The 10 Most Common Dental Emergencies & How to Prevent Them

Medically Reviewed By
Jonathan G. Campbell, DDS, FAGD
One of the top rated Dentist in Salt Lake City, UT from Legacy Dental in Millcreek, UT
A bright Lady in white T-shirt with Tooth Pain

There are few things worse than a toothache- but when is it time to go to the dentist? Health and wellness experts report that people should see their dentist as often as every six months for routine checkups- unless you experience a dental emergency.

Here is what you should know about the 10 most common dental emergencies and how to prevent them:

Mouth or Tooth Pain

When you think of a Dental emergency that would warrant a trip to the dentist, you likely think of a throbbing toothache or mouth pain. Unbearable pain is often the cause of dental emergencies widely. It is not just the discomfort that compels patients to visit their provider, but also the worry and concern of an underlying issue. A cyst, an infection, a cavity- all are possible reasons for a toothache to strike- it might also be an impacted wisdom tooth or periodontal disease. There really are many potential outcomes. And, most of them would need a wisdom teeth removal at the hands of a qualified dentist.

If your tooth pain persists, visit your dentist or an emergency dentist for tooth pain relief. Ignoring tooth pain could lead to serious issues- including the loss of your tooth. You can prevent tooth pain with regular dental visits with a provider that you trust. If you experience a toothache, try applying a cold pack to decrease the swelling, and subsequent pain. Take an over the counter, anti-inflammatory pain reliever if possible to make you more comfortable as you wait to see your dentist.

Broken Tooth

Another common incident that brings people to their dentist's office is a broken tooth. You could break a tooth playing sports or in an accident- you could break a tooth by falling down or getting in a fight. Tooth enamel is intended to act as a protective barrier against teeth breaking, but it still can happen.

If you happen to break a tooth, first, try to preserve the pieces of the tooth that have been broken. It is possible that your dentist can use these when fixing the tooth. Rinse your mouth with warm water and call your dentist right away.

If you break a tooth, it is important to see your dentist immediately to prevent any further damage. Plus, it might be painful; seeing the dentist promptly can alleviate your discomfort. Some possible resolutions suggested by your dentist might include:

Prevent breaking teeth by protecting them. Wear head gear and helmets; use safety belts when traveling. Never use your teeth for anything other than what they are intended for- and maintain good oral hygiene to preserve and improve your smile. If you experience a broken or missing tooth, apply pressure to the area with a clean gauze pad to reduce bleeding and use a cold pack on your face to help with pain until you see your provider. If you have broken dentures, you may need to have them attended by a qualified dentist. 

Facial Trauma

Similarly, you may experience chipped or cracked teeth, through some sort of facial trauma like an accident. Treat these emergency situations just as you would if you broke a tooth off. Cracks and chips can cause nerve damage and be painful- see your dentist right away to prevent further injury or problems.

Avoid these kinds of accidents with proper protective gear during contact sports and other types of physical activity. If you want a great looking smile, then you might need to seek cosmetic dentistry.

Knocked Out Tooth

There are also some accidents that end with you losing a tooth. Getting a tooth knocked out can hurt- and be traumatic to your entire mouth. Save the tooth and keep it in a moist, clean place for your dentist. Some recommend stowing the tooth in your mouth, inside the cheek, to keep it moist and warm, but you run the risk of swallowing the tooth by accident. Instead, simply wrap the tooth in a damp paper towel or napkin and see your dentist right away. This definitely constitutes a dental emergency.

Lost Filling

Have you lost a filling? This is another dental emergency. Your tooth is more vulnerable without the filling as you have a hole that could become infected or sore. If a cavity becomes loose for some reason- such as when eating hard foods- you are at-risk of it falling out. If you don't swallow the filling, save it for the dental provider.

It will be important to have the dentist address the missing filling to prevent it from becoming full of food and bacteria. There are some temporary filling solutions that you can buy at a pharmacy to keep the cavity hole clean and filled until your dentist sees you for a filling or possibly a crown, depending on the condition of your tooth.


If you have a dental abscess, that is a sign of an infection that warrants an emergency visit to the dentist. If you feel a tender spot on your gum, like a little cyst or pimple, it could be an abscess. These are full of infection and bacteria- so rinse your mouth with warm salt water and see the dentist right away. The salt water will draw the germs and bacteria out of the abscess, plus it helps relieve some of the discomfort.

It is important to see your dentist soon as dental infection can get into your bloodstream, where it can travel to other vital organs of your body. This can lead to a fatal case of sepsis.

Bleeding Gums

Do your gums bleed? While bleeding gums when you floss is not uncommon, if you see a significant amount of blood, call the dentist. Oral bleeding could be a sign of gum disease- and may lead to permanent tooth loss if left untreated. Bleeding, swollen gums, redness, and pain are all signs of advanced gum disease.

What can you do to prevent this scenario? Start with regular visits to the dentist every six months to a year. Also, be vigilant about brushing and flossing daily. Flossing is the only way to prevent the build-up of tartar which turns to plaque. When plaque is allowed to build between teeth, it causes gum disease.

Do not ignore blood on your toothbrush; call your dentist.

Wiggly Teeth

You may have noticed that a tooth- or two- have become wiggly or loose: does this warrant a trip to the emergency dentist? The truth is, there are several things that can loosen a tooth, and some may feel like they firm-up on their own. However, if you have adult teeth that are wiggly and possibly at-risk of falling out, call the dentist right away to be seen. They can often 'splinter' the tooth by securing it to a more-stable tooth nearby until it becomes firmer and less wiggly.

Once you lose one of your adult teeth, it is gone forever. Need help regarding your dental problem, our experienced dentists can be your help and guidance. Call us now 

Swollen Face and Gums

If you wake up to a swollen face or painful gums, call the dentist. This could be a sign that you have a bad tooth or an abscess. Facial swelling that is accompanied by throbbing pain, swollen glands, and difficulty swallowing merit medical attention. Call an emergency clinic or see a provider right away.

Inflammation of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)

Inflammation of the temporomandibular joint- TMJ- is a fancy way of referring to the painful condition that can occur when you grind your teeth. A lot of people grind their teeth, especially at night when sleeping or as a result of stress. This causes issues with the jaw- as well as pain, soreness, and headaches. There is often a clicking-sound that accompanies this condition- which your dental provider may be able to alleviate. See your dentist when you experience facial pain from grinding your teeth.

Experiencing a dental emergency? Call or visit your dentist right away. If you are unsure if your situation merits a trip to the dental clinic, call ahead, or if it is after hours, it is better to be safe than sorry. 


Legacy Dental blog is proudly run by our Salt Lake City dentists team; We share knowledge about general dental care and practices. Apart from running this blog, we offer various dental services such as general dentistry, emergency dentistry, and dental implants for the community in Salt Lake City, Utah

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