How to Handle a Dental Emergency

 In oral hygiene

Before we start on how to handle a dental emergency, I think we should first ask ourselves: “What is a dental emergency?” Dental emergency is a generic term, generally implying that the symptoms are of such a severe nature, that you cannot wait until normal consulting hours to have the problem attended to. Severe pain is often involved, but not necessarily. The social implications of missing teeth, such as a bridge, can be perceived to be severely socially embarrassing, and that person would certainly consider it an emergency, even though there is no pain.

Broadly, a dental emergency can be said to encompass the following:

  • Severe pain that can’t be controlled with non-prescription painkillers or anti-inflammatories.
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Extreme swelling to the face, mouth or neck.
  • Injury to the mouth, teeth or jaw.
  • Loss of teeth resulting in social embarrassment.

That gives us a broad definition; now we will run through a few common dental emergencies and suggest ways to control the trauma until you can get to a health professional.



Toothache can vary from irritating to extreme. Rinse with a warm saline solution, and try and gently clean your mouth, by dislodging any stuck food. Take the prescribed number of over the counter painkillers and anti-inflammatories, to try and lessen the pain. If you have swelling, apply a compress to the outside of the affected area. Go and see your dentist.

Broken Teeth

Motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries – there can be any number of causes for broken or chipped teeth. The most important thing is to try and save the fragment. Dentists can do wonders these days with reattaching tooth fragments. Rinse your mouth and the fragment with a warm saline solution and see your dentist as soon as possible.

Completely Dislodged Tooth

Wash the tooth and your mouth, but don’t scrub any flesh fragments still on the tooth. Get to a dentist immediately. If you are there within the hour, there is a very good chance that the dentist will be able to save the tooth by reinserting it. Save it in milk to keep it fresher.

Partially Dislodged Tooth

Again, get to the dentist as soon as possible; he can save the tooth by splinting it. If you are in pain, over the counter painkillers will help and of course, a cold compress if there is swelling.

Lost Filling

The danger here is that you will get an infection in the now exposed part of the tooth. Try and plug the hole with a bit of sugarless gum, and get to your dentist as soon as you can.


Abscesses are usually accompanied by a lot of pain, so the first thing would be to try and control the pain, by self-medicating with painkillers. Abscesses are as the result of infection between the tooth and the gums, and the danger is that the infection can spread very quickly to the surrounding tissue, and even into the rest of the body. See a dentist immediately, abscesses can be dangerous.

Dental emergencies are traumatic, often painful and possibly socially embarrassing. Thankfully there are dedicated health professionals that we can call on to help deal with this traumatic experience. Keep calm, try and follow the simple guidelines above, and get to that professional as soon as possible.

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