What is Emergency Dental Care?

What is Emergency Dental Care? (Comprehensive Guide 2023)

What is Emergency Dental Care? If you have a serious dental problem, such as uncontrollable bleeding, pain that does not improve with medication, or broken facial bones, you should seek emergency dental care.

What is Emergency Dental Care?

It is critical to understand the distinction between standard dental care and emergency dental care. Read on for a better understanding.

What is Emergency Dental Care?

Emergency dental care is the dental service provided by professionals in the event of a dental emergency. Dental emergencies are situations in which you experience discomfort, swelling, or pain that could lead to serious problems in the future.

If you have a dental emergency, the first thing you should do is call your dentist for assistance. If you don’t have a dentist, go to your nearest urgent care center or emergency room.

What are dental emergencies?

A dental emergency is defined as any dental problem that necessitates immediate attention.

Any injury to your mouth that causes uncontrollable bleeding, severe pain, or broken facial bones is considered a dental emergency. Untreated, a dental emergency can lead to even more problems, such as infection spread, tooth mobility, and even tooth loss. Prompt and timely treatment is critical. The first thing you should do if you have a dental emergency is to call your dentist.

Examples of dental emergencies include:

  • Severe toothache.
  • Badly cracked tooth.
  • Knocked-out tooth.
  • Extruded (partially dislodged) tooth.
  • Dental abscess (swelling of your face and jaw).
  • Lost or broken dental restoration.
  • Severe soft tissue injury (like a busted lip or deep cut).

Certain dental or gum injuries can be severe, resulting in further damage. If you have a dental emergency, you should contact your dentist right away or go to the emergency room.

Non-Emergency Dental Issues

There are also non-emergency dental situations. If you encounter any of such, you should still see your dentist as soon as possible. But it’s fine to wait for an appointment during regular business hours.

Examples of non-emergency dental issues include:

  • A toothache that is dull or mild.
  • A tooth with a small chip or crack.
  • Broken braces.
  • An object lodged between your teeth.
  • Minor soft tissue damage (like a small cut or sore).

Remember, though, if you have severe bleeding or pain, you should see a dental or healthcare provider right away.

How to manage symptoms until you see a dentist

1. Dull toothache

For a dull toothache, try:

  • Use warm water to rinse your mouth.
  • Floss your teeth to see if anything is stuck between them.
  • Take an acetaminophen, naproxen, or ibuprofen over-the-counter pain reliever.
  • Never directly apply aspirin to your gums. It will cause tissue burns.
  • Make an appointment with your dentist.

2. Small chip or crack in your tooth

It’s okay to wait until your dentist can see you if you have a small chip or crack in your tooth that isn’t causing you any pain.

However, if any sharp edges irritate your tongue or cheeks, cover them with orthodontic wax. Orthodontic wax can be found in the oral health section of most pharmacies.

3. Broken braces

Broken braces are usually not a dental emergency unless you have bleeding from your mouth.

If you have a broken wire poking you in the cheek or tongue, use a pencil eraser or other blunt object to bend the end of the wire gently.

Then, until you can see your dentist or orthodontist, cover the wire with orthodontic wax.

4. Object stuck between your teeth

  • Never use sharp instruments to remove an object.
  • If you have something lodged between your teeth, try to remove it using dental floss or an interproximal brush gently.

5. Minor soft tissue injury

  • Rinse your mouth thoroughly with a saltwater solution or antibacterial mouthwash.
  • Apply pressure to the affected area with a clean cotton gauze piece.
  • Within 15 to 20 minutes, the bleeding should stop.
  • If you are still experiencing severe bleeding after that, you should seek immediate medical attention.

When is it necessary to seek emergency dental care?

According to an American Family Physicians survey, approximately 22% of patients reported experiencing oral pain. This demonstrates the importance of dental care. However, not every dental problem necessitates immediate attention.

Therefore, the next time you experience dental pain or discomfort, simply ask yourself the following questions to determine if you require emergency dental care:

  1. Is the pain excruciating? A dental emergency can be indicated by severe pain and bleeding.
  2. Have you recently lost a tooth? Immediate dental care can effectively save a tooth.
  3. Do you have any crooked or loosed teeth? Adults should not have loose teeth, even if they are not in pain, because they can lead to serious problems later in life.
  4. Do you have an infection? A serious infection or even an abscess in the mouth can have potentially fatal consequences and must be treated right away.
  5. Do you have any bleeding from your mouth? Bleeding from the mouth could indicate that you require emergency dental care.

In general, any dental problem that necessitates immediate attention and treatment, such as stopping bleeding, relieving pain, or preserving a tooth, justifies the use of emergency dental care services.

