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A dental emergency involves either a worsening infection or trauma. These are dental issues that require immediate treatment.
Knowing how to quickly recognize these issues will help enable the best possible outcome.
Bacterial infections can begin within a tooth or in the tissues surrounding a tooth.
Infections spread into the jawbone around the teeth regardless of where they begin. If these infections aren’t treated promptly, they can spread into the tissues of the face and neck.
An emergency dentist will provide antibiotic therapy and address the cause of the infection with dental treatment.
Infections that cause swelling inside or outside the mouth can be treated with:
A spreading infection is dangerous anywhere in the human body. The unique danger of dental infections is their proximity to the airway and brain.
In rare cases, dental infections can lead to death when left untreated.
Dental trauma refers to mouth-related injuries. Injuries to the mouth can be painful and should receive immediate treatment.
Dental trauma can occur through:
Urgent dental care is necessary if an injury to the face breaks, moves, or knocks out a tooth.
A knocked-out tooth is the most urgent of these situations. When an entire tooth comes out, you have the chance of “saving” it by re-implanting it into the socket.
The sooner this occurs, the better your chance that it will be successful.
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If you lack dental insurance and need care, there are ways to receive dental treatment at reduced or no cost.
Here are some possible options to consider:
Dental colleges offer dental treatment to patients at a fraction of the cost of private practice care. Dental students complete the treatment under the supervision of faculty.
Many dental offices offer payment plans or financing options for expensive dental treatments. This allows you to make payments on your treatment over a selected length of time.
Most urban areas have dental clinics operating as public health services. These clinics offer low-cost treatment to patients who meet the clinic’s specific criteria.
Many cities have charity clinics operated by nonprofits or churches. Dentists volunteer their time to treat patients for free.
Various state dental associations host charity events. During these events, dentists come together to treat hundreds of patients within a single weekend.
With a discount dental plan, you’ll pay a monthly or annual fee ($100 to $200) and save 10 to 60% on dental care.
Some situations don’t require the attention of an emergency dentist:
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers can sometimes help relieve symptoms. If the condition isn’t getting noticeably worse, it’s likely not a dental emergency. Check with your dentist to be sure.
The only way to avoid a dental emergency due to infection is to regularly go to the dentist. They can catch dental problems before they become an emergency.
Some trauma is unavoidable, but you can prevent trauma from sports injuries by wearing an athletic mouth guard during contact sports.
You can visit the Emergency Room (ER) for a dental emergency. However, the ER will only be able to treat you if the underlying condition is health-related. The ER will bill you through your health insurance, not dental insurance.
If the problem is caused by a dental condition, you will need to visit an emergency dental clinic. ER doctors can prescribe you antibiotics and pain medications until you are able to book an appointment with your dentist for treatment.
You cannot get a tooth pulled at the Emergency Room (ER). Only licensed dentists are legally allowed and qualified to pull teeth and perform any restorative dental procedures.
The average cost of a filling is between $200 and $600 without insurance.
However, the cost can range from $100 to $4,000 depending on the size and location of your cavity, as well as the type of filling material used.
The average price of a simple tooth extraction without insurance ranges from $150 to $300 per tooth.
Surgical extractions, such as wisdom teeth extraction, costs between $225 and $2,300.
Dental savings plans, also called dental discount plans, are affordable alternatives to dental insurance. They offer discounted rates for all dental services.
With a discount dental plan, you’ll pay a monthly or annual fee (typically $100 to $200 per year) and automatically receive 10 to 60 percent savings on dental care.
Many college dental programs around the U.S. offer discounted dental services. Dental hygiene schools also offer low-cost, supervised dental care.
The general public can visit these on-campus clinics to receive restorative dental work (such as fillings, crowns, and bridges) for half the cost or less of in-office treatment.
Medicaid often provides basic dental coverage, but this varies by state. All states are required to provide dental services to children (anyone under 21).
For adults, treatment may be less comprehensive, but most will provide at least emergency dental coverage.
Many dentists don’t accept Medicaid, but there are government clinics that do. Review your state’s Department of Health Services website to learn more.
Donated Dental Services (DDS) offers free dental work to qualified individuals in the U.S. Over 15,000 volunteer dentists and dental labs work with the DDS. There is one program in each state.
People with permanent disabilities or those 65 years or older may qualify for free dental work through the DDS program.
Medically compromised and low-income individuals or families may also qualify for free treatment through DDS. However, people also have to meet certain criteria, including not being able to afford regular dental treatment and having no access to programs like Medicaid.
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