Dental Emergencies – How to Recognise and Respond

Dental emergencies can occur unexpectedly, causing pain and discomfort. Knowing how to recognise and respond to dental emergencies is crucial to ensure prompt and appropriate care. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various dental emergencies, their common signs and symptoms, and the necessary steps to take when faced with such situations. By familiarising yourself with this information, you will be better equipped to handle dental emergencies with confidence.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dental emergencies can occur unexpectedly and require prompt attention.
  • Common dental emergencies include toothaches, cracked or broken teeth, knocked-out teeth, lost fillings or crowns, abscessed teeth, and jaw injuries.
  • Recognising the signs and symptoms of dental emergencies is crucial for timely intervention.
  • Immediate steps for dental emergencies include toothache relief, handling cracked or broken teeth, saving knocked-out teeth, dealing with lost fillings or crowns, managing abscessed teeth, and responding to jaw injuries.
  • Seeking professional dental care is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment of dental emergencies.
  • Preventive measures such as regular dental check-ups, maintaining good oral hygiene, and using mouthguards can help prevent dental emergencies.
  • Being knowledgeable about dental emergencies empowers individuals to respond effectively and minimise complications.
  • It is important to contact an emergency dentist for professional care during dental emergencies.
  • Regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene practices contribute to overall oral health.
  • Wearing a mouthguard during high-risk activities can protect teeth and jaws from injuries.
  • Dental emergencies should not be ignored, and timely intervention is crucial for optimal outcomes.
  • Home remedies can provide temporary relief, but professional dental care is necessary to address the underlying causes of dental emergencies.

dental emergency

Dental emergencies can occur due to various reasons, such as accidents, injuries, or underlying dental conditions. They often require immediate attention to alleviate pain, prevent further damage, and ensure optimal oral health. By understanding the common dental emergencies and their respective signs and symptoms, you can act promptly to minimise potential complications.

Common Dental Emergencies


A toothache is a common dental problem that can range from mild discomfort to severe pain. It may be caused by dental decay, infection, gum disease, or tooth trauma. If you experience a persistent toothache, it is essential to seek dental care to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Cracked or Broken Tooth

A cracked or broken tooth can occur due to various reasons, such as biting down on a hard object, sustaining a facial injury, or having a weakened tooth from dental decay. Symptoms may include pain, sensitivity to hot or cold, difficulty chewing, and visible damage to the tooth. Prompt dental intervention is necessary to prevent further damage and restore the tooth’s functionality.

Knocked-Out Tooth

Having a tooth knocked out, also known as dental avulsion, is a dental emergency that requires immediate attention. If a tooth is completely knocked out, it may be possible to save it if proper steps are taken promptly. Quick action, such as gently rinsing the tooth, keeping it moist, and seeking emergency dental care, increases the chances of successful reattachment.

Lost Filling or Crown

Losing a dental filling or crown can expose the affected tooth to sensitivity and potential damage. Without the protective covering, the tooth becomes vulnerable to bacteria and further decay. Contacting your dentist as soon as possible is crucial to prevent complications and restore the filling or crown.

Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth occurs when an infection reaches the root of a tooth or the surrounding gums. It can cause severe pain, swelling, pus formation, and an unpleasant taste in the mouth. An abscessed tooth requires immediate dental attention to alleviate the infection and prevent its spread to other parts of the body.

Jaw Injury

A jaw injury, such as a dislocation or fracture, can result from accidents, sports-related incidents, or facial trauma. Common signs include difficulty opening or closing the mouth, pain, swelling, and misalignment of the jaw. Seeking prompt medical and dental care is vital to assess the extent of the injury and ensure proper treatment.

Recognising Dental Emergencies

To effectively respond to dental emergencies, it is important to recognise the signs and symptoms that indicate the need for urgent care. Some common indications include:

  • Severe or persistent tooth pain
  • Swelling of the face, gums, or jaw
  • Bleeding from the mouth or gums
  • Loose or displaced teeth
  • Broken or chipped teeth
  • Unexplained oral sensitivity to temperature
  • Signs of infection, such as pus or a foul taste in the mouth
  • Difficulty in opening or closing the mouth
  • Trauma or injury to the face or mouth
  • Being aware of these signs allows you to take immediate action and seek appropriate dental care.

