Dental Emergencies: What to Do and When

Dental Emergencies: What to Do and When

Accidents happen, and dental emergencies can occur when we least expect them. Whether it’s a sudden toothache, a broken tooth, or a knocked-out tooth, knowing what to do in these situations can make all the difference in preserving your oral health. In this article, we will explore common dental emergencies, provide step-by-step guidance on how to handle them, and offer valuable insights to help you navigate these situations with confidence.

Understanding Dental Emergencies

Dental emergencies refer to any sudden and unexpected oral health issues that require immediate attention. These emergencies can range from severe toothaches to injuries resulting in broken or knocked-out teeth. It’s important to note that not all dental problems are considered emergencies. For instance, a minor chip in a tooth may not require immediate treatment, but a severe fracture that causes pain and exposes the nerves would be classified as an emergency.

It’s crucial to recognize the signs of a dental emergency to ensure prompt action. Some common dental emergencies include:

  • Severe toothache
  • Knocked-out tooth
  • Broken or fractured tooth
  • Loose tooth
  • Lost dental filling or crown
  • Object stuck between teeth
  • Soft tissue injuries (e.g., cuts or tears to the lips, tongue, or cheeks)

Step-by-Step Guide: What to Do in a Dental Emergency

When faced with a dental emergency, it’s important to stay calm and take immediate action. Here is a step-by-step guide on what to do in various dental emergency situations:

Severe Toothache

A severe toothache can be debilitating and require immediate attention. Follow these steps:

  1. Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area.
  2. Gently floss around the affected tooth to remove any food particles that may be causing the pain.
  3. If the pain persists, avoid placing aspirin or any other medication directly on the tooth or gums, as it may cause further irritation.
  4. Contact your dentist to schedule an emergency appointment.

Knocked-Out Tooth

A knocked-out tooth is a dental emergency that requires immediate action to increase the chances of successful re-implantation. Follow these steps:

  1. Handle the tooth by the crown (the chewing surface) and avoid touching the root.
  2. Gently rinse the tooth with water to remove any dirt or debris, but do not scrub or remove any attached tissue fragments.
  3. If possible, try to reinsert the tooth back into its socket, ensuring it is facing the right way. Bite down gently on a clean cloth or gauze to hold it in place.
  4. If reinsertion is not possible, place the tooth in a container of milk or a tooth preservation solution recommended by your dentist.
  5. Seek immediate dental care, as time is crucial for successful re-implantation.

Broken or Fractured Tooth

A broken or fractured tooth can cause pain and sensitivity. Follow these steps:

  1. Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area.
  2. If there is bleeding, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or gauze until it stops.
  3. Apply a cold compress to the affected area to reduce swelling.
  4. Contact your dentist for an emergency appointment.

Lost Dental Filling or Crown

If a dental filling or crown falls out, it’s important to seek immediate dental care to prevent further damage to the tooth. Follow these steps:

  1. Try to locate the lost filling or crown.
  2. Clean the affected tooth and the inside of the crown or filling with warm water.
  3. If possible, apply a temporary dental cement or dental adhesive to the inside of the crown or filling and carefully reposition it on the tooth.
  4. Contact your dentist for an emergency appointment to have the filling or crown properly replaced.

Object Stuck Between Teeth

Having an object stuck between your teeth can be uncomfortable and potentially lead to gum irritation or infection. Follow these steps:

  1. Gently try to remove the object using dental floss. Be cautious not to push the object further between the teeth.
  2. If flossing is unsuccessful, avoid using sharp or pointed objects to dislodge the object, as it may cause injury or damage to the gums.
  3. Contact your dentist for assistance in removing the object.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Cuts or tears to the lips, tongue, or cheeks can occur during accidents or trauma. Follow these steps:

  1. Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to clean the area and promote healing.
  2. Apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or gauze to control bleeding.
  3. If the bleeding persists or the injury is severe, seek immediate medical attention or visit the emergency room.

Preventing Dental Emergencies

While dental emergencies can happen unexpectedly, there are preventive measures you can take to minimize the risk. Here are some tips to help prevent dental emergencies:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Wear a mouthguard during sports or recreational activities to protect your teeth from injuries.
  • Avoid chewing on hard objects, such as ice, popcorn kernels, or pens, as they can cause tooth fractures.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings to detect and address any potential dental issues before they become emergencies.


Dental emergencies can be distressing, but knowing how to handle them can make a significant difference in preserving your oral health. By understanding the signs of a dental emergency and following the appropriate steps, you can effectively manage these situations and seek timely professional care. Remember to stay calm, contact your dentist, and prioritize your oral health. By taking preventive measures, you can also reduce the likelihood of dental emergencies and maintain a healthy smile for years to come.

Dr. Mary G. Trice

About Dr. Mary

Dr. Mary G. Trice is a renowned pedodontist based in Queens, NY. With an unwavering dedication to children's dental health. In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Trice is the writer and manager behind the informative platform Through this site, she offers valuable insights, tips, and resources for parents and guardians, aiming to bridge the gap between professional dental care and everyday oral hygiene practices at home.