Dental Emergencies

Although most dental emergencies are preventable, they often occur without warning. Knowing what to do in a dental emergency can make the difference between saving and losing a tooth. The following information provides instructions on how to prepare for, prevent and handle dental emergencies.

PDA member,
Dr. Richard Klich,
discusses what
to do during a
dental emergency.


 
 

FAQs

How can I prepare for a dental emergency?
Having the correct information and supplies readily available in a dental emergency will increase the chance of saving a tooth and receiving quick treatment. To be prepared, keep your dentist’s emergency number with you in a wallet or organizer and pack an emergency dental-care kit, including gauze, saline solution and a small, sealable container.

In what situations do dental emergencies often occur?
The majority of dental emergencies result from sporting injuries. The best way to protect teeth, cheeks and lips during sporting events is to wear a mouthguard. 

Other situations that commonly lead to dental emergencies include the following:

  • Trips and falls.
  • Impacting teeth against water fountains or silverware.
  • Using teeth to cut or open material.
  • Chewing hard materials such as ice and candy.

What should I do if I have a:

Broken Tooth?
Immediately rinse your mouth with warm water to wash away any impurities.  Place ice on the injury area of the face to reduce swelling. If possible, find and save any tooth pieces. Immediately call a dentist.

Cracked Tooth?
Though tiny cracks are common and tend not to cause problems, more severe cracks may require dental treatment. A cracked tooth is indicated by a sharp pain when you bite down or chew food and acute sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet or sour foods. If you experience these symptoms, avoid chewing with that side of your mouth and contact a dentist as soon as possible to determine necessary treatment.

Knocked-Out Tooth?
Immediately find the tooth and rinse it in water, holding it by the crown (the part you see when you look in your mouth), not the root. Do not scrub the tooth or remove any attached tissue. If possible, insert and hold the tooth in its original socket. Otherwise, place the tooth in a container of milk. Immediately see a dentist.

Jaw Injury?
If you believe your jaw is injured or broken, immediately place ice on the affected area and go to a dentist or hospital emergency room.

Tongue, Lip or Cheek Injury?
Clean the injured area and immediately apply ice to reduce swelling. If bleeding occurs, apply direct pressure to the affected area with a clean cloth. If bleeding persists, proceed to a hospital emergency room immediately.

Broken Braces or Wires?
If the broken piece is easily removable, it may be taken out. Broken pieces that do not cause pain do not require immediate attention. If a broken piece causes pain, cover sharp ends with dental wax, gauze or chewing gum. If a piece of wire is stuck in the tongue, gums or cheek, do not remove it and see a dentist immediately.

Toothache?
If you experience pain in a tooth, rinse your mouth with warm water to cleanse the area. Use dental floss to gently clean between the aching tooth to remove any lodged debris. If the pain continues, contact a dentist.


Resources

American Dental Association: Dental Emergencies
American Family Physician: Common Dental Emergencies
Save Your Smile: Dental Emergencies & Accidents
Simple Steps to Better Dental Health: Dental Emergencies
News Release: Dental Emergencies