Sometimes, dental procedures are not planned and emergency treatment is required. If you experience bleeding from trauma, or if you have a tooth that has been knocked out of the socket, contact your dental office immediately. For assistance finding a dentist, use our Find-a-Dentist feature.
Please note: the NBDS does not give out dental or medical advice.
Disclaimer: These suggestions are of a general nature only, and not intended to apply to every dental emergency situation. If you have specific questions regarding emergency dental care, please consult your dentist.
Some Common Emergencies:
This is a common trauma and can sometimes be helped by “rounding” off the corner of the opposing teeth so they can’t pinch the tissue in between the teeth. Placing a cotton roll or gauze in the cheek area will help push the cheek away so that you can let the area heal without additional trauma.
Rinse the area lightly with warm water. If you don’t have sensitivity to pressure, or it’s not bleeding, or cold air isn’t painful, then it’s probably not very deep and should be smoothed down at your earliest convenience. See your dentist to make sure there are no sharp edges or exposure of the pulp.
Cut Lip or Trauma to the Face
If it looks like you need stitches in the oral-facial area, going to a physician first may be best. Following this treatment, a dentist can take a look at the teeth to be sure they are all right. Often, however, a cold, wet, clean washcloth applied to the area with pressure will stop any bleeding. If the cut is deep, apply the compress and go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Filling Fell Out
This generally requires a visit to your dentist to replace the filling, though it is not typically an emergency. Most fillings are not deep enough to cause any problem if they are left untreated for a couple of days. This can vary from case to case, so use your judgement and call your dentist for advice if you are unsure.
Sometimes putting a little wax, gum or petroleum jelly over the area will protect it until you can see a dentist. Pharmacies sell a small tube of thick ointment that can be prepared and placed in the opening to block food from entering.
Hot and Cold Sensitivity
If pain lasts for a few seconds, then it is often related to a small exposure close to the root. In this case, avoiding hot and cold, and even placing some petroleum jelly over the area can protect the tooth for a short while until you can see your dentist.
If the pain persists for a longer period of time after exposure, it often means that the nerve has been infected. If acetaminophen or ibuprofen does little to help the pain, then a root canal may be needed to save the tooth.
Temporary Crown Comes Off
You may save yourself a trip to the dentist if you can clean the inside of the temporary crown and reposition it back in place. Be sure to lightly rinse off the area where the temporary crown was and guide it back onto the tooth.
Generally, a temporary crown is only protecting the prepared tooth, so if it comes off, it is not urgent, though it should be replaced. Do not let a tooth go more than a couple of days without a temporary crown covering the prepared tooth, since leakage can occur and you run the risk of infection. Dental adhesive powder or even a small amount of toothpaste works well to help hold it in place until you can see your dentist.
Tooth Knocked Out
Gently rinse off the tooth and try to re-insert it yourself immediately. If you cannot, put it in a cup of milk and see your dentist immediately. Also do not scrub the tooth, as this will destroy the attachment fibres that are needed to help re-insert the tooth. Instead, just rinse it gently. If a tooth is left out of the socket for more than one hour, the likelihood that it will ever grow back properly diminishes.
Even if a tooth is re-inserted immediately, there is still only about a 50 percent chance of long-term survival. Call your dentist immediately so he or she can X-ray the tooth to be sure it is in correctly and/or stabilize it by bonding it in place.
These can be hot- or cold-sensitive, pressure-sensitive, percussion-sensitive (tapping), sharp or dull aches. They may last for a short time (less than 30 seconds) or for a longer period of time.
If it’s a dull achy feeling, it’s probably gum-related and you’ll need to schedule a cleaning with your dentist. If it’s sharp and short in duration, then a filling may have come out and exposed a root.
Something stuck between your teeth
First, try using dental floss, very gently and carefully, to remove the object. If you tie a small knot in the middle of the floss and pull that through the contact area, often you can dislodge most small pieces of food or debris. Do not poke between your teeth with a pin or similar sharp, pointy object; it can cut your gums or scratch the tooth surface. If you can’t get the obstruction out, see your dentist
This is often helped with a warm compress (warm washcloth) on the jaw area, along with taking an anti-inflammatory such as Aspirin, Advil, Motrin or Naprosen. Avoid wide opening of your mouth and watch how you are sleeping (with your hands near your face?). Sometimes a splint is necessary to help prevent this from recurring.