What qualifies as a dental emergency?

Your dentist should be your first call when you are dealing with a dental problem. However, what do you do when you have a problem when the dentist is closed – on weekends, during a holiday, or in the middle of the night? If you encounter a severe dental problem outside of normal office hours, you will probably need to pay a visit to an emergency dentist or, if it is too bad, the emergency room, especially if you think you may have an infection.

However, while any sort of toothache or problem with your teeth can be painful and feel like it is urgent, it is vital that you understand the difference between an uncomfortable dental issue that can wait until the next day to sort, and one that requires immediate attention to stop the tooth from being irreparably damaged or in the worst-case scenario, lost or make you very unwell.

Here, we look at some of the things to look out for to decide whether your dental issue qualifies as a dental emergency. 


First of all, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the pain too severe to cope with?
  • Is there bleeding that can not be stopped or managed?
  • Have you lost a tooth? Acting quickly can be the difference between saving a tooth or not
  • Is your tooth or are your teeth loose? Wobbly teeth are common in children but once a full set of adult teeth are through, they should not be loose. If they are, it indicates that there is a serious problem.
  • Is there an infection in your tooth or gum? This includes an abscess. If left untreated, these can make you very unwell and can even be life-threatening. Signs of infection include pain and significant swelling


As a general rule of thumb, any dental issue that requires help to stop bleeding, ease unmanageable levels of pain, or is to save a tooth or treat an infection is considered a dental emergency. 

If you have any of these symptoms, you may have a dental emergency. Call your dentist right away and describe what happened. If your dentist is not open, you may need to search online for ‘is there a dental near me open?’ to find an emergency dentist, or, failing that, the emergency room at the hospital.


What does not count as a dental emergency?


If the problem can wait until your dentist can take a look at it in the next day or two, it does not qualify as a dental emergency. While they may cause you some discomfort, many problems that seem urgent can wait for a couple of days, with some mild painkillers and taking good care of yourself. 

One such example is a chipped or cracked tooth. If it is sharp or very painful, then by all means head to the emergency dentist, because it can further damage your mouth and teeth. However, if it is chipped or cracked but you are not experiencing any pain, hold off until you can find a dental near me open in the next couple of days.

If you have lost a crown or a filling, you may be able to wait a couple of days to see your dentist. After losing a filling, you can temporarily put a piece of sugar-free gum into the cavity as a makeshift fix until you have found the answer to your question ‘where is there a dental near me open?’. If you have lost a crown, you can usually fix it back into place with denture adhesive. 


Preventing a dental emergency

As with everything, prevention is always better than cure, and the best way to prevent a dental emergency is to take great care of your oral hygiene and to have regular checkups with your regular dentist. During a routine checkup, potential issues such as cavities, loose fillings and crowns, and signs of decay and infection can be picked up and dealt with before it gets to the emergency point. If you do have treatment such as tooth extraction, make sure that you follow the aftercare advice to avoid infection and issues such as a dry socket, which can be incredibly painful.

Although a thorough dental hygiene routine can help to keep these scenarios at bay, dental emergencies can still occur. is If you are dealing with a dental emergency, fast action is required to prevent the problem from getting worse.

Patient Empowered Dentistry