knocked-out teeth, cracked or chipped teeth, lost crowns or fillings, tooth abscesses, severe toothaches, and bleeding gums or swollen jaws. Non-emergencies involve metallic tastes, loose teeth, non-healing lesions, and chronic headaches.

How To Handle Specific Dental Emergencies?

The first thing you should do is contact your emergency dentist. However, to ensure the best chance of success, here is what can be after that for various dental emergencies.

A. Detached tooth

If you experience a loose tooth, acting quickly and contacting your emergency dentist is essential. Soak the tooth in milk to keep it moist while you seek help. The healing process may require medication and follow-up visits with your dentist to avoid further dental issues.

B. Knocked-out tooth

When your tooth is knocked out, you may feel panic. This situation can be overwhelming, but there are steps you can take to ensure the best possible chance at preserving the tooth. Try to pick up and handle the tooth only by the crown (the top part, not the root). You must rinse it off with cold water if it is contaminated; otherwise, try not to touch the roots, push it straight back in, and hold it in place. If you cannot do this, store it in a container of milk or saliva, and bring it to your dentist as soon as possible. The success rate for saving a knocked-out tooth lowers drastically after one hour. If you are in this situation, do not hesitate to seek immediate help.

C. Lost crown or filling

In the unfortunate event of your crown or filling falling out, you can take some simple steps immediately to get control of the situation. Ensure the crown or filling is nowhere in your mouth, as this can be a choking hazard. Once confirmed that it’s no longer there, contact your dentist for an emergency appointment and explain what has happened. Getting an appointment as soon as possible is essential, as not having a replaced crown or filling risks further damage to your teeth and gums. To reduce discomfort and protect the exposed area from sensitivity, use dental cement topical gel until you can see your dentist.

D. Chipped or cracked tooth

When dealing with a chipped or cracked tooth, rinse your mouth with warm water and keep your teeth clean. Consider applying cold compression to ease swelling. If your appointment requires a meal in-between, avoid eating hard foods, which could injure the damaged area. Try to stick to oatmeal and soup until your dentist has seen you.

E. Toothache

If you are dealing with a toothache, dentists recommend several steps to help alleviate the pain and discomfort until you can see a professional. Start by gently rinsing your mouth with warm water to remove debris or trapped food particles. Next, floss between the teeth near the affected area to dislodge irritants. Manage the pain with over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Panado or aspirin, but avoid placing aspirin directly on the tooth or gums. Finally, apply a cold compress or ice pack to the outside of your cheek near the painful area to reduce swelling and numb the pain.

In case of dental emergencies, contact your emergency dentist and follow specific steps for each situation: for detached or knocked-out teeth, act quickly and preserve the tooth in milk; for lost crowns or fillings, schedule an urgent appointment and use dental cement gel; for chipped or cracked teeth, rinse, apply cold compression, and eat soft foods; and for toothaches, use pain relievers, and apply cold compresses.

Where To Go For A Dental Emergency?

Knowing where to go for a dental emergency can make all the difference in preserving your oral health. Here are two options:

  • Dentist’s office: Your regular dentist should be your first point of contact.
  • Emergency dental clinics: If your regular dentist is unavailable, search for an “emergency dentist near me” or “24-hour dentist” to find a clinic specialising in urgent dental care. Alternatively, your dentist might have outside emergency hours, which will be a more comfortable experience.

How To Prevent Potential Dental Emergencies?

Prevention is critical when it comes to dental emergencies. Here are some ways to reduce your risk:


  • Regular dental check-upsVisit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings to maintain good oral health and identify potential issues before they become emergencies.
  • Proper oral hygiene: Brush your teeth twice daily, floss daily, and use mouthwash to prevent gum disease and tooth decay.
  • Mouth guards for sports: Wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth from injury if you play contact sports.
  • Avoiding hard and sticky foods: Chewing on hard or sticky foods can cause tooth damage, such as cracks or chips. Opt for softer foods whenever possible.
  • Maintain a balanced diet: Consuming a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium and vitamin D, can help strengthen your teeth and support overall oral health.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking water throughout the day helps rinse away food particles and bacteria and promotes saliva production, which is essential for maintaining a healthy oral environment.
  • Avoid using teeth as tools: Refrain from using your teeth to open packages or bottle caps or perform other tasks that can cause damage to your teeth and increase the risk of a dental emergency.
  • Address bruxism (teeth grinding): If you suffer from bruxism, consult your dentist for treatment options, such as custom night guards, which can help protect your teeth and prevent damage while you sleep.

Prevent dental emergencies by maintaining good oral hygiene, scheduling regular check-ups, using mouthguards, and adopting a balanced diet. Avoid using teeth as tools and address bruxism for better dental health.

Urgently addressing dental emergencies is vital for preserving your oral health. You can effectively manage these situations by recognising common dental emergencies, knowing the appropriate steps to take, and knowing where to seek help. Always prioritise proactive dental care and maintain good oral hygiene to prevent emergencies from occurring in the first place.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A broken tooth is considered a dental emergency as it can lead to infection, further damage, and possible tooth loss.

Not all cavities are dental emergencies. However, experiencing severe pain or swelling may be a sign of a more serious issue that requires urgent care.

Over-the-counter pain relievers and cold compresses can help alleviate pain temporarily. However, seeking professional help to address the underlying issue is crucial.

Signs of a dental abscess include severe toothache, swelling, pus, fever, and a foul taste in the mouth. If you suspect a dental abscess, seek immediate dental care.

Disclaimer: The information and advice in this blog post are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional dental advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We are not responsible for any outcomes or decisions based on the information provided here.

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Dr. Clifford Yudelman

Founder & Principal Dentist

As a globally recognised restorative and cosmetic dentistry expert, Clifford brings over 40 years of experience across four continents. A 1983 Bachelor of Dental Science graduate from the University of Witwatersrand, his career has spanned private practices in London, San Diego, Perth, and Cape Town. Currently the founder and principal dentist at OptiSmile, he is celebrated for transforming dental visits into positive experiences and fostering patient confidence through superior dental health, with a commitment to the latest dental technology for improved patient outcomes.

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