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What to Do in a Dental Emergency?

Whether you’ve had an injury to your mouth or face or have oral pain, you may wonder if you should tough it out or if it’s a true dental emergency. Some people are even afraid that emergency treatment from the dentist won’t be covered by insurance.

However, if you have a fever, extreme pain, swelling, or bleeding that can’t be contained, it’s imperative that you seek immediate treatment for your dental emergency. Calling your dentist as soon as possible will help you know what to do next.

Determining If You Have a Dental Emergency?

Maybe it’s after hours, and you’re not sure what you’re experiencing is an urgent dental situation. Dental emergencies are defined as anything that is life-threatening and requires immediate medical treatment to halt bleeding or to relieve pain or infection.

Uncontrolled bleeding is one of the symptoms that tops the list for dental emergencies. It could be caused by a sports injury, accident, or another trauma. Teeth and facial bones that have been impacted by trauma are also a dental emergency. Soft-tissue infections that cause swelling are also urgent as they can block your airway and prevent breathing.

Additionally, if you experience severe pain in your teeth from decay or a wisdom tooth, especially following an extraction, it’s urgent that you seek care. Fractured or chipped teeth and abscesses that lead to pain and swelling must also be treated immediately.

What Can Cause a Dental Emergency?

Most dental emergencies are caused by sports or car accidents. If you eat something hard or chew something you shouldn’t, such as ice, or using your teeth to open a bottle, it can also lead to an urgent dental visit.

While accidents can and do happen, other dental emergencies can be avoided. If you take proper care of your teeth and gums, you will avoid many emergency issues like infections in your teeth and gums. 

How to Handle a Dental Emergency Before You See the Dentist

If you have a dental emergency, it’s important to remain calm. Here are a few common dental emergencies and what you can do until you get medical treatment.


Toothaches aren’t always an emergency, but they can quickly become one. A toothache can be caused by dental decay, tooth infection, cracked teeth, gum disease, or even something lodged between your teeth.

Until you can get to the dentist, you can try flossing carefully to see if you can remove any trapped food particles that may be causing your pain. Rinsing with warm salt water can also soothe irritations and swelling. Take acetaminophen to relieve the pain, and if your face is swollen, use a cold compress on your cheek.

Knocked-Out Tooth

For children, if a primary tooth, also known as a baby tooth, gets knocked out, you can apply pressure for any bleeding. You should make an appointment with your dentist as soon as you can, but don’t try putting this type of tooth back in the socket.

If it’s a permanent tooth either for a child or an adult, find the tooth and hold it by the crown rather than the root. Do not scrub it and put it back into the socket, holding it in place. You will need to keep the tooth moist at all costs. If you can’t get it into the socket, hold it in your cheek while you seek emergency dental care.

The only other option you have for preserving a permanent tooth that has been knocked out is to stick it in a clean container with milk, saliva, or an emergency tooth preservation solution which you can find at drugstores. You never want to put it into water. The faster you get treatment for this kind of dental emergency, the better your chances of saving your original tooth.

Chipped or Broken Teeth

You may not even notice if you chip a tooth, but you will want to get emergency treatment right away. Chipped, broken, and cracked teeth are prone to infection. Rinse your mouth with warm water and check for rough edges or sensitivity to temperature. If you have pain or swelling, use a cold compress on your face.

Preventing Dental Injuries

The best way to avoid a dental emergency is to take preventative steps. For example, when you play sports, wear a mouthguard. It’s common in team sports for children to wear proper safety equipment. Often, these dental injuries that happen while playing sports are the result of impromptu games, riding bikes, or skating.

When driving, wear your seatbelt and make sure your kids are properly buckled up too. Seatbelts not only save lives but also save teeth from devastating impacts in the event of a crash.

Children can be prone to falls and injuries in your home. Be sure you childproof danger-prone areas to prevent them from knocking out their teeth.

Additionally, don’t chew on hard foods or use your teeth as a tool. Keeping up with your regular dental checkups and cleanings will also prevent many dental emergencies. No one ever wants to have any kind of emergency, so take these prevention tips to heart, and you’ll be less likely to need emergency dental services.

What If I Have a Dental Emergency?

First and foremost, you should never panic in any kind of emergency. After that, contact a Charlotte, NC emergency dentist, as they can advise you on what to do before you come in for treatment.

Whether a dental emergency is happening to you or a family member, the best thing you can do is take action immediately. Don’t feel embarrassed about calling the dentist for what you think may be an emergency. They will advise you if it can wait or if you need to come in right away.

Bottom line: life-threatening emergencies will require immediate medical attention. If that means going to the emergency room, then do not delay. If your dental emergency isn’t threatening your life, your dentist will likely schedule you first thing in the morning. They will also advise you on what to do until you can be seen to minimize your discomfort. 

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