Tips and Advice For What To Do in a Dental Emergency

Imagine you’re enjoying a game of football when, suddenly, the ball connects with your face. Your front tooth feels loose and wobbly, and a sharp pain shoots through your jaw. This is a classic example of a dental emergency – a sudden dental problem requiring prompt attention from a dentist to prevent further damage or infection.

Knowing how to react in such situations is crucial. Urgent dental care can significantly reduce pain, prevent complications, and potentially even save a tooth. Here’s a guide to navigating a dental emergency effectively:

A little girl loses a baby tooth while swimming and relaxing on the beach, frightened

Common Dental Emergencies

Some situations require immediate attention, even outside regular clinic hours. Here are the most common dental emergencies:

Severe toothache

A persistent, throbbing toothache that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter pain medication like paracetamol or ibuprofen could indicate an abscess, tooth infection, or other serious problem.

Broken or chipped tooth

A significant break or chip can expose the pulp (the inner part of the tooth) and nerves, leading to sensitivity and increasing your risk of infection.

Knocked-out tooth

Acting quickly is crucial when a tooth is knocked out. Taking prompt action can greatly improve the chances of successfully reattaching the tooth.

Lost filling or crown

A lost filling or crown leaves the underlying tooth vulnerable to decay and further damage.

Dental abscess or infection

A painful tooth abscess, a collection of pus near the root, requires urgent treatment to prevent the infection from spreading to your jawbone or bloodstream.

Loose or uncomfortable dentures

While not a life-threatening situation, a loose or uncomfortable denture can make eating and speaking difficult. Getting help from an emergency dentist quickly can fix the issue and make a big difference in your daily life.

Essential Tips for Handling a Dental Emergency

A dental emergency can be stressful, but staying calm and following these steps can make a big difference:

Stay calm and assess the situation

Take a deep breath and try to remain calm. Briefly assess the situation to determine the nature of the problem and the severity of the pain.

Contact your dentist or an emergency dental service immediately

Many dental offices have an emergency contact number for after-hours emergencies. If you’re unable to contact your dentist or do not have one, visit the closest hospital emergency room. Describe your emergency and ask about scheduling an emergency dental appointment.

Managing pain and discomfort

While waiting for your appointment, you can manage pain with over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen, following the recommended dosage instructions.

Temporary solutions for broken or knocked-out teeth

  • Chipped or cracked tooth: Apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek or face near the affected area to reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort.
  • Knocked-out tooth: If you can, find the tooth. Don’t rub the root. Gently rinse the tooth with milk or water, but avoid using tap water and then try to return it to its place. If that’s not possible, hold the tooth by the top part (not the root) and keep it in a container with water or milk until you can visit the dentist. Acting quickly increases the likelihood of saving the tooth.

Preventing infection and further damage

Gently rinse your mouth with warm salt water to help cleanse the area. Avoid chewing on hard foods or using the affected area altogether to prevent further damage.

Keep any fragments or lost fillings

If you have any fragments from a broken tooth or a lost filling, keep them safe in a container and bring them with you to your dental appointment. This can help the dentist determine the best course of treatment.

Advice for Quick Relief

Here are some additional tips for temporary relief while waiting for your emergency dentist appointment:

Using over-the-counter pain medication

As mentioned earlier, over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen can help manage dental pain and discomfort.

Rinsing with salt water

Create a saltwater mixture by mixing half a teaspoon of table salt in a glass of warm water. Swish around gently for 30 seconds and then spit it out. Do this multiple times daily.

Applying a cold compress

Place a cold pack on your cheek or face next to the swollen area to help decrease swelling and relieve pain.

Avoiding certain foods or activities

Avoid chewing on hard or sticky foods, as they can worsen the situation. Refrain from strenuous activities that could potentially dislodge a loose tooth.


A dental emergency can be stressful, but knowing how to react can minimize damage and discomfort. Remember, time is of the essence. By staying calm, contacting your dentist promptly, and following these helpful tips, you can navigate a dental emergency effectively and get the professional care you need to restore your oral health. Being ready and knowledgeable can help prevent a dental emergency from becoming a big issue. Make sure to see your dentist regularly and keep up with good oral hygiene habits to reduce the chances of dental issues.

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