What Is Considered a Dental Emergency?

dental emergency

Dental emergencies can cause a lot of pain, discomfort, swelling, and even lead to more significant issues down the road. But what is considered a dental emergency? When should you see an emergency dentist right away, and when can you hold off until your next dental office visit?

If you have a dental problem, we’re here to help. Make an appointment or contact our team at (844) 8-SMILE-NOW.

It’s important to understand the difference between a standard dental issue that can wait until morning and a real emergency that can threaten your health. Here’s what you should know about recognizing dental emergencies that need immediate attention.

What Is a Dental Emergency?

dental emergency with teeth bleeding

According to American Family Physician1, about 22 percent of people reported having experienced oral pain in the previous six months, showing just how common dental emergencies can be.

Still, not every dental situation should be considered an emergency. To help you determine if you can wait until your next dental appointment or if you need to take a trip to an emergency dentist, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you in severe pain? Severe pain and bleeding are signs of an emergency.
  2. Have you lost a tooth? Fast treatment can potentially save a tooth.
  3. Do you have loose teeth? Adults should never lose teeth. A loose tooth, even without pain, is a serious problem.
  4. Do you have an infection? An abscess or serious infection in your mouth can be potentially life-threatening, and treatment should not wait.
  5. Are you bleeding from the mouth? This is a potential sign of an emergency.

In general, any dental problem that needs immediate treatment to stop bleeding, alleviate severe pain, or save a tooth is considered an emergency. This also applies to severe infections that can be life-threatening.

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9 Common Dental Emergencies

Here are the most common dental emergencies and what you need to know about the problem until you can get to a dentist.

1.Unexplainable Toothache

Toothaches are not just a painful nuisance or something you should take lightly. They are your body’s way of telling you that something is not right in your mouth. When you experience sudden and unexplainable tooth pain, find a qualified emergency dentist to help diagnose and treat the issue.

Until you can see your dentist, try:

  • Apply a cold compress
  • Rinse your mouth with saltwater
  • Use over-the-counter pain medication to help alleviate the discomfort

2.Swollen or Bleeding Gums

Although occasional gum irritation is not a dental emergency, gums that won’t stop bleeding, especially if accompanied by pain and swelling, can indicate an underlying dental or health issue.

It is not normal to experience bleeding gums without any obvious cause. See your dentist right away if you’re experiencing these symptoms.

3.Swollen Jaw or Mouth

It’s time for an emergency dentist visit for immediate treatment if your mouth or jaw suddenly becomes swollen for no apparent reason. You may have an infection, irritation to your lymph nodes, or some other factor that should be treated with professional dental care right away.

4.Exposed Nerves

Exposed nerves are an excruciating experience that will only get worse if you wait to see your dentist. To prevent infections, further nerve damage, or more extensive emergency dental treatments, seek immediate dental assistance as soon as possible.

5.Knocked-Out Tooth

dental emergency tooth knocked out

Having a tooth suddenly knocked out of your mouth from a heavy impact can be quite a shock! However, it’s time to take action. According to the American Association of Endodontists2, it’s possible your dentist will be able to reinsert and preserve your tooth by taking quick action.

Before you see your dentist, you should:

  1. Carefully pick up the tooth by the top, taking care not to touch the root
  2. Rinse it without scrubbing
  3. If possible, reinsert the tooth in the socket
  4. If you can’t reinsert it, place the tooth in a container of milk or water
  5. Get to the dentist quickly to increase the chances of saving your tooth

6.Missing Filling

Missing a filling is another potential dental emergency because your tooth can easily break or chip without that reinforcement. It may even expose the tooth’s nerves, which can lead to a number of other dental issues that require immediate treatment. Call your dentist right away.

7.Broken Crown

When a dental crown breaks or falls off completely, it leaves your tooth exposed and vulnerable to infection and damage. By scheduling an emergency dental visit to replace the crown, you may avoid needing a root canal, extraction, or other dental procedure.

8.Abscessed Tooth

A dental abscess is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition in which a pocket of pus in the tooth has led to an infection. A tooth abscess may cause:

  • Fever
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Persistent toothache
  • Tender lymph nodes in your neck
  • Swelling in the face
  • A pimple-like bump on your gums near the infected tooth

This condition is an emergency as the infection can spread into your jaw, surrounding tissue, and other areas of the body.

9.Food/Object Lodged Between Teeth

When a piece of food or another object becomes lodged between your teeth and no amount of brushing or flossing will help, you should see your dentist right away. Without a professional to remove the object, it may cause your teeth to shift, gum irritation, gum disease, tooth decay, or even an infection.

Absolute Dental provides urgent dental care. Contact our team now to learn more about our emergency dental services.

What Are Treatments for Common Dental Emergencies?

How to treat dental emergencies depends on the situation and the type of damage. In many cases of severe toothache and chips or cracks, your dentist may need to treat an infection and repair the tooth, which could involve:

  • Root canal treatment
  • Dental filling
  • Extraction
  • Irrigation and antibiotic treatment

If your tooth has been broken, knocked loose, or has come out completely, your dentist may need to perform:

  • Dental filling
  • Root canal treatment
  • Splinting
  • Reimplantation
  • Antibiotic treatment

Is There an Emergency Dentist Near Me?

Although high-quality preventive care can help keep some issues at bay, dental emergencies can happen. If you’re dealing with a dental emergency, time is of the essence to prevent the situation from getting worse. Some emergency rooms or urgent dental care clinics are open 24 hours to help patients with immediate needs.

Absolute Dental has dentist offices in Reno and Las Vegas, NV to help you if you are experiencing a dental emergency or other oral health issues.

Is there an emergency dentist near me? Contact Absolute Dental to find the closest location that can see you right away.


1Douglass, A., Douglass, J. (February 2003). Common Dental Emergencies. American Family Physician Journal 1;67(3):511-517. Retrieved 22 April 2022.

2American Association of Endodontists. Knocked Out Teeth. Retrieved 22 April 2022.

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