5 Types of Dental Emergencies and What To Do

5 Types of dental emergencies and what to do

Imagine this: you’re enjoying a meal containing one of your favorite crunchy foods when all of the sudden, it feels like your tooth is also crunching. Upon closer inspection, you realize that thing you were crunching was actually a part of your tooth that you chipped off. Do you know what to do next? If your answer was to toss the chipped off piece and continue eating, you would be very wrong. If, however, your answer was to call your dentist and store the tooth fragment in a glass of milk, then you have an understanding of basic emergency dental practices. 

Knowing what a dental emergency is and what to do when one happens is an important part of emergency dental care. This is because the steps you take after a dental emergency can directly affect your treatment outcomes. For example, someone who chips and tooth and ignores it is more likely to require restorative emergency services, while someone who immediately calls their dentist and stores the tooth properly may only have minimal work completed. 

The truth of the matter is that dental emergencies can happen any time, affect anyone, and can take many forms. So, how do you know if you have a dental emergency? Simple, you call your local emergency dentist and describe your situation. They will then tell you if an emergency dental appointment is needed. In some cases, you may also need to briefly manage your condition until you can be seen by an emergency dentist. Therefore, here are 5 of the most popular dental emergencies and what to do if they happen to you: 


woman holding an ice pack to her cheek

Since toothaches can be caused by a variety of things, they are one of the most common dental emergencies. In most cases, toothaches are either due to something wedged between the teeth or a pulp infection. Flossing may dislodge debris from between the teeth in order to relieve pain. However, pain that progressively worsens, is severe, or comes on suddenly is consistent with symptoms of a pulp infection. Because pulp infections will continue to progress over time, it is recommended to call your dentist as soon as your tooth pain starts. While waiting for your emergency dental appointment, it is important to avoid pain medications and instead use a cold compress to manage your pain. This is because certain medications may interfere with future treatments, so it is better to not have them in your system. 

Soft Tissue Injury

Another somewhat common dental emergency are soft tissue injuries. When it comes to your mouth, your tongue, lips, gums, and inner cheeks are all considered soft tissues. Your emergency dentist may be able to provide treatment for some soft tissue injuries, however they may also refer you to a medical doctor for additional care. In the meantime, you will want to stop any bleeding with gentle pressure and clean any puncture, tear, or laceration with warm water. 

Missing or Loose Restorations

Although dental restorations are made to be strong, they are not indestructible. As they age, permanent dental restorations in need of replacement may become loose or even fall off. Temporary restorations have also been known to become loose or fall out simply because they are not nearly as durable as permanent restorations. In cases where you have a loose restoration or a restoration that has fallen out, you may be able to temporarily use vaseline, chapstick, or denture adhesive to keep the restoration in place until you can be seen by your dentist. However, keep in mind that these temporary solutions are only meant to be temporary and will not be effective for long-term use. 

Damaged Teeth

Just as our introduction story above indicates, teeth can become damaged from something as simple as chewing. This is especially true of teeth that are structurally compromised by decay or frequent teeth grinding. Teeth that are exposed to too much stress or that are structurally weak can become chipped and/or fractured. In the case of a chipped tooth, you should attempt to locate any tooth fragments, then soak them in milk until your appointment. Fractured teeth, on the other hand, may be visually noticeable, can cause pain, or a combination of both. Both types of tooth damage is considered a dental emergency and should be treated by your dentist as soon as possible to prevent the damage from worsening. 

Loose or Knocked Out Teeth

gap left by a missing front tooth

Most people know that having a loose tooth or a tooth knocked out constitutes a trip to their dentist. However, not as many people know what to do in the time frame between the incident and their appointment. For a loose tooth, you will want to gently bite down on the affected tooth in order to keep it in the socket. For a missing tooth, you will first want to locate and rinse the tooth, taking special care to only handle it by the crown. Then, you can either try to return the tooth to the socket or you can store the missing tooth in a glass of milk until your appointment. 

Dr. Sam Sadati wearing black suite portrait

Dr. Sadati possesses extensive experience in all aspects of advanced restorative dentistry, with an emphasis in cosmetic and implant dentistry.  He has attained Accredited Fellow status in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the most rigorous, demanding credentialing process in the world. He is the only AACD Accredited Fellow in South Florida.