What to Do if You Have a Dental Emergency

Accidents happen.  Sometimes dental problems sneak up on you when you’re not prepared for them.  Regardless of the cause, emergencies are never easy.  This blog will equip you to deal with dental emergencies in the best possible way.

What Constitutes a Dental Emergency?

There are many different dental problems that occur when you least expect it.  Being able to distinguish between true emergencies and non-urgent dental problems will help you take the first step in dealing with them.

Let’s start by ruling out non-urgent dental problems.  These are the things that do warrant a dental appointment, but they do not necessitate an after-hours, expensive emergency dental appointment.

  • A loose tooth with no pain or swelling (this includes baby teeth and permanent teeth)
  • A permanent tooth coming in behind or to one side of a baby tooth
  • A toothache that does not cause any swelling
  • A chipped or broken tooth that does not expose the nerve of the tooth or cause pain

For any of these issues, please call as soon as we are open or leave us a voicemail.  We will make room for you in our schedule to see you as quickly as possible.

True Dental Emergencies

True dental emergencies are not very common, but they require immediate care.  We can divide true dental emergencies into two different categories based on who should address them: your dentist or an emergency room physician.

If you or a loved one suffer any of these problems, you should call your dentist, whoever is on call for your dentist, or an emergency dentist immediately.

  • A permanent tooth that has been completely knocked-out
  • An injury that breaks a tooth and exposes the nerve inside

The next list includes emergencies that require urgent medical care.  If you or a loved one experience any of these, please go to the nearest emergency room as quickly as possible.

  • Any swelling of the face or neck from a dental infection
  • A broken jaw
  • A dislocated jaw
  • Any large cut to the lips, cheeks or tongue that will not stop the bleeding

What to Do for a Knocked-Out Tooth

The most urgent dental emergency requiring dental treatment is a tooth that has been completely knocked out.  If this happens to you or a loved one, it is important to follow these steps:


  1. Call your dentist and make plans to meet him at the office as soon as possible.
  2. Find the tooth.
  3. Store the tooth in milk or saliva. Do not store it in water, and do not attempt to wash it off.
  4. Go directly to the dentist’s office.

The timing of this is the most important factor in long-term success.  The sooner the dentist re-implants the tooth into the socket, the more likely it is to succeed.

Having a good, established relationship with a dentist is important in dental emergencies.  An emergency is not the time to be scrolling through a list of dental offices, trying to find one who will see you!

What to Do about Large Swellings in the Head and Neck

This is the most life-threatening dental emergency there is, and that’s why you should head directly to an emergency room.  In rare cases, people die from tooth abscesses.  Death can be the result of a tooth infection spreading into one of three areas: the brain, the bloodstream, or the airway.

In order to prevent this dangerous spread of infection, any swelling in the head and neck needs immediate attention.  In most cases, the emergency room doctor will start intravenous antibiotics to get the medication to a functional level in the bloodstream as quickly as possible.  If you or a loved one have this type of swelling, don’t waste time calling your dentist.  Go to the nearest emergency room immediately.  Once the infection is under control, then you can seek dental care.

More Questions about Dental Emergencies?

Call our office today at 940-382-1750!  We can tell you how we handle dental emergencies in our office and what you need to do if you have one.

If you do not currently have an established relationship with a dentist, the prospect of a dental emergency is reason enough to start one.  Call to schedule a new patient visit with Dr. Chowning!

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