Emergency Dental Care: What is Considered an Emergency?

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Emergency Dental Care: What Is It?

A dental emergency can include anything from unexpected and severe pain caused by a large cavity, a knocked-out tooth, or a broken tooth. Emergency dentists are available in every U.S. state to handle these situations.  

Most dentists offer services during normal office hours, typically five days a week. Emergency dentists offer extended business hours, which most likely includes evenings and weekends.  They also provide on-call services during hours that the office is closed.  Emergency dentists will usually try to schedule same-day appointments for emergency patients. 

If you develop any of the following dental problems or symptoms, you may qualify for emergency dentistry: 

  • Cracked tooth
  • Chipped tooth
  • Broken teeth
  • Loose tooth
  • Missing tooth
  • Accident or trauma
  • Emergency root canal
  • Tooth extraction
  • Ruptured dental (tooth) abscess
  • Damaged dental restorations
  • Denture repair
  • Dental abscess
  • Broken or injured jaw
  • Toothache
  • Ongoing gum bleeding
  • Other severe dental infections or tooth pain 

Eighty-eight percent of emergency dental procedures could have been prevented with routine oral health care. The best way to avoid emergency dental treatment is to visit your dentist for regular exams, x-rays, and teeth cleanings. 

How To Find An Emergency Dentist 

A reliable way to find an emergency dentist in your area is by using the American Dental Association's (ADA) dentist locator tool. According to the ADA, many dentists leave time open during the day for emergency walk-in patients. This means you may be able to get same-day emergency care. 

Many general dentists offer emergency dental services. You can call any dentist office in your area and ask them whether they offer these services. However, it is important to keep in mind that some dentists only accept appointments for life-threatening dental conditions. 

If you need emergency dental care on the weekend or during a holiday, you can still try calling your dentist. If you do not get a response, they may provide a voicemail message that provides instructions for dental emergencies. 


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What To Do Before Your Emergency Dental Appointment

There are a few ways to reduce pain before your emergency dentist appointment if you are experiencing bleeding, swelling, or inflammation. These tips include:

  • Rinsing your mouth with warm water
  • Applying pressure to the affected or injured area to reduce bleeding and swelling
  • Applying a cold compress to the injured area in 20-minute intervals. This will help minimize swelling and bleeding. 
  • For a toothache, take over-the-counter pain relievers, apply an ice pack, and rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to reduce pain 

When To Visit The Hospital (Emergency Room)

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is crucial to go to the emergency room rather than an emergency dentist’s office:

  • Severe pain and heavy, continuous bleeding in or around the mouth
  • When critical injuries to the face, mouth, or teeth will not stop bleeding after applying pressure for several minutes
  • Serious facial or dental injuries caused by a car accident (or similar)
  • Broken facial bones
  • Swelling putting pressure on the airway

Paying For Urgent Dental Care

Depending on whether you have dental insurance or not, an emergency appointment can be expensive. However, some dentists may offer payment plans. 

You can also check out other low-cost dental care options, including government dental clinics, dental school services, charity dental clinics, and discount dental plans. Learn more about affordable emergency treatment options here. 


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Resources

American Dental Association (ADA), “What Constitutes a Dental Emergency?” https://success.ada.org/~/media/CPS/Files/Open%20Files/ADA_COVID19_Dental_Emergency_DDS.pdf

“Search for ADA Member Dentists – Find a Dentist near Me.” Search for ADA Member Dentists – Find a Dentist near Me | American Dental Association, findadentist.ada.org/?_ga=2.21663547.1269264094.1592781444-1245606453.1583348246.

Medical Emergencies in the Dental Office: Response Guide. American Dental Association, 2018.

Updated on: September 4, 2020
Author
Alyssa Hill
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Medically Reviewed: July 7, 2020
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Lara Coseo
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