In the world of dental health, not all issues require immediate attention. However, recognizing when you’re facing a dental emergency can be the difference between saving or losing a tooth, and in some cases, it can even be lifesaving. 

Understanding when to call an emergency dentist is crucial for everyone. This guide aims to equip you with the knowledge to identify dental emergencies, ensuring you know how to act swiftly and effectively.


Dental emergencies can occur at any moment, often without warning. They can be the result of long-term issues finally coming to a head or sudden accidents. Knowing how to respond can significantly impact the outcome. This blog explores common dental emergencies and provides guidance on when it’s crucial to seek the immediate attention of an emergency dentist.

What Qualifies as a Dental Emergency?

To determine whether you need to see an emergency dentist, consider the following criteria:

  • Severe Pain: Persistent, intense pain that disrupts sleep and daily activities is a red flag.
  • Loose or Knocked-Out Teeth: Adult teeth should never be loose. Immediate action can sometimes save a knocked-out tooth.
  • Swelling: Swelling in the mouth, jaw, or face, especially when accompanied by pain or fever, can indicate infection.
  • Bleeding: Uncontrolled bleeding from the gums or after an injury requires prompt attention.
  • Injury to the Mouth or Jaw: Trauma to these areas, even without visible damage to the teeth, can necessitate emergency care.

Common Dental Emergencies

Knocked-Out Tooth

A knocked-out tooth is one of the most urgent dental emergencies. If treated promptly, ideally within an hour, the tooth can often be reimplanted. Handle the tooth by the crown, not the root, rinse it without scrubbing, and attempt to place it back in the socket. If that’s not possible, keep it moist in milk or saliva until you can see an emergency dentist.

Severe Toothache

Pain is the body’s signal that something is wrong. A severe toothache could indicate decay, abscess, or infection. Rinse your mouth with warm water, use floss to remove any food caught between teeth, and apply a cold compress externally. Do not put aspirin directly on the gums or tooth; this can cause a burn.

Abscess or Infection

An abscess is a severe infection that can occur at the root of a tooth or between the gums and teeth. It’s a life-threatening condition that can cause fever, tooth sensitivity, persistent toothache, swelling, and bumps on the gums. Prompt treatment is necessary to prevent the spread of infection.

Broken, Chipped, or Fractured Teeth

For minor breaks or chips, it might be possible to wait a few days for an appointment. However, a severe fracture, especially if there’s pain, requires immediate attention. Rinse your mouth, apply a cold compress to minimize swelling, and avoid eating on that side of your mouth.

When to Call an Emergency Dentist

If you experience any of the above conditions, it’s time to call an emergency dentist. However, it’s equally important to know when a situation might not be as urgent. For example, a lost filling or crown, while requiring relatively prompt attention, might not necessitate a middle-of-the-night emergency call unless there’s severe pain.

Finding an Emergency Dentist

When dental emergencies arise, the last thing you want to do is scramble to find a professional who can help you in a pinch. Ideally, your journey in finding an emergency dentist should start well before any actual emergency occurs. Here’s how you can ensure you’re prepared:

Check with Your Current Dental Office

The first step in preparing for any potential dental emergencies is to inquire with your current dental care provider. Many dental offices offer emergency services outside of regular office hours for their patients. Knowing whether your dentist provides such services and understanding how to access them outside normal hours is crucial. This can often be the fastest and most efficient way to get emergency dental care since your dentist is already familiar with your dental history.

Research Local Emergency Dental Clinics

If your regular dentist does not offer emergency services, the next step is to research local emergency dental clinics or general dental practices that do. Many areas have dedicated emergency dental clinics designed to handle urgent care situations. These clinics usually operate outside of typical business hours, including evenings, weekends, and sometimes even 24/7.

Keep Contact Information Handy

Once you’ve identified a reliable emergency dentist or dental service, it’s essential to keep their contact information easily accessible. Store their phone number in your phone and keep a written copy in a convenient place at home, such as on the refrigerator or with other emergency contact numbers. It might also be helpful to have the address saved in your phone’s maps app or GPS device for quick access.


Recognizing a dental emergency and knowing when to seek help from an emergency dentist can have a significant impact on your dental health and overall well-being. 

Whether it’s a knocked-out tooth, severe pain, or signs of infection, immediate action and consultation with a professional can prevent further damage and ensure the best possible outcome. 

Remember, it’s better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your health. Always consult with an emergency dentist if you’re unsure about the severity of your situation.

By Grace