Eight Tips for Handling Dental Emergencies

Eight Tips for Handling Dental Emergencies

You could bite into a cherry and unexpectedly find a pit inside it, or you could take an elbow to the mouth in a pick-up basketball game. There are hundreds of ways that you can damage your teeth and your dental work, but the bottom line is that emergency dental problems happen quickly and unexpectedly.

A dental emergency can be a serious event. You should never ignore it because it will not get better on its own. Oral problems will only get worse and become more painful and more involved. You can do permanent damage to your teeth by putting off dental treatment for an emergency. Additionally, an untended dental emergency can lead to infection and abscess that can spread to other parts of the body.

The reality is that emergencies happen in the evenings, on weekends, and while you are out of town. Always call your dentist as soon as you have an emergency. But, until you are able to get into the office for an appointment, you can use these tips to protect your mouth from further damage and to relieve your pain.

Emergency Dentist Tips

A Lost Permanent Tooth

If you have knocked out a tooth, do your best to find it. Dentists can sometimes repair the tooth so that it will be as good as new. Handle the tooth carefully, and avoid touching the root area of it. Don’t try to scrub it clean or remove any attached tissue. Gently rinse it with water to remove dirt. If you can, try to replace the tooth properly in its socket and keep it there until you get to the dentist. Don’t force it, and if it won’t go back in place, put the tooth in a small container of milk or salt-water. Time is very important.  Try to get to the dentist within an hour or sooner of your accident for best success of saving it.

If your tooth is partially knocked out, get to the dentist as soon as you can. If you are in pain, hold a cold compress to the outside of the mouth and take over the counter pain medication, if possible (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.). Leave the tooth alone and avoid wiggling it or bumping it.

A Chipped or Broken Tooth

If your tooth is chipped, it may be a minor problem, especially if the broken part is mostly on the tooth’s surface. However, if the crack or chip goes deeply into the tooth, you may have damage to the tooth enamel, dentine, or pulp.  Rinse your mouth with warm water. If your mouth is bleeding, use a clean piece of gauze and apply firm pressure for about 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops. Call your dentist as soon as you can for advice. Hold a cold compress to your cheek to reduce pain and swelling.

Lost Filling

If a filling has fallen out, part of the interior of your tooth will be exposed. Eating and drinking may be painful until you have it replaced. Call the dentist, and until you can get to your appointment, pack a small wad of sugarless gum into the cavity where the filling used to be. Gum with sugar will cause pain.  Some stores sell temporary filling material for such emergencies. Important to note, those are only short temporary space filler until you can get in to see your dentist.

Losing a Crown

First of all, be sure to keep track of the crown. In some cases, the dentist can re-cement it when you go in for your appointment. If the tooth is hurting, take over the counter pain medication, if possible (ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc.) to ease your discomfort.

If you can, you may want to try to temporarily replace the crown to protect the tooth until your dental appointment. Coat the inside of the crown with denture adhesive or toothpaste to help it stay in place. Never use super-glue. Gently replace the crown. If you can’t get it in there correctly, just take it out and keep it in a safe place.


First, you should thoroughly and gently clean the whole area around the tooth. You may have something lodged between the teeth or gums that may be causing pain. Gently floss or use a Water-Pik all around it. Rinse your mouth thoroughly with a mild salt-water solution to prevent infection, and you can also use a cold compress to reduce swelling. Some people say that you should put an aspirin tablet on your gum to relieve the pain, but this is a bad idea because the aspirin can cause burns to your gum tissue.

It is always a good idea to call/visit and consult your dentist.  Especially if the pain is not resolved.


Abscesses are infection-filled pockets in soft tissue. They can occur around the root of the tooth or in the gums surrounding the tooth. They can start small, but could quickly grow into a painful sore. Sometimes the infection finds a way to drain into the mouth.  This will present as an asymptomatic pimple in the gums and will produce metallic taste once in a while (that is the puss draining into the mouth).  It is important to treat the infection as soon as possible, for these infections can spread fast.  This can affect the surrounding bone and even other teeth and other parts of the body if left untreated, so it is crucial that you call the dentist as soon as you suspect that you might have an abscess. Rinse your mouth with a salt-water solution several times a day until you get to your appointment.  If you are an active patient, your dentist might be able to call-in antibiotics to help with the infection.

Broken Orthodontia

If you have a wire or bracket that breaks or moves out of place, you can use orthodontic wax to help cushion your mouth and gums from the rough edges. Call your orthodontist as soon as you can to get it repaired. If a wire is poking your mouth, you can try to bend it out of the way by poking at it with the eraser end of a pencil.

Cuts, Bruises, and Swelling

If you have injuries to the soft tissues inside of your mouth or you may be bleeding. First, gently rinse your mouth with salt-water to disinfect the cuts and promote healing. Then, use a piece of damp gauze to apply pressure to the areas that are bleeding for 15 to 20 minutes. Also, you can hold a cool compress up to your cheek in the area of the injury to control swelling and bleeding. If 20 minutes have passed and you are still bleeding badly, you probably should call your dentist or go to the hospital emergency room. While you are on the way, continue to hold pressure on the cuts until you have a doctor or dentist take a look at it.

If you are not sure about the extent of your dental injuries or whether you should call the dentist, you can reference the Dental Brothers Dental Emergency Guide.

Or contact the Dental Brothers for dental emergency care.