What should I do in case of a dental emergency?

Experiencing a dental emergency is a painful and uncomfortable experience. If you're experiencing a dental emergency, your first step should be to get ahold of your dentist. If you have a regular dentist then give them a call right away. If you don't currently have a dentist then you should start looking for one. Seek a dentist who offers emergency dental care. If your emergency is during normal business hours then call a few local dentists. It can be a bit tricky if your emergency is at night times, on weekends, or on holidays. Luckily, most dentists use a call-forwarding system to give you 24/7 access to them. Search the internet or ask friends and family to help you find an emergency dentist nearby.


Most dentists offer some type of answering service so you can reach them after normal office

If you can't see a dentist right away then consider taking some painkillers. Tylenol and Motrin (Ibuprofen) are your best bet. Emergency room visits are typically counterproductive as most emergency rooms don't offer actual dental care. They will most likely administer painkillers and antibiotics to temporarily alleviate the pain and refer you back to your dentist. Keep in mind that taking medications will not reverse your toothache and only temporarily masks the symptoms. You must go to your dentist for definitive treatment, otherwise, the toothache will return sooner or later. The most common treatment options for dental emergencies are:

If you're experiencing a severe toothache then your tooth is most likely infected. At this point, a filling is not going to fix the problem any longer. One option is to remove your tooth nerve with a root canal treatment. Performing a root canal removes the infection from the tooth while allowing you to keep the tooth. Your other option is to remove the bad tooth with a tooth extraction. If you remove the tooth, you may have to invest in replacing the missing tooth with a dental implant or bridge. The decision between a root canal and a tooth extraction is a tough one. See your dentist to determine which treatment option is best for you and your tooth!


The most common treatments for emergency toothache are root canal treatment or tooth extraction

root canal versus dental implant

Root Canal vs. Dental Implant: Which One Do You Need? (YouTube)

What are the most common dental emergencies?

Dental pain is among the worse types of pain that one can experience. Here are some of the more common causes for dental emergencies:


Most dental emergencies are the result of a severe toothache that is caused by a dental infection. Once the cavity bugs enter the tooth nerve it causes pain and infection. Toothaches can also be caused by tooth fractures or trauma. These types of toothaches are throbbing, lingering, and severe in pain. The pain typically lasts for at least twenty minutes or more. It can even last for hours or days! If you're experiencing a toothache then you should see a dentist right away. If you can't see your dentist right away then consider taking a painkiller until you can do so.

Most toothaches are caused by cavity bugs that enter the tooth nerve and cause an infection

Broken Teeth & Dental Restorations

Some dental emergencies are the result of a broken tooth or damaged dental restorations. This could be a broken filling or a dislodged crown. You may break your tooth and not experience serious pain. You should still have the tooth checked out as soon as possible. You may assume that it's not a true dental emergency if there's no pain. Nevertheless, you could develop pain or infection soon afterward. Plan on seeing your dentist as soon as possible to resolve the issue before the situation exacerbates.

Wisdom Tooth Emergency

Wisdom teeth can cause some of the worse pains that lead to a dental emergency situation. Your wisdom teeth start to come out around 15 to 16 years of age. If you don't have enough space for them in your jaw, the wisdom teeth start to press on the other teeth. This causes intense pressure pain. Wisdom tooth pain is far more common in the lower jaws. You most likely need to remove the offending wisdom tooth. Sometimes you have to remove all of your wisdom teeth. If you can't see a dentist right away, take painkillers and antibiotics. Schedule a time with your dentist or oral surgeon to evaluate and possibly remove your wisdom teeth.

Knocked-Out Tooth

Although rare, sometimes the entire tooth gets dislodged from its socket. A knocked-out tooth can occasionally be salvaged by your dentist. However, you must replace the tooth almost immediately in order to save it. If you can't get to a dentist right away, then place the tooth in a glass of milk. Ideally, your dentist will clean and transplant the tooth back into its socket. They will splint the dislocated tooth to the neighboring teeth to allow it to heal. Ultimately, this treatment may or may not salvage the knocked-out tooth. If it fails, you will require a dental implant, dental bridge, or partial denture to replace the missing tooth.


