Emergency Dentist: What is a Dental Emergency and How to Book for Urgent Dental Needs

Dental emergencies like broken teeth, swelling, and inflammation can happen anytime. Here's how emergency dentists will help you deal with them.

Broken a tooth? Experiencing swelling? It may be a dental emergency

Dental emergencies can happen anytime and it’s not always that people have a dentist on their speed dial. Often these things can arise without warning, for example if you chip or break a tooth or knock out a crown. The sooner you get in touch with a trained emergency dentist, the more chances you have of preventing other dental issues, because the time between a dental emergency and contacting an emergency dentist should be brief.

Some dental practices, in fact, set time aside to deal with such problems as a pre-emptive measure. There will most likely be a 24-hour emergency dentist available or your own preferred one might act in the capacity of an after-hours emergency dentist.


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Knocked-Out Tooth Due to Accident or Trauma

A broken tooth is the most common dental emergency that one can think of, which requires urgent dental care if you hope to save the tooth. Look for an emergency dentist service while taking the following steps:

  • Locate the broken tooth and lift it with your fingers by the crown. Do not touch the root.
  • Carefully rinse it lightly but do not scrub it clean and block the drain of the sink so as not to lose it that way.
  • Try placing it in a small container filled with milk

These instructions pertain to a wisdom broken tooth. Reinsertion of a milk tooth is not advisable but contact an emergency dentist all the same to treat the trauma to the gums and lips if any.

How to Deal With Chipped, Fractured, or Cracked Teeth

In case of a chipped tooth, do not worry too much if it does not hurt. However, you should still contact your dentist when it’s convenient. They might use some filling material to restore it back to the way it was. However care must be taken so as not to chip the tooth even more; for example, while eating.

A fractured or cracked tooth on the other hand is a dental emergency and you must try and get an urgent dental appointment immediately. In these instances, damage usually may be done to both the exterior as well as the interior of the tooth. It is generally advisable to follow the steps mentioned below until you can get to a dental professional:

  • Rinse mouth properly with warm water.
  • If the causative agent was in the facial area, then apply something to cool the injured area to prevent swelling from getting worse.
  • Generally, Paracetamol may be able to help relieve some, but always consult a qualified healthcare professional prior to using any drug
  • You must not use a painkiller that has to be applied to the gum because it will likely burn it.

Your emergency dentist will perform an x-ray to determine the amount of damage done and then go from there. For example, if only the very exterior of the tooth has been damaged, a simple crown will suffice. But if the tooth pulp has been damaged as well (the interior soft tissue of the tooth) then the dentist may have to perform a procedure that is known as a root canal.

Some emergency dentists construct crowns in their offices and apply them the same day as the accident. Others may need to use a separate lab to do so and will, therefore, provide you with a temporary one until the new one is ready. If, as mentioned earlier, the tooth is damaged beyond repair, your dentist will inform you of various ways to replace the tooth, for example bridges.

Knowing and Dealing with Emergency Tooth Pain

The following steps can be taken to help with this form of dental emergency apart from seeking urgent dental care which is extremely important:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water to help clean out leftover, stuck food remains.
  • If there is swelling, use cold and not heat to minimize it and apply it on the exterior part of the cheek.
  • For pain use simple, over-the-counter painkillers that do not require a prescription.
  • Do not use painkillers that have to be applied to the gum or tooth or place aspirin in those areas as it may cause damage.

As mentioned above apart from all these steps, look for an emergency dentist service as soon as you can.

Accidentally Biting Your Own Lip or Cheek

Accidentally biting your lip or cheek can happen while you are eating, talking or as a result of an accident e.g. tripping/falling. It can also happen without the patient realising it in the case of an application of a local anaesthetic in the affected area. Depending on the severity, the area may become significantly painful and there is also a chance of an infection. It is also important to know that since the bitten area resembles areas after suffering chemical burns, these injuries can be mistaken for the latter.

The following two steps can be taken in this case of dental emergency:

  • Rinse the mouth with warm saltwater to speed up the natural healing process. Approximately half of a teaspoon of salt in light warm water would be ideal.
  • If an infection sets in, immediately seek urgent dental care.

Tissue Injury and Trauma

Any kind of wound inflicted on the tongue, cheek, lips or mouth is known as a tissue injury and is categorised as a dental emergency for which dental emergency procedures are required immediately. There are also certain steps you can take on your own as well to supplement that:

  • Use a clean piece of cloth or bandage to the wound to keep pressure on it to stop the bleeding.
  • Put yourself in a seated position. Do not stand nor lie down. Keep at the first step in this seated position for a minimum of ten minutes.
  • If you are unable to stem the bleeding, seek immediate medical and/or urgent dental care.
  • Use cold (not heat) for relief from pain and to minimise swelling.
  • Prepare light warm saltwater as specified in the earlier section to rinse the mouth until the wound is healed completely to alleviate the chances of an infection setting in on the wound.
  • Only use Paracetamol as a painkiller. Others like aspirin and ibuprofen may cause uncontrollable bleeding on account of being anticoagulant drugs.

Feeling a Tooth Loosening Up?

If you suffer from a loose tooth or an unaligned tooth you should call an emergency dentist and make an urgent dental appointment with him/her. In the meanwhile, try putting your tooth back in its original position and apply a little pressure, but not too much.

Try clenching your teeth after that to prevent it from moving. Your emergency dentist will also use the same principles e.g. he may use the support of an adjacent tooth to keep the loose or unaligned tooth anchored in place.

Unexpected Problems with Temporary Restorations, Fillings Falling Out

Temporary restorations like temporary crowns while a permanent one is being made in a lab, can come off. This is typically not a dental emergency. Simply put it back as soon as possible to keep the concerned tooth in its place.

Move it around a bit till it fits. Bite down on it but maintain even pressure on the crown. Visit your dentist soon as possible afterwards to have it properly fitted again.

A filling e.g. a broken tooth filling or a chipped tooth filling, on the other hand, can also fall out but cannot be restored by yourself even temporarily. A dental emergency procedure is required so as not to worsen decay or further chipping. A broken tooth filling or a chipped tooth filling can fall out without you knowing unless you watch out for the following things to determine if a filling has fallen out:

  • A sudden pain in the tooth that had been treated with a filling.
  • Feeling a small but hard object around in your mouth after taking a bite or several bites, or generally biting down on anything hard.
  • The tooth treated with the fillings becomes sensitive to temperature of food i.e. sensitivity to hot and cold foods.
  • You can feel something missing or like a cavity when you trace your tongue along the tooth in question

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Frequently Asked Questions

How to Check for a Dental Emergency?

To determine whether you are experiencing a dental emergency, the following things can be generally considered as a factor(s):

  • Is your mouth bleeding?
  • Are you experiencing extreme pain?
  • Can you feel any of your teeth loose?
  • Have you been struck on the face or the mouth?
  • Is there any swelling in the mouth or in the general facial area?
  • Can you feel any form of swelling, hard lumps or knots on your gums?

If your answer is yet to one or some of these questions, then chances are you may be experiencing a dental emergency and may require a dental emergency procedure. Find an emergency dentist immediately and exercise full and detailed disclosure when describing the problem to them.

In the meantime take some steps like drinking ice water when experiencing pain caused by hot or warm food items, avoiding cold food when experiencing sensitivity to cold food items and breathing through the nasal cavity in case of sensitivity to cold inhaled air etc. Knowing how to easily find a 24 hour emergency dentist or an after hours emergency dentist in case of such emergencies can be very helpful. HealthEngine can be used to search and find relevant emergency dentists near you.

Looking for a dentist?
Find dentists near you and book your next appointment online