What to do when you are experiencing a dental emergency

Dental emergencies are common and can range from minor to life-threatening. The following are some guidelines to follow should you encounter a dental emergency.


Toothaches are one of the most common dental emergencies. They can arise from a number of issues including a deep cavity, an infected tooth, or even food lodged under the gums. Pain can be temporarily managed with over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or Tylenol until you are able to make it into our office. If you have any swelling it may indicate a serious infection and you should contact us immediately. If the swelling is causing any difficulty breathing you should head to the emergency room immediately. Pain accompanied by swelling usually indicates a need for antibiotics.

Chipped or broken teeth:

The majority of chipped and broken teeth do not lead to pain unless the break is quite deep. Rinse the mouth using warm water to make sure all broken pieces are out of the mouth. Call our office so we can determine what can be done to fix the broken tooth. You will likely need a filling or crown depending on the extent of the damage.

Knocked-out tooth:

A knocked out tooth should be treated immediately as the ability to replant the tooth is very time sensitive. Retrieve the tooth, hold it by the crown (the part that is usually exposed in the mouth), and rinse off the tooth root with water if it's dirty. Do NOT scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. If possible, try to put the tooth back in place making sure it is oriented in the correct direction. If you are unable to put the tooth back in the socket, the tooth should be stored in a small container of milk or a product containing cell growth medium, such as Save-a-Tooth. If neither of those options are possible, the tooth can be kept in saliva. Do NOT store the tooth in water. In all cases, please call us as soon as possible. A knocked out tooth has the highest chance of being saved if the tooth is placed back in the socket within one hour.

Extruded (out of position) tooth:

Attempt to push the tooth back into the proper place as soon as possible and call our office right away. Until you reach our office, apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek in the affected area and take an over-the-counter pain reliever if needed. Your tooth will likely be temporarily splinted into place while it heals. There is a possibility the tooth will need a root canal, but this will be determined following evaluation.

Objects caught between teeth:

First, try using dental floss to very gently and carefully remove the object. If you own a water pick you may also attempt flushing the object out with the water pick. Never use a pin or other sharp object as these instruments can cut your gums or scratch your tooth surface. If you are unable to retrieve the object with one of these methods you should contact our office.

Lost filling:

As long as you are not experiencing pain or sensitivity on the tooth, it can be left alone until you are able to see your dentist. If you are having some sensitivity and are unable to be seen right away, there are over the counter products such as Dentemp that can be placed into the hole where the filling fell out off to help alleviate sensitivity. Please call our office so we can set up an appointment for evaluation.

While these are not all of the possible dental emergencies that occur, those discussed above are very common. If you are not sure of what needs to be done to address your emergency, the best thing to do is call us so we can determine the seriousness of your emergency and set you up with an appropriate appointment. 

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