If you've experienced dental trauma or have severe pain, bleeding, or swelling, this is considered a dental emergency requiring immediate care. A dental emergency also includes excessive bleeding due to cuts or lacerations to the mouth or gums, or a dislodged or fractured tooth. If you believe you have a dental emergency, it's important to seek immediate care from a dentist or other medical professional.
What should I do before I see my dentist or visit the ER?
A chipped, cracked or broken tooth
Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area and apply a cold compress to the side of your face. If you experience swelling, immediately contact a dentist. If you have a broken tooth, wrap the tooth in a damp washcloth or gauze and bring it with you to the dentist.
A loosened or knocked-out tooth
Immediately call your dentist if a tooth becomes loose or is knocked out due to a traumatic injury.
You may be able to save a tooth that has been knocked out by:
- Using a clean washcloth to gently re-insert the tooth back into the socket. Do not touch tooth roots. Depending on how long the tooth has been removed, it may reattach to the underlying bone.
- If the tooth is dirty, put it in a cup of milk or saliva to keep it moist and take it to the dentist.
A broken or dislocated jaw
If you suspect a broken jaw, apply a cold compress and immediately go to the emergency room.
An object stuck in the teeth or mouth
Use dental floss to gently remove the object if possible. Immediately see your dentist.
Excessive or frequent bleeding of gums
Apply firm pressure to the area with a damp washcloth. If the bleeding continues for an hour or more, visit urgent care or the emergency room. People with certain medical conditions, taking certain medications, or taking chemotherapy treatment should immediately go to urgent care or the ER.
When should I see my dentist for a dental emergency?
The following conditions can be treated by an emergency dentist:
- Your mouth or gums are swollen and painful
- You have severe tooth pain
- A tooth is knocked loose or knocked out
- Your gums are bleeding and won't stop
Most dentists reserve time in their daily schedules for emergencies, so call your dentist and offer detailed information about your condition. Most dentists treat emergencies as soon as possible.
Keep in mind, a hospital emergency room cannot provide the same level of specialized dental care as a dentist or dental specialist.
When should I go to the emergency room for a dental emergency?
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience one of these life-threatening oral health conditions:
- Difficulty breathing
- An emergency medical situation related to a mouth or tooth problem
- Swelling that spreads below your jawline, or to your nose or upper eyelid
- One side of your face droops or you have slurred speech, as this may be a sign of a stroke
- A dislocated or fractured jaw
- A serious cut or laceration