What Can & Can’t An Emergency Dentist Do?

6 min read

There are many reasons people visit an emergency dentist, from root canals to chipped teeth. Emergencies can also happen when you least want them to. Whether you have swollen gums or pain from a wisdom tooth, it’s important to know what to expect during an emergency dental visit.

What does an emergency dentist do?

Emergency dentists are dental professionals who, in addition to being dentists, obtain additional specialisation and training to treat dental problems and injuries that may be potentially life-threatening and require immediate treatment. While dentists from other specialities only offer their services during business hours, many emergency dental offices are open round the clock or at least have emergency hotline numbers for patients to request an urgent appointment in the case of an emergency.

What qualifies as a dental emergency?

If you are in pain, you may be wondering whether you are able to arrange an emergency appointment to diagnose and treat the source of the problem. A dental emergency is different from a medical emergency and you may be able to be seen by a dentist sooner than you think. A dental emergency can cover a broad range of complaints, including:

  • Severe dental pain – If you are in severe dental pain an emergency dental appointment could provide the necessary care to relieve your dental pain.
  • Uncontrolled bleeding from the mouth – Uncontrolled bleeding from the mouth is considered a dental emergency and you should see your dentist as soon as possible.
  • Knocked-out tooth – If your tooth has fallen out due to impact or injury then an emergency dental appointment could save the tooth if it is booked rapidly after tooth loss.
  • Infection – An Abscess in the mouth is considered a dental emergency as a serious infection could be life-threatening. If you are experiencing swelling in or around your mouth or can feel knots in the jaw, you should speak to your dentist immediately.
    In short, you should contact a dentist if you are unsure about any of the above symptoms you are experiencing.

When is it not a dental emergency?

When you are considering whether you have a dental emergency, it is important to understand when is not a dental emergency. For example…

  • A cracked or chipped tooth is not a dental emergency unless sharp fragments remain in your mouth or you are in severe pain.
  • Toothache can wait for a general dental appointment unless it is causing severe pain. If you can wait to be seen by a dentist then your toothache may not require an emergency appointment.
  • A missing crown or filling is not considered a dental emergency however your dentist may see you as a priority and you may be able to be seen sooner than usual.

If you conclude that your situation is not an emergency, you should still contact your dentist. The practice may be able to arrange a priority appointment and you could receive treatment much sooner than you expect.

How can an emergency dentist help you?

An emergency dentist is trained in treating all kinds of dental emergencies – from fractured teeth to dislocated jaws. For example, if you have an avulsed tooth and you manage to see your dentist right away, they may be able to put the tooth back into its socket so that it can be re-attached. Similarly, your dentist may be able to re-attach a dislodged crown without the need for repair or replacement. Therefore, it is essential that you visit an emergency dentist as soon as possible when suffering from an injury or another emergency situation.

How do I care for a dental emergency?

Aside from being painful, dental emergencies can feel frustrating. Whilst you are waiting for your appointment, it is important to understand how you can best look after your oral health until you see a dentist. Even if you are not sure what is causing the problem, looking after your oral health is especially important when you are experiencing dental problems.

Chipped or Cracked Tooth

This is only an emergency when you have a serious or painful fracture. Once you have booked your emergency appointment you can care for your fractured tooth in the meantime by cleaning your mouth carefully with warm water and applying a cold compress on the outside of your mouth to relieve any pain.

Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth is considered a dental emergency. If left untreated, the infection could spread to the jaw and other parts of the body. Whilst you are waiting for your emergency appointment, you should avoid hot food and drink, use a soft toothbrush and you may want to avoid flossing the affected area. Before your emergency appointment, carefully swill your mouth with warm salt water to draw the pus to the surface.

An abscess can be extremely painful but you should avoid painkillers such as numbing gel prior to your emergency appointment.

Knocked-Out Tooth

With rapid action an emergency appointment could save your tooth. Whilst you are waiting for your appointment, you should clean your tooth with running water being careful not to touch the root. If it is possible, place the tooth back into the socket. If this is not possible, you should place your tooth in a glass of milk until you go to the dentist. This will help to maintain the pH balance of the tooth and preserve any living elements of your knocked out tooth.

Regardless of whether you are experiencing symptoms of infection or a knocked-out tooth, you should do your best to ensure that the area is clean and free from debris of food, which may cause further infection.

How do I get an emergency appointment?

Once you have identified that you need an emergency appointment you should contact a dentist. This appointment may not be with your usual dentist and you do not necessarily have to go to a practice where you are registered as a patient. When you call the dental practice, you should explain the problem and state that you would like an emergency appointment.

Many surgeries will keep a number of appointments available for patients seeking emergency help and staff at the dental surgery will be able to offer the next available emergency appointment. If you are looking for an emergency appointment out of hours, some practices offer out of hours appointments.

Emergency appointments with Toothfairy™

If you are in need of an appointment due to a dental emergency, Toothfairy™ offers virtual consultation appointments so patients don’t have to travel to practice and can carry out their dental appointment from the comfort of their home, as soon as possible. Book an appointment here if you’re experiencing any dental emergencies mentioned in this blog post: www.toothfairyapp.co.uk/emergency-dentist

Last updated on February 7, 2024

Dr. Deepak Aulak

Dr. Deepak Aulak is a London-based dental practitioner with a special interest in cosmetic dentistry. Having graduated from King's College London in Dentistry, Dr. Aulak was decorated with over a dozen awards and scholarships along the way, which notably include the Jelf Medal, Malleson Prize for research and GKT Hospital's Full Shields.


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