What is Considered a Dental Emergency?

Posted on: August 15, 2017

EmergencyWhat really constitutes a dental emergency? This is a question that people ask us on a regular basis. Most patients do not want to call something an emergency when it really is not. Partially because life is busy and they do not want to take time off work or school unless they really need to. Secondly, emergencies tend to make people feel anxious and worried.

Knowing what is serious and what is not can help to calm down fears and eliminate concerns. We seek to educate patients on a regular basis and recommend asking questions during a regular dental appointment. In the meantime, here are some ways to tell if something is considered a "true" dental emergency.

Things that can be handled during a regular appointment

First, let’s rule out what is NOT a dental emergency, including:

  • Needing to have teeth cleaned
  • Bad breath from eating certain foods
  • Gums that are irritated temporarily but go back to normal quickly
  • Teeth that are sensitive to hot and cold

These are legitimate oral health concerns that are addressed through treatments in our office. We recommend scheduling an appointment to discuss them and for treatment. However, if that appointment occurs a couple weeks later, it will not cause any further issues because these things are not true emergencies that require urgent care.

What is considered a dental emergency

If any of these things happen, it is wise to call our office and schedule an appointment immediately.

#1. Adult tooth loss

Adults are not supposed to lose their teeth. When this happens, it is typically due to an accident or an infection. Adult tooth loss requires immediate care since we can sometimes reattach the tooth. In any case, it needs to be replaced right away.

#2. Tooth cracking or chipping

If a tooth cracks or chips while eating or through everyday activities, it is still important to have an emergency dentist restore the tooth. Bacteria can enter the tooth through these cracks and chips, which can lead to an infection and the need for a root canal. Restoring the tooth prevents this from happening and also eliminates any pain associated with the damage.

#3. Severe toothache

A severe toothache is typically a sign of an infection or dental decay. By the time that a tooth begins throbbing, the decay has probably spread and it is necessary to have the tooth treated immediately. We recommend doing so by scheduling an appointment with our office or asking for an emergency appointment. The pain can be minimized using ibuprofen, but not aspirin.

#4. Dental abscess

A dental abscess is a serious dental infection that needs to be immediately addressed through the use of antibiotics and dental procedures. An abscess typically shows up as a hard bump in the gum tissue that will also be painful.

#5. Pus

If there is any pus in the mouth it is a sign of an infection and warrants making an emergency call to the dentist.

Visit our clinic

In times of an emergency, it is important to know who to call and where to go for help. Our dental office handles emergency appointments and would be happy to assist you.


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