What is a Dental Emergency? [Types and Tips]

A dental emergency can catch you by surprise, especially if you’re not prepared. Emergency dental care is common in the United States, with an estimated 2 million visits to hospital emergency departments for dental pain, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

What is a Dental Emergency

The ADA also reports that dental-related emergency department visits cost three times as much as a regular dental visit. Most of the dental-related emergency room visits (approximately 80%) were for dental abscesses and caries, according to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project in 2009. In this article we will discuss what a dental emergency is and what emergency dental care entails.

What is a Dental Emergency?

In contrast to regular dental appointments, which often focus on routine comprehensive treatment like dental cleanings, dental emergencies are urgent matters that if not treated promptly can cause significant harm to your health. Dental emergencies are often associated with signs and symptoms including severe pain, uncontrolled bleeding, and swelling. Dental emergencies should be addressed immediately by a medical or dental professional.

Common Types of Dental Emergencies

  • Broken or Chipped Teeth: Broken teeth is a common dental emergency. This can occur if you experience blunt force to the tooth such as while playing sports or in car accidents, or if you suffer from extensive tooth decay.
  • Knocked-Out Teeth or Tooth Loss: Blunt force to teeth or severe gum disease can result in teeth coming out of the mouth. In the case of a knocked-out adult tooth, emergency dental services may be able to replant your tooth if done in a timely manner.
  • Toothaches: Severe toothaches can occur as a result of many reasons, including tooth decay, dental abscess, gum disease, and trauma, for example. To prevent spread of infection and other serious potential health problems, toothaches should be addressed immediately.
  • Lost Dental Filling or Crown: If your dental filling or crown becomes dislodge, this can be considered a dental emergency. If left untreated, you can develop an infection that can spread to other areas of the body.

Immediate Steps in a Dental Emergency

It can be easy to lose control of a situation, especially when you are caught by surprise. The first important step in a dental emergency is to remain calm and evaluate the issue. If you determine that the dental issue is severe, contact your dentist or an emergency clinic immediately. Do your best to follow first-aid measures to keep your oral cavity clean while awaiting professional care. If your tooth is loose, or is completely knocked-out of the socket, try to hold the tooth back in place and seek immediate dental care. Depending on your dental emergency, dental extraction may be a treatment option to alleviate pain and infection.

First Aid Tips for Dental Emergencies

Having a dental first aid kit handy for dental emergencies can be extremely beneficial. Emergency dental kits often contain gauze pads or cotton balls to help control bleeding and cover injuries, dental wax for sharp dental appliances, temporary filling material to cover a lost filling or crown, dental floss to remove stuck objects from in-between the teeth, disposable gloves, and a dental mirror. If you are experiencing excruciating pain, over-the-counter medication can help provide temporary relief while you are waiting to see a dentist. You can also use a warm salt-water solution to rinse your mouth to keep the affected area clean.

Avoiding Common Mistakes in Dental Emergencies

One of the biggest mistakes in dental emergencies is not seeking care immediately. This can put your health at significant risk and be potentially life-threatening. In addition, substituting home remedies for professional care can be detrimental to your health. Although home remedies can temporarily soothe discomfort, professional treatment is necessary to address the underlying cause.

In emergency situations involving a knocked-out tooth, do your best to handle the tooth carefully and to not touch the roots of the tooth. Be sure to head promptly to your dentist, as time is essential for replanting the tooth. Mishandling a knocked-out tooth can lower the chances of successful replantation of the tooth.

24-Hour Emergency Dental Services

24 hour dental emergency services can help address your dental emergency needs when in need. Delaying emergency dental service can cause increased pain and further complications. Prior to an emergency occurring, it can be beneficial to identify a 24-hour emergency dental clinic in your area that you can go to for instances where you are unable to see your regular dentist.

Benefits of 24-Hour Dental Emergency Services

Because an emergency can happen at any time, 24-hour dental emergency services are super convenient. A24/7 emergency dentist can help make emergency situations less stressful. They can provide you with immediate pain relief, quick attention to injuries that can help prevent further damage or tooth loss, and help minimize your risk of developing life-threatening complications.