Immediate Steps to Take

When faced with a dental emergency, it is crucial to take immediate steps to alleviate pain and prevent further damage before seeking professional care. Here are some initial actions you can take for common dental emergencies:

  • Toothache Relief
  • Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to help reduce inflammation.
  • Gently floss around the affected tooth to remove any trapped food particles.
  • Use a cold compress on the cheek near the painful area to reduce swelling and numb the area.
  • Avoid placing aspirin or any other pain medication directly on the tooth or gums, as it may cause further irritation.
  • Handling a Cracked or Broken Tooth
  • Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to clean the area.
  • Apply a cold compress to the affected cheek to minimise swelling.
  • If there is bleeding, apply gentle pressure with a clean gauze pad or cloth.
  • Save any broken tooth fragments and bring them to your emergency dental appointment.
  • Saving a Knocked-Out Tooth
  • Handle the tooth by the crown (top) and avoid touching the root.
  • Gently rinse the tooth with water, taking care not to scrub or remove any attached tissues.
  • If possible, gently reinsert the tooth into its socket and hold it in place with clean gauze or a tissue.
  • If reinsertion is not possible, place the tooth in a container of milk or saliva to keep it moist.
  • Dealing with Lost Filling or Crown
  • Clean the affected tooth and the inside of the crown/filling with warm water.
  • Apply over-the-counter dental cement or temporary filling material to the cavity or crown interior.
  • Avoid chewing on the affected side until you can see your dentist for a permanent restoration.
  • Managing an Abscessed Tooth
  • Rinse your mouth with mild saltwater to help alleviate pain and draw out the pus.
  • Use a cold compress on the cheek near the affected area to reduce swelling.
  • Avoid applying heat or placing aspirin on the gums, as it may worsen the infection.
  • Responding to Jaw Injuries
  • Apply a cold compress to the affected area to reduce swelling.
  • If there is bleeding, apply gentle pressure with a clean gauze pad or cloth.
  • Seek immediate medical and dental attention to assess and treat the injury properly.

Seeking Professional Dental Care

While initial first aid measures can provide temporary relief, it is essential to contact an emergency dentist for professional care as soon as possible. When calling to make an appointment, explain the nature of the dental emergency to ensure timely assistance. Emergency dental visits may involve X-rays, further examination, and appropriate treatment based on the specific situation.

Preventive Measures for Dental Emergencies

Preventing dental emergencies is key to maintaining good oral health. Here are some preventive measures you can take:

Regular Dental Check-ups

Visit your dentist for routine check-ups and cleanings to identify and address any potential issues before they escalate into emergencies.

Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene

Follow a consistent oral hygiene routine, including brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and using mouthwash. This helps prevent dental decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems.

Using Mouthguards

If you engage in sports or activities that pose a risk of dental injury, wear a properly fitted mouthguard to protect your teeth and jaw.


Being prepared and knowledgeable about dental emergencies is crucial for prompt and effective response. By recognising the signs, taking immediate action, and seeking professional dental care, you can minimise pain, prevent further damage, and ensure the best possible outcome for your oral health.


1. Are dental emergencies common?

Dental emergencies can occur unexpectedly but are relatively common. Taking preventive measures and maintaining good oral health can reduce the risk.

2. Can a toothache resolve on its own?

While temporary relief can be achieved with home remedies, it is important to seek professional dental care to address the underlying cause of a toothache.

3. Is it possible to save a knocked-out tooth?

With prompt action and proper care, it is possible to save a knocked-out tooth. Seek emergency dental care immediately for the best chance of successful reattachment.

4. How can I prevent dental emergencies?

Regular dental check-ups, good oral hygiene practices, and using mouthguards during high-risk activities can significantly reduce the likelihood of dental emergencies.

5. What should I do if I experience a jaw injury?

For a jaw injury, seek immediate medical and dental attention. Applying a cold compress and gentle pressure can help manage pain and swelling until professional help is available.