What Is A Dental Emergency?

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what is a dental emergency

Emergency Dentistry

Injuries that cause damage to tissues of the mouth, breakage or loss of teeth or severe discomfort all qualify as emergent. Your dentist will have to see you in order to determine the actions required to address the urgent issue, but this information will provide some insight into what actions you should consider during a dental emergency.

Knocked out tooth

Common causes for tooth loss include sports related tooth loss, slips, trips and falls, physical altercations, and biting on very hard or non-food surfaces (such as opening beverage containers with teeth). If you have been in a motor vehicle accident and require medical assistance, call 9-1-1 to be seen in an emergency room.

What to do if you’ve broken or knocked out a tooth

The same things that can cause a tooth to fall out can also cause it to break. Even if your tooth is broken into pieces, it is important to collect and prepare all pieces for evaluation by a dentist. Many breaks can be repaired using white filling compound, so it is important not to fear the worst.

To prepare the tooth or tooth fragments:

  • Hold teeth by their tip and not by their delicate roots
  • Rinse with clean water to remove debris. This allows the dentist to analyze the tooth and identify the best course of action quickly
  • Transport the tooth inside the cheek pocket. Alternatively transport in a container of cold milk
  • Act quickly. Try to be seen as soon as possible, preferably within 30 minutes of losing the tooth
  • If your mouth is bleeding, rinse your mouth gently with clean water and place a piece of rolled gauze at the site of injury. Apply gentle pressure by biting down to discourage bleeding.

Bitten tongue or lip

  • Rinse mouth gently and apply gauze and pressure to discourage bleeding. Ice should also be used to discourage profuse bleeding. See a doctor or dentist as soon as possible if the wound is severe and requires treatment.


It may seem silly, but until you’ve experienced a tooth ache it’s hard to imagine that such pain could be called an emergency. Toothaches are an indication of nerve irritation in a tooth and should be investigated by a dental professional in order to safely identify and manage underlying causes.

If you have a toothache:

  • Apply cold compresses to the outside of the jaw area but NEVER use heat. Applying heat to certain kinds of infections can worsen an already painful situation.
  • You may choose to take over the counter pain control such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Take only as directed and never apply these medications directly to the tissues of the mouth, as this can cause additional irritation.

Common toothache causes:

  • Did you recently have your dental appliance adjusted? Pain caused by appliance adjustments should subside after a few days. See your dentist if pain persists.
  • Teeth that fail to erupt naturally are called impacted teeth. Impacted teeth can put pressure on neighbouring teeth. Diagnostic imagery (x-rays) may be required to confirm impaction.
  • Are you in the habit of brushing too hard? Repeated aggressive brushing can cause gum tissue around the tooth to recede, resulting in pain and sensitivity.
  • If you often wake in the morning with sore jaw muscles and/or if you suffer frequent headaches you may be clenching or grinding your teeth at night. Nighttime grinding and clenching can cause sore joints and ligaments in the bones associated with bite. Your dentist may suggest a dental appliance such as a night guard to prevent pain and protect teeth from the risk of erosion and fractures that can often result.
  • Have a look around, do things look different? Occasionally fillings and sealants can come loose and fall away without us noticing. That is, until we begin to feel pain in the unprotected tooth. See your dentist to assess whether loss of a filling is responsible for your tooth pain.
  • Have you been using whitening agents? If so, they could be the source of your ache. The agents in tooth whiteners penetrate the outer layer of the tooth and into the dentin – the same part of the tooth that is exposed in gum erosion. The result can be sore, sensitive teeth. We suggest swapping your toothpaste for another non-whitening variety and discontinuing whitening treatments if you are experiencing pain.
  • Tooth fractures that have reached the middle of the tooth are often very painful. If you suspect that you may have a tooth fracture, see a dentist to determine the appropriate course of action.
  • Gum disease, also called periodontitis is characterized by red, swollen and bleeding gums, and can be serious if advanced. Advanced stages can require surgery and/or antibiotics to remedy.
  • A deep throbbing pain that can be hard to pinpoint can be an indication of an underlying tooth abscess (infection in the root of teeth). See a dentist for treatment of this painful condition.
  • Tooth decay that has advanced into the center of the tooth is a frequent cause of tooth pain. If you think you may require a filling, see your dentist.