What Is A Dental Emergency?

A: So, a dental emergency is basically when there’s significant swelling or pain. If the swelling is actually closing the throat, we recommend going to the emergency room.

But generally, a dental emergency where we would see you soon involves pain, something you don’t know what’s going on. You want us to take a look and there’s an immediacy of need.

Treatment is not always able to be done for a dental emergency. But many times, something like a root canal or an extraction usually proceeds with the treatment for a dental emergency.

If you feel like you’re having a dental emergency the first thing to remember is not to panic. Dental emergencies are typically far less threatening than a medical emergency such as chest pains. Most of the time the pain or the panic is the real issue at hand and your health is not at risk.

Is It A Dental Emergency Or Not?

Even though a dental emergency is not typically life-threatening you should always contact your preferred dentist right away. Even if you’re not sure if it’s an emergency, it is best to err on the side of caution when swelling or pain is extreme.  However, if it’s not possible to contact your preferred dentist you need to determine if you are indeed having a dental emergency.

If you are indeed having a dental emergency, then you might need to visit an emergency or after-hours dental clinic. There, they can treat or at least stabilize the situation until you can visit your regular dentist.

But what if you aren’t sure what you have going on is a dental emergency or not? If you’re not sure check out this list of common potential dental emergencies. Reading over this quick guide will help you determine if your situation is critical or not. It will also guide you on what you can do to treat or alleviate the symptoms at home if not an emergency.

Facial Swelling—EMERGENCY


  • An acute oral infection that needs immediate examination as it won’t correct itself or subside.
  • The source could be an infected tooth, infection in the jawbone, or an infection of your gums.

What You Should Do:

  • Don’t procrastinate, thinking it will go away or swelling will go down. It won’t. See a dentist ASAP as putting it off could result in septic shock if the infection spreads to your blood.
  • Do not lie down, remain sitting up or standing. Sleep on a sofa sitting up or a recliner that is as upright as possible.
  • Drink plenty of water. If you become dehydrated it will only make things worse.


What You Should Do:

  • Try to recover the tooth ASAP. If you cannot find it or it’s damaged beyond saving you’ll likely need an implant. This will preserve your jawbone density and facial structure.
  • If you can find the tooth put it back in the socket as soon as you can—time is critical here. If you can get it back in the socket within an hour of loss—your odds of saving it are good. Even if you implant it back in the socket properly, you still might need a root canal. However, a root canal costs far less than a dental implant. ***THIS IS ONLY FOR ADULT TEETH—do not attempt with children’s teeth.
  • When picking up the tooth only pick it up by the crown, which is the part of the tooth that’s visible. Be careful not to touch the root as you could damage the important tissue that can make saving it possible.

Chipped, Cracked, or Broken Tooth—NOT AN EMERGENCY


  • Usually, if it’s a minor crack you will just need to get a filling from your normal dentist. However, if the crack is significantly large, you’re looking at a crown. If the damage is extreme, such as cracked from top to bottom—an extraction and implant is the fix.

What You Should Do:

  • Take it easy, there’s no need to panic. If you’re not in any pain then that’s a good sign. It means there’s no reason to call an emergency dentist. Just take some over-the-counter pain reliever if you get sensitive to cold or hot foods. Food sensitivity will also digress as your saliva insulates the cracked part of the tooth.
  • Schedule an exam with your dentist to determine the severity of the damage and what the treatment should be.



  • When dealing with oral bleeding, keep in mind it could mean something small or something critical. It just depends on the situation at hand. For example, blood, when you are flossing usually, means gingivitis—not an emergency. However, blood in your saliva could be advanced cancer or advanced gum disease. While both of those are serious, in the realm of dental emergencies they’re still not on the radar.
  • Bleeding after having an extraction for example can be a different situation. If the bleeding is constant and you can’t get it to clot—that is a dental emergency.

What You Should Do:

  • Regarding blood when flossing, just schedule an exam with your dentist to treat the gum disease. If you let it go too long without treatment, it could turn into an infection, which would be an emergency.
  • If bleeding after oral surgery, try to reach the dentist that performed the procedure first. Bleeding is normal but not after 24 hours—it should subside. So, if it’s still bleeding a day after, keep your head upright and don’t lay down, and get to the dentist ASAP.

Abscessed Tooth—EMERGENCY


  • A dental abscess is usually severe and can be life-threatening in some situations. An abscess is a pool of pus in your tooth that leads to infection.
  • It can cause not only fever but also tooth sensitivity to cold or hot, facial swelling, and more.


What You Should Do:

  • It needs immediate attention but does not require an emergency dentist in most cases. An appointment for some time in the next 24 hours should suffice. If there’s no openings within 24 hours—then contact another dentist or an emergency dental clinic.
  • Keep brushing and flossing the infected area and just be gentle

Pain When Chewing—NOT AN EMERGENCY


  • Pain, when you chew can mean your tooth is cracked. However, if you catch it quickly and get a crown on it—the damage will be a lot less. You might save yourself an extraction and an implant, or a root canal.
  • However, this could also be caused by TMJ and not a cracked tooth at all. TMJ normally results from grinding your teeth at night due to stress. Either way, it’s not serious and can be taken care of during your dentist’s normal hours.

What You Should Do:

  • Make an appointment within a few days to determine the root issue and get it treated.
  • Don’t chew or bite on the side that’s hurting just in case the tooth really is cracked. You don’t want to agitate it and turn a minor issue into a major one.

Do You Need Help With A Dental Issue Or Pain?

If you have a dental emergency or think you might, please don’t hesitate to call Vela Dental. We can help you determine if an office visit is needed and how soon. We want you to be comfortable but we’ll always be honest. Emergency dental clinics cost much more than a regular dentist, so we’ll guide you accordingly.

Otherwise, contact us at Vela and book an appointment to see what’s causing your pain. We’re here to help you and make sure it’s nothing critical. After all, often, with dental issues—the peace of mind of knowing what’s wrong is good medicine.


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