Finding 24-Hour Emergency Dental Services Near You

One of the best ways to locate nearby 24-hour dental emergency services is to use internet resources. This offers an abundant list of places based on your location that you can choose from based on your desires. Your dental professional may also offer an 24/7 phone-line that you can call for dental emergencies.

Navigating Dental Emergencies Without Insurance

Options for Patients with No Insurance

There are many different financial methods to handle a dental emergency no insurance. If you do not have dental insurance, ask your emergency care provider if they offer any dental savings plans or discounts. Some offices may also offer dental payment plans where you can pay for services in installments to make procedures more affordable. Other options include using government resources such as Medicare, or visiting local dental schools or free dental clinics, which often provide lower costs for dental services.

Understanding the Costs of Emergency Dental Care

Costs of emergency dental treatment can vary based on various factors such as the necessary treatment, and whether you visit an emergency dental clinic or dental emergency room. Fortunately, many dental insurance plans offer some coverage for emergency dental services and restorative treatment, which can help make costs more affordable. For example, teeth that require root canal treatment may range on average between $700 to $1,200. Whereas, dental crown costs can range on average between $500-$2000. If you are in need of a dental extraction, costs often range from $100 to $800.

Emergency Dental Clinic vs. Dental Emergency Room

FeatureEmergency Dental ClinicDental Emergency Room
Type of ServicesDiagnosis and treatment of dental emergencies, oral pain reliefEmergency medical management and pain relief (i.e. jaw/facial bone damage, fever or severe infection, severe systemic symptoms)
Waiting Time< 2 hours>2 hours
Insurance AcceptanceAccepts wide range of dental insurancesAccepts wide range of medical/dental insurances
AvailabilityLimited hours-24/724/7
Best Suited ForDental treatment to resolve underlying cause, pain relief and symptom managementPain relief and symptom management,systemic health issues, jaw or bone fracture
Typical ProceduresTooth extraction
Root canal treatment
Interim restorations
Oral appliance adjustment
Tooth replantation
Prescribe antibiotics, pain medication Address facial and oral injuries
Follow-up CareFollow-up with dental professional or specialistFollow-up with dental professional or specialist

Scheduling Emergency Dental Appointments

If you find yourself in a dental emergency, promptly call your dentist to see if you can schedule an emergency dental appointment. Explain your dental emergency over the phone and they will provide you with instructions on how to proceed. If your dental professional is not available for emergency services and you are in a true emergency, go to your nearest urgent care or emergency room.

How to Access Walk-In Dentist Services in Emergencies

When searching for a ‘walk in emergency dental near me,’ the internet can be a useful resource. Once you find a convenient walk-in dental clinic, give them a call to find out their hours and see if you can make an appointment. It can also be beneficial to ask colleagues and family if they recommend a walk-in dentist service.

Preparing for Your Emergency Dental Visit

Being prepared for an emergency dental visit can make your experience go more smoothly. If you are having a severe dental emergency, you can expect to be seen by an emergency provider as soon as possible. Unlike a regular dental exam, an emergency dental exam will focus specifically on the issue at-hand. The medical or dental professional will evaluate your medical and dental history, along with any current medications you are taking. Depending on the necessary treatment that is determined for your specific dental emergency, dental anesthetics or sedation may be used.

Comprehensive Care: Beyond Emergency Dental Surgery

After you have had emergency dental surgery, it is important to follow all of your dentist’s advice regarding management and post-operative instructions to prevent complications. To help prevent future dental emergencies from occurring, you should continue to practice good oral hygiene at home and visit with your dentist for check-up at their recommended time. You should also maintain a healthy and tooth-friendly diet that is low in sugars, and avoid poor dental habits like using your teeth as tools, smoking, or excessive alcohol consumption. If you participate in any contact sports or activities that place your mouth or teeth at risk, be sure to wear protective equipment such as a dental mouthguard and face shield.

What areas does Gentle Dental serve?

Like all emergencies, timeliness is essential. Fortunately, same day emergency dental care is made easily accessible and affordable at Gentle Dental. With our 49 locations throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire, your dental problems can be addressed in a timely manner by our exceptional dental professionals. Emergency dental care at Gentle Dental will help alleviate your symptoms and help prevent further damage from occurring. Contact our team at Gentle Dental to schedule an emergency appointment today.