What are the most common issues addressed by emergency dental care?

Here are some of the most common oral problems that necessitate emergency dental care:

1. Unexplained toothache

Toothaches are not only painful and irritating, but they also indicate that something is wrong in your mouth.

Find a qualified emergency dentist to diagnose and treat the root cause of your tooth pain if you experience an unexpected acute toothache.

Aside from that, you can try the following to relieve pain until you can get to the dentist:

  • Apply a cold compress.
  • Rinse your mouth with salt water.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers.

2. Gum Bleeding/Swelling

Although not all gum irritations necessitate emergency dental care, it is critical to seek dental care if your gums bleed incessantly. This is especially important if the bleeding is accompanied by swelling and pain, as this could indicate an underlying health or dental issue.

Every time your gums bleed, there is a reason for it, so it is best to seek emergency dental care in this case.

3. Swollen Mouth/Jaw

If you have swelling in your jaw or mouth for no apparent reason, you should seek emergency dental care.

A variety of factors, including lymph node irritation, infection, or other factors, could cause unexplained swelling in the mouth or jaw.

4. Exposed nerves

Exposed nerves are agonizing to bear, and the pain worsens until you see a dentist.

In the event of exposed nerves, it is strongly advised to seek emergency dental care. This can help to avoid additional nerve damage, infection, and the need for more extensive dental treatments.

5. Tooth loss

It may take some time to recover from tooth loss caused by a heavy blow. According to studies conducted by the American Association of Endodontists, dentists can save and reinsert fallen teeth if the patient seeks emergency dental care as soon as possible.

However, before visiting the dentist, you should follow these precautions:

  • Pick up the fallen tooth carefully by the top and avoid touching the tooth.
  • Rinse it thoroughly but do not scrub it.
  • If possible, try to re-insert the tooth into its socket.
  • If not, place the broken tooth in a container filled with water or milk.
  • Find a way to get the teeth to a dentist as soon as possible.

6. Missing tooth filling

Another reason to seek emergency medical care is the loss of a tooth filling, as the tooth can become chipped or break away without reinforcement. This may even expose the tooth’s nerves, causing a variety of dental issues. As a result, if you are missing a tooth filling, you should seek emergency dental care.

Urgent Vs. Non-Urgent Emergency Dental Care

Understanding the distinction between an urgent and a non-urgent dental emergency can help you save a tooth.

A knocked-out tooth, for example, must be treated by our emergency dentist the same day, regardless of whether the accident occurred during office hours. If you believe you require emergency dental care, please contact a dentist as soon as possible.

Other dental emergencies, such as a lost porcelain crown, may not require the same level of urgency and can be treated during normal business hours.

If you are experiencing severe dental pain or have lacerated your gums, cheeks, or tongue, you have an urgent dental emergency.

Urgent dental emergencies

Examples of urgent dental emergencies are as follows:

  • Severe toothache
  • Dental abscess
  • Loose tooth
  • Knocked-out tooth
  • A broken tooth or a large piece of a tooth is missing
  • Large crack or chip in a tooth

Non-urgent dental emergencies

Examples of non-urgent dental emergencies are as follows:

  • Lost filling, crown, or bridge
  • Dull toothache
  • Food lodged between teeth
  • A small chip or crack in a tooth

Basics of Preventing a Dental Emergency

1. Use a mouthguard.

Do you enjoy sports? Show your enthusiasm for the game without jeopardizing your perfect smile. Avoid rough plays that cause facial and mouth injuries or chip or knock out a tooth. Protect yourself from dental emergencies by wearing a mouthguard before you hit the court or field.

2. Pay attention to what and how you eat.

Human teeth are strong, but you’d be surprised how easily they can be cracked or chipped.

Hard candy and tough meats are just a few of the things that can break otherwise strong, straight, and beautiful teeth. The best way to avoid this is to pause before biting.

If you’re thinking about indulging your sweet tooth, don’t. It’s not worth the risk of chipping a tooth on top of cavities caused by sugar overload.

3. Avoid chewing on anything else.

Many people have oral fixations, such as biting their nails or chewing on pen caps or other non-food items. But did you know that these bad habits can cause your teeth to crack or chip?

You can break these bad habits by keeping your hands busy and chewing sugarless gum to redirect oral fixations, which also boosts saliva production and cleanses bacteria.


Now you know what emergency dental care is. Emergency dental care is intended for situations in which prompt treatment of dental issues can make a significant difference in the outcome. For example, if your teeth are knocked out, or your mouth becomes swollen or painful for no apparent reason, you should seek emergency dental care right away.

Find American emergency dentists here.

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