Your dentist should be the first person
you call if you have a dental emergency. Most dentists set aside
time for emergency procedures. Be sure to keep your dentist's
after hours contact information readily available at all times.
home or traveling, the following tips can help you manage a
dental emergency until you can get to the dentist. It is
important to remember that with some dental emergencies, seeing
a dentist within 30 minutes or less can mean the difference
between saving or losing your tooth.
tooth is a dental emergency that requires urgent attention. If
the appropriate emergency steps are followed immediately after
the tooth has been knocked out, the chances are very good that
the tooth can be reinserted and preserved by a dentist.
Pick up the
tooth by the top (crown) of the tooth. Do not touch the root(s)
of the tooth.
tooth off very gently to ensure that it's clean. Do not scrub
the tooth or remove any tissue attached to it. Be sure to place
a towel or washcloth in the sink so that the tooth does not go
down the drain.
If you can, gently place the tooth back
into the socket. Hold it gently in place while trying to
If you can't
place the tooth back in the socket, put the tooth in a small
container or in a cup of milk. Note that the latter is
dentist immediately, since getting to the dentist quickly with
your tooth – in addition to following the steps above – is
critical for saving the knocked-out tooth. The longer you wait
to re-implant the tooth in its socket, the less chance you have
of the tooth "taking" and remaining viable.
Loose Tooth, Tooth Out of Alignment
If you have a
tooth that is loose or out of alignment, you should call your
dentist for an emergency appointment right away. In the
meantime, you can try to put the tooth back in its original
position using your finger with very light pressure. Do not try
and force it. You can bite down to keep the tooth from moving.
Your dentist may want to splint the tooth to the adjacent teeth
(the teeth on each side) to keep it stabilized.
Chipped, Cracked or Fractured Teeth
If a tooth is
chipped and doesn't hurt, this usually does not constitute a
dental emergency and you can wait a few days to see a dentist.
However, it is important to be careful while chewing so as not
to chip it more. Your dentist may simply be able to smooth the
chip out, or add some composite filling material to repair the
A cracked or
fractured tooth is a serious issue constituting a dental
emergency. Fractured or cracked teeth usually suggest that
damage has occurred to the inside of the tooth as well as to the
outside. Severe fractures are so extreme that the tooth cannot
be saved. If you suffer a fractured tooth, call your dentist
immediately for an emergency appointment and follow these steps:
mouth out by gently rinsing thoroughly with warm water.
fracture is caused by facial trauma, apply a cold compress to
the area to minimize any swelling.
Take acetaminophen (not aspirin) according to the packaging
directions to alleviate pain.
Never apply a
painkiller to the gum because it can burn the gum tissue. This
includes Orajel, which often is marketed for these types of
An X-ray will be needed in order for your
dentist to properly diagnose the condition of your tooth. If the
soft tissue inside of the tooth (the tooth pulp) is damaged,
your tooth may need a
root canal. If the pulp is not
damaged, the tooth might only need a
Some dentists make some of their permanent
crowns in-office and place them in the same day; other dentists
use an outside laboratory to make the crown. In this case you
will have to wear a temporary crown while the laboratory makes a
permanent crown. If the tooth cannot be saved, your dentist will
inform you of the various alternatives for replacing missing
teeth, such as implant-supported restorations and
Tissue Injury and Facial Pain
Any type of
injury inside the mouth, such as puncture wounds, lacerations
and tears to the lips, cheeks, mouth and tongue, are considered
tissue injuries and a dental emergency. If you experience any
type of tissue injury, it is important to clean the area
immediately with warm water. If the bleeding is coming from the
tongue, gently pull the tongue forward and place pressure on the
wound using gauze. You should get to an oral surgeon or nearby
hospital emergency room as quickly as possible.
any type of facial pain associated with tissue injury, you can
take acetaminophen as directed on the packaging label. Never
take aspirin or ibuprofen for a dental emergency because they
are anticoagulants, which can cause excessive bleeding.
Other Dental Emergencies
dental problem that requires immediate treatment in order to
save a tooth, stop ongoing tissue bleeding or alleviate severe
pain is considered a dental emergency.
infection or abscess in the mouth can be life-threatening and
should be dealt with immediately. Your dentist might be able to
perform the first stage of a root canal, or will refer you to an
endodontist (root canal specialist) to open and drain the tooth
and allow the abscess to drain. If your dentist can't be
reached, seek hospital emergency room care.
Problems with Temporary Restorations
temporary crown come off is not a dental emergency. However, it
is important to put it back in place so that the tooth stays in
its original position until you can see your dentist.
crown can easily be put back onto your tooth by placing
Vaseline, toothpaste, Chapstick or even a very small amount of
denture adhesive into the temporary and placing it onto your
tooth. Try putting your crown in first and note how it fits into
place. Once you are comfortable with the fit, apply adhesive
into the temporary and place it properly on your tooth. Bite
down firmly onto a dry washcloth, applying even pressure to the
temporary. After a few minutes, clean off any excess adhesive
you can see. You should see your dentist within the next few
days to have it properly re-cemented.
Is it a Dental Emergency?
Smoothing a chipped tooth, re-cementing a
crown that is not causing pain and
composite bonding to repair a tooth
are not dental emergencies. Typically, such problems can be
dealt with during your dentist's regular office hours.
If you are not
sure whether or not you are having a true dental emergency,
answer the following questions:
bleeding from the mouth?
Are you in
have any loose teeth?
been hit in the face or mouth?
have any swelling in the mouth or facial area?
have any bulges, swelling or knots on your gums?
answered yes to any of these questions, you might be having a
dental emergency and should call your dentist immediately. It's
important to describe to your dentist exactly what has happened
and what you are feeling.
experience extreme pain caused by hot or warm foods or
beverages, try drinking ice water. It might relieve the pain.
Sip on ice water and hold some in your mouth until you see the
If you are
having sensitivity to cold or if it causes pain to breathe in
air, avoid cold foods and beverages. Breathe through your nose
and call your dentist's office.
experience pain in a tooth when biting down, it might indicate
an abscess. This is an emergency and you should call your
How to Avoid a Dental Emergency
Many dental emergencies can be easily
avoided by having routine check ups with your dentist to ensure
that your mouth and teeth are healthy, strong and free from
mouth guard during sports activities
will help to prevent teeth from being chipped, knocked out or
broken. Avoid chewing on ice and hard foods that may break or
fracture your teeth. If you are planning to travel out of the
country or leaving for an extended vacation, during which you
may not have ready access to dental care, it is important to see
your dentist for a routine check up before you leave. Your
dentist can make sure that you don't have any loose crowns or
teeth, decay close to the nerve of a tooth that could cause you
pain or develop into an abscess or other problems that could be
easily fixed before becoming a dental emergency later.
Being Prepared for a Dental Emergency
dental emergency can happen at any time and place, the best
thing to do is be prepared and don't panic. Pack and keep with
you a small dental first aid kit containing the following:
container with a lid
phone number of your dentist
Acetaminophen (not aspirin or ibuprofen because they can act
as a blood thinner and cause excessive bleeding during a
Reviewed By: N. Summer Lerch, DDS