What Is Considered a Dental Emergency?

A man holding his face in pain due to a dental emergency.

When you’re experiencing a dental emergency, the discomfort, swelling, and, in some cases, severe pain can be overwhelming. Knowing the difference between a dental emergency and a minor dental issue can save your smile and prevent unnecessary pain.

Not only are dental emergencies often painful, but they can negatively affect your oral and physical health if not taken care of in a timely manner. Keep reading to learn how to know when you’re in a dental emergency and what to do if it happens.

When Is Emergency Dental Care Necessary? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 40% of American adults have experienced pain in their mouth at some point in the last year. Pain is often the body’s first indicator that something is wrong. Knowing when it’s a pain that requires immediate care and when it can wait until your next appointment is very important to protect yourself from future dental and consequential health problems.

Not every dental issue requires immediate care. Ask yourself these questions to determine if you should seek emergency dental services:

  1. How much pain is there? Severe pain, bleeding, discoloration, or swelling can indicate a serious problem.
  2. Did one or more teeth come out? Getting to the dentist immediately may save a lost tooth or teeth if more than one comes out.
  3. Do any teeth feel loose? Adults should never experience teeth that feel loose. Even without pain, this is a serious problem. Get to the dentist immediately.  
  4. Are there signs of infection? Infections in the mouth can quickly become serious. Get to the dentist immediately.   
  5. Is there blood? Bleeding gums are always cause for concern.

10 Common Dental Emergencies

The most common dental emergencies include:

1. Abrupt tooth pain without explanation

If tooth pain comes suddenly without a known reason, something is likely wrong with a tooth, the surrounding gums, or even the root. It’s best to see an emergency dentist right away.

To ease the pain while you wait, try:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • A cold compress
  • Gargling with salt water

2. Bleeding And/Or Swelling Of The Gums 

If you’re not an avid flosser, you may experience bleeding when flossing until your gums are used to it. But if your gums are bleeding for no known reason, this is not normal. You should seek emergency dental care immediately. This is especially concerning if the bleeding is accompanied by swelling or pain.

3. Unexplained Swelling In The Jaw Or Mouth 

This is a red flag telling you to get emergency dental services immediately. This can indicate an infection, an issue with your lymph nodes, or other problems that require immediate dental urgent care.

4. Nerves That Are Exposed

An exposed nerve will likely be incredibly painful. Delays will only make this problem worse. Seeing an emergency dentist prevents further nerve damage, infection, and the need for more extensive treatments. 

5. A Tooth Falling Out 

Whether by force or not, losing a tooth is always cause for concern as an adult. According to the American Association of Endodontists, you may have as little as a couple of hours to get the tooth and yourself to a dentist for the best chance of a successful replantation (although within 30 minutes is ideal). In addition to getting to the dentist immediately, be sure to do the following:

  • Pick the tooth up by the tip (never touch the root)
  • Rinse the tooth delicately with water (no scrubbing)
  • If possible, try reinserting the tooth into the socket. Be very gentle; don’t force it. If the tooth goes in, hold it in place by gently closing your mouth or keeping a finger on it.
  • Keep the tooth moist inside of the socket, inside of your cheek, or put it in a glass of milk (NEVER tap water)
  • Get to the dentist immediately for your best chance of saving the tooth

6. A Filling Falling Out 

A filling falling out is an emergency, as leaving the tooth without the structure of the filling leaves it vulnerable to cracking or breaking. Seek emergency dental treatment immediately.

7. A Dental Crown Getting Damaged

When a dental crown becomes cracked or falls out completely, the tooth is at risk of infection and/or further damage. The sooner you get to the dentist, the better. This will help prevent the need for further dental work, such as a root canal or a tooth extraction.

8. An Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth requires immediate emergency dental services as the infection can spread to the jaw and surrounding tissues. In severe cases, it can even become life-threatening. Symptoms of a tooth abscess can include:

  • Pain (sometimes severe)
  • Fever
  • Swelling in your face
  • Tender lymph nodes
  • A bump on the gums near the affected tooth that resembles a pimple

9. Food Or Debris Stuck Between Your Teeth

If something becomes lodged between your teeth and flossing won’t get it out, it is vital to get to the dentist. Delaying a dental visit can cause your teeth to shift, cause tooth decay, cause gum irritation, gum disease, or cause an infection. 

10. Infection 

Left untreated, infections can spread and cause further health problems. In severe cases, infections can even be fatal. The first sign of an infection is often discomfort, but it can quickly become too painful to eat. Left untreated, it can develop into a painful and life-threatening abscess. 

Call our emergency number at 702-744-8009 for immediate availability nearby. (844) 8‑SMILE‑NOW
(844) 876‑4536

Benefits Of Seeking Emergency Dental Services

There are many reasons to seek immediate emergency dental services, such as:

  • To save your teeth: Emergency dental services can be the difference between keeping the affected tooth intact and needing to have one or more tooth extractions
  • To eliminate discomfort: Often, discomfort quickly leads to pain. The quicker you address the issue, the faster you’ll be pain-free.
  • To prevent further problems: Often, untreated dental problems lead to more dental problems
  • To save your dental work: Cracked crowns, broken braces, or damaged bridgework may be able to be preserved if attended to timely
  • Protect your health: According to the Cleveland Clinic, infections can lead to an abscess. Abscesses can lead to sepsis or necrotizing fasciitis (a flesh-eating bacteria), which can lead to death.
  • To save money: By taking care of the problem before it spreads, you’ll save money on further dental procedures

Common Emergency Dental Services

Dental emergencies will vary depending on the type of accident or problem. Emergency dental services can include:

  • A new filling
  • A root canal
  • A tooth extraction
  • Replantation
  • Splinting
  • Irrigation and antibiotic treatment

Is There An Emergency Dentist Near Me?

A woman holding her face in pain due to a dental emergency.

Dental emergencies can happen to anyone. Because accidents happen, Absolute Dental has offices in many locations, such as:

Knowing the difference between a dental nuisance and a dental emergency is essential. The best way to prevent a dental emergency is to stay on top of your oral health at home and to see your dentist regularly. 

If you’re looking to find a dentist for general dentistry, you can still contact us at Absolute Dental. We’re here to help with all your dental needs.

Are you looking for a ‘24-hour emergency dentist near me?’ Contact Absolute Dental and book an appointment today. (844) 8‑SMILE‑NOW
(844) 876‑4536

infographic To What is Considered A Dental Emergency


Abscess. (2022).
Knocked Out Teeth.
Oral Health Conditions. (2023).

About the Author

Dentists in Las Vegas and Reno

Absolute Dental

Absolute Dental started in the Las Vegas valley with a single office and has been providing industry-leading dental care to our communities ever since.

Now at more than 30 offices across Las Vegas, Reno, Sparks, and Carson City and growing, we remain committed to offering quality affordable dental care and patient education while providing a relaxing and comfortable experience for your entire family, from the young to the young at heart.

Start Smiling Now

Call us now to make an appointment at a location near you and receive a complete exam & X-ray for only $39.

Call and Make Your Appointment

(844) 8-SMILE-NOW
(844) 876-4536

Start Your Appointment Online

Make Appointment