What is Dental Emergency – A Guide for Patients

According to a CDC report from 2020, up to 63% of adults aged 18 and above visited the dentist. The number for children is significantly higher (up to 89%). These dental office visits are either routine checks or emergency appointments. 

In the medical world, emergencies are normal and expected. No matter how careful you are with your oral care, things happen at times that require urgent medical help. Even simple dental issues can progress into a dental emergency if it is not treated promptly Knowing when to call in for an emergency may make all the difference in the outcome of your treatment. In this post, we’ll explain what a dental emergency is and cover some of the situations that qualify as one. 

What Counts As A Dental Emergency? 

The first step to understanding what counts as a medical emergency is knowing the difference between a routine dental checkup and an emergency. A routine tooth cleaning, X-ray, or office consultation that you can do at your convenience is a mere dental checkup. A dental emergency on the other hand isn’t routine.  

While you can put off a check-up and do it at your convenience, dental emergencies often require immediate action to address the severe pain, discomfort, or injury to your mouth. When a dental condition affects the quality of your life significantly, it is an emergency and you should address it as soon as possible. 

Types Of Dental Emergencies And How To Manage Them


Persistent debilitating pain in your teeth can count as a dental emergency especially when it is sudden and gets progressively worse. Toothaches sometimes come and go and many people simply ignore them or pass them off as a minor situation. A tooth case is not an issue on its own; it is just a symptom of an underlying problem with your teeth. The underlying issues might be an infection or a cavity and could also mean dry sockets and exposed roots. If you notice a recurring toothache, you should consider it a dental emergency. 

When you experience a toothache, you should note the accompanying symptoms, as it will make it easier for the dentist to diagnose your case. There are different kinds of pain and the type you feel may depend on the problem with your teeth. You should also note where the pain is coming from and consider additional symptoms that may come with it such as bad breath, swelling, tooth sensitivity, fever, and inflamed gums. While you work on scheduling an emergency dental office visit, applying a cold compress on the site of the pain can help alleviate the discomfort.

Broken Teeth

As minor as a broken or chipped tooth can seem, it can also constitute a dental emergency. If it is a small chip, it might not be painful, making you consider it a minor issue that does not need the dentist’s attention. However, the broken teeth can compromise the tooth’s structure and leave it vulnerable to bacteria. So, you might need to visit the dentist Before meeting the dentist, there are some things to do when your teeth get broken. Here are things to do in case of broken or chipped teeth.

  • Save the broken tooth fragments. The dentist might find it handy in fixing the chipped tooth.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm water. 
  • If you are in pain, take a pain relief pill. 
  • If you experience bleeding, cold compress the spot. 
  • Visit the dentist immediately.

Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is a swollen pus-filled area of your teeth or gum caused by an infection. It often leads to intense pain that’s difficult to ignore, requiring an emergency visit to a dental office. A dental abscess can result in serious complications if not properly treated. What’s worse, a dental abscess will not go away on its own, so waiting it out is not an option. You may seek temporary relief for the pain but visiting a dentist right away is your best bet. Some symptoms of dental abscess are fever, pus discharge, bad taste in the mouth, fever, and gum sensitivity. Visit your dentist as soon as you notice it.  

Jaw fracture

Jaw fracture is another dental issue you can not just ignore for a while.Severe jaw fractures can be life-threatening, so you should never ignore symptoms of jaw fracture. A blow or fall can cause a jaw fracture. Surprisingly, they can be caused by a dentist too. A dentist can fracture the patient’s jaws if he applies too much force during tooth extraction. This is another reason to prioritize visiting a professional dental professional for all cases. No matter the cause of the fracture, go to the dentist as soon as you notice jaw misalignment or broken jaw bone. 

Broken Dental Crowns

When your dental crown is removed, your first instinct might be to fix it back yourself or throw out the crown and move on with life. However, it is also a dental emergency that a dentist should treat. When the crown gets knocked out, hold it till you visit the dentist. Even though you might be able to slip the crown back on, it is best to visit the dentist before doing anything. The dentist has dental cement and dental adhesive, which are more suitable for fixing broken crowns. If your gums feel sensitive, use clove oil to relieve the pain. 

Broken Braces

Broken braces can injure the gums if not properly taken care of, so it counts as a dental emergency. You can still fix a brace wire sticking out of its bracket by yourself by using a soft but firm material to push it back. However, if you find it difficult to do that, consult your dentist right away. Be careful not to cut the wire as that might cause more harm. Even if you can fix the brace on your own, you should still visit your orthodontist for an additional check.


Any injury to your face, especially to the area around your mouth and jaw, might constitute a reason for a dental emergency. For example, if you experience tears in your mouth, cheeks, tongue, and lips, these are tissue injuries that require the dentist’s attention. If the face pain is caused by swelling of a part of the face, you can use a cold compress to relieve the pain or stop the bleeding before going to the dentist. 


Some dental problems might not come off as emergencies, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Even though only a few dental problems are life-threatening, you should not treat any with levity. Dental problems that are not life-threatening at first can progress into something more serious without proper care. 


Emergency Dental Care: Are You Ready for a Dental Emergency?