Common Dental Emergencies

The following highlights some common dental emergencies. If you experience an injury to your mouth, face or neck it is important to ensure you receive any necessary medical attention first (read Patient Dental Emergency Resource Package). Contact your dentist for any additional questions related to your individual circumstances and dental treatment needs.

NOTE: If you have trouble breathing or your mouth continuously fills with blood, call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department. Also seek an immediate medical assessment if you suffer a head trauma.

Knocked-out tooth

A knocked-out permanent tooth may be saved but time is of the essence. If you knock out your permanent tooth, follow these steps

  • Hold the tooth by the crown (the top part of the tooth); never touch the root. 
  • Rinse the tooth with water.
  • Reposition the tooth in the socket. Gently hold in place with a clean piece of gauze, a tea towel or face cloth to hold it in place; if you are unable to replace the tooth, put it in a glass of milk. 
  • It is essential to contact your dentist, or nearest dental office immediately. In the case of a knocked-out tooth getting immediate treatment (within the hour) can make a huge difference to a dentist’s ability to preserve your tooth.

Please note: Do not try and reinsert a baby tooth. Contact your dentist to discuss the options.

Displaced teeth 

Contact your dentist as soon as possible if an injury has caused your tooth to move. A displaced tooth can interfere with your bite and cause discomfort. If addressed early your dentist may be able to move the tooth back into position.   

Broken, chipped or cracked teeth

In most cases a small chip in the tooth does not constitute an emergency, particularly if it’s not causing pain. Speak to your dentist about the injury and treatment options.   

Extensive cracks or fractures to a tooth require immediate attention: such injuries usually involve enamel (outer layer of the tooth) as well as the underlying dentin and possibly the pulp (vital structure of the tooth). This may cause pain and could lead to further damage if left untreated. 

If you experience trauma to your tooth:

  • Look in the mouth to understand the extent of the injury.
  • Gently rinse your mouth with water to clean the damaged area.
  • Apply a cold compress to the impacted area, as required.
  • Take anti-inflammatory analgesics (e.g. Ibuprofen) to alleviate any discomfort and reduce inflammation. Do not apply medication directly to the tooth/gum.
  • Talk to your dentist as soon as possible.

Tissue injuries

Cuts, lacerations or other wounds can also occur to the lips, tongue, cheeks and other soft tissues of the mouth. If you experience a trauma to the tissue:   

  • Gently rinse the mouth with water to assess the extent of the injury.
  • Apply a clean cloth or piece of gauze to the area; apply pressure.
  • If extensive or persistent bleeding occurs you should seek immediate care.

Infection

It is important to see your dentist if you have an infection in your teeth or gums. Pain will usually be the first sign of an infection but you may also notice redness in the gums or swelling in your mouth. In the case of swelling that affects your ability to swallow or breathe call 911 or visit the nearest hospital emergency.   

Damaged dental work

In most cases, an issue such as a dislodged filling or a displaced crown does not require urgent care. However, call your dentist immediately to discuss your concern and to arrange an appointment for further care. Also ask if there is anything you can do in the interim.