Knocked-out teeth can only be salvaged if replaced within the first few hours of the accident

Pediatric Dental Emergency

Children can also experience dental emergencies for various reasons. The most common pediatric dental emergency is when children's teeth start to erupt. Teething pain is best managed by applying medication or soothing ointments to help your child get through the process. There is no need to visit your dentist for these situations. More serious dental emergencies occur when your child develops an actual tooth infection. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to distinguish between these two types of pain. If your child is at his or her teething age, then there's a good chance that the toothache is related to teething. However, there's also the chance that the toothache is related to an untreated dental infection. If in doubt, you should contact your dentist or pediatric dentist to have your child examined and get to the root of the problem.

Denture Emergency

Denture wearers can face a handful of emergency situations. For example, you may break or lose your false teeth. It's important to have access to a local dentist in case of such emergencies. If your denture is damaged, your dentist may be able to fix it. Other times, your denture is irreparable and you will require a new set. See your dentist as soon as possible to access your dentures to determine the best treatment route for your dentures.


It's important for denture wearers to have access to a local dentist in case of a denture emergency

Miscellaneous Dental Emergencies

There are plenty of other less common dental emergencies. These include oral ulcers, TMJ problems, trapped food items, etc. Having an established relationship with a local dentist is invaluable in case of such emergencies. Explain your symptoms to your dentist the best that you can. This will help your dentist identify the nature of your dental emergency. Once the source of the pain has been identified, you can come up with an appropriate treatment plan. You should never underestimate pain inside of your mouth. The longer you wait, the more complicated and complex treatment becomes.

What happens if I ignore my dental emergency?

Unfortunately, tooth infections don't resolve by themselves. An infected tooth continues to remain infected until it's treated by your dentist. Ignoring toothaches is never a wise idea. Infected teeth cause continuous and recurring episodes of pain and discomfort. Plus, the untreated infection gradually spreads from the tooth to the rest of your body. A tooth infection can spread through the sinus cavities and the bloodstream to the rest of your body. An untreated tooth infection can be responsible for headaches, sinus infections, digestive difficulties, even heart problems, and other serious medical issues!

What should I do in case of a dental emergency if I don't have a regular dentist?

If you're experiencing a dental emergency but can't access your dentist right away, you should start looking for a new dentist. Search nearby dentists who offer emergency treatment. Here are a few different ways you can go about finding an emergency dentist:

Referrals From Friends & Family

One of the best ways to find a great emergency dentist is to talk with people you already know. Start by asking your friends and family to see if they have any recommendations. Some people like to post on Facebook and other social media sites for a recommendation on a good dentist. Keep in mind that not all dentists perform root canal treatment and tooth extractions. It would be helpful to find a dentist that can actually treat your emergency condition by offering these two treatments.

Online Search

Searching for a dentist online is another way to find a great emergency dentist. Start by searching keywords such as "emergency dentist", "24-hour dentist", "tooth extraction", or "root canal". Consider searching on Google, Bing, Yahoo, or even Yelp. Another good idea is to call 1-800-Dentist to see if they can refer you to a dentist who offers emergency services nearby. Websites like Yelp and Zocdoc are somewhat helpful for finding dentists as well. Ultimately, if you search hard enough, you should be able to find a dentist that can help with your dental emergency.


Search for "emergency dentist" on Google, Bing, or Yahoo

Dental Insurance

If you have dental insurance then you can call them for a referral. You can look on the insurance company's website to find nearby dental providers. If you have a PPO plan, you can go to any dentist you choose which makes finding an emergency dentist relatively easy. On the other hand, if you have an HMO/DMO plan, then you must go to your assigned dentist. If you have a state aid plan, such as Medicaid or Denti-Cal, then you need to go to a dentist who accepts your insurance plan. Be prepared to pay cash for your emergency treatment if you choose to go to a dentist who doesn't accept your insurance plan.

Emergency Room

If you can't get a hold of any dentists after repeated attempts then you might consider going to the emergency room. The emergency room will typically offer you medications such as painkillers and antibiotics to reduce your pain symptoms. However, emergency rooms are not equipped to fix dental problems. You still have to visit your dentist to fix your dental issue. Be sure to search for a dentist who is capable of handling your emergency condition. Ideally, look for a dentist who offers both root canal treatments as well as tooth extractions.


Emergency rooms offer medication and antibiotics, but you still need to see your dentist in order to fix the problem