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What Is Dental Emergency And What Is Not?

Anyone who has experienced sudden toothache during middle of a night, or a holiday or while travelling, would be well aware about the misery one has to go through when dentist is not available and you have to deal with the pain yourself.

When you encounter anything to do with teeth, suddenly, outside of office hours, which involves severe pain of severe bleeding, then it is considered as a dental emergency.

Dental emergencies are common. One fifth of the population feel severe pain in the teeth at least once in their lifetime. But all the dental pains cannot be considered as emergencies. It is important to know if the situation you find yourself in can be counted as an emergency or not.

What is NOT a dental emergency?

Any dental problem that can wait till you see your dentist in a day or two or which you can take care of on your own is not an emergency.


Toothaches are common. When you have toothache which is not unbearable, and which does not indicate deeper problem of dental infection, or fever, or any swelling in the mouth, then it can wait till you see your dentist can wait for treatment till you see your dentist.

Lost crown or dental filling

If you find that your tooth has lost its filling, it can wait till you see your dentist. You can fill the cavity temporarily with a sugar free chewed chewing gum. Even with a lost crown, try to put it in place with dental adhesives or dental cement which are available over the counter. Do not use common super glue.

What IS a dental emergency? How to deal with it?

Any situation where immediate medical attention is required to save the life is an emergency. In addition to severe pain and bleeding, a lost tooth which can be saved, or severe infection which threatens life is also considered dental emergencies. In these emergencies you must call your dentist or seek treatments in any nearby hospital in their outpatient department.

The conditions that are considered as dental emergencies include severe pain, severe bleeding in the mouth, gums, or teeth, sudden loss of tooth, adults having loose teeth, infection or abscess in the mouth.

Cracked OR chipped tooth

Cracked and chipped teeth are emergency because cracked tooth can develop into a fracture where there is a possibility to lose a tooth and if not treated properly it may develop infection. As quickly as possible you should try and get an appointment with your dentist when you find you have a cracked tooth. A chipped tooth can an emergency if the chipped end is sharp and injures the inside of your mouth or tongue. It will soothe your mouth if you can wash your mouth with warm water. Apply cold compress to relieve pain and stop swelling.

A knocked-out tooth

A tooth that has come lose because of an impact on the face because of collision with a hard surface like tiled or cemented floor or a wall, or due to an accident, needs to be reinstalled immediately. It is considered an emergency because each minute lapsed between the accident and start of the treatment reduces the chance of getting the tooth reinstated in its socket. When you find that your tooth has been knocked out, first thing you do is pick up the tooth gently, by the crown not the root- because roots have delicate nerves attached to it- and put it in a small container or if possible in a cup of milk. If you can see your dentist immediately, the dentist can put the tooth back in its socket and there are fair chances that your tooth get reattached in its socket with roots. If your tooth has been dirtied the surrounding area, then wash it gently with cold water taking care not to drop it in the sink. Put a towel in the sink so that it doesn’t get into the drainage hole.

Infected tooth

A dental abscess is life threating situation if not treated immediately. The infection in the root of the tooth or gums, can spread into the jaw and create unbearable pain. This abscess is very painful and has the potential to erupt in other part of the face and body. Because of its potential for severe pain, and further damage to the tooth and gums, an abscessed tooth is considered an dental emergency. While you are waiting for the appointment with the dentist, you can rinse your mouth with saltwater many times. This will reduce the pain the abscess inflicts, and also draws the pus to the surface so that it will be easier to take it out.

Severe bleeding in the mouth: When you have had an accident and find yourself bleeding from the mouth, you must call your dentist immediately. Bleeding in the mouth can have many causes. A loose tooth if uprooted from the gums cause profuse bleeding because of the severed blood vessels which are feeding oxygen to the tooth. Sometimes the inside of the mouth or tongue get cut causing high bleeding. If your tongue seems to be cut, draw it out and press a soft towel onto it till the bleeding stops. A sharp edge of a broken tooth also may hurt your cheeks and make them bleed. Cold compress on the cheeks can help in clotting the blood till you reach your dentist.

All the dentists normally keep some time in their daily timetable for unscheduled emergencies. Keep the numbers of your dental workers handy in your wallet or phone all the time. It is advisable to ask the dentist for the calling numbers when not in office. Out of office hour numbers can help you find the dentist when an emergency strikes at odd hour.

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