What to do in an Emergency

It is important to seek treatment for dental emergencies as soon as possible. Delaying treatment for dental emergencies can often lead to worsening of the condition, and in cases of significant bleeding or infection, can lead to life-threatening complications. If the dental emergency is the result of significant trauma it is important that you are screened at a hospital emergency department to rule out more serious conditions (such as concussions, jaw fractures, etc.) prior to seeing a dentist to treat your dental emergency.

Trauma-related emergencies:

Knocked out permanent tooth

  • pick up the tooth by the crown (do not touch the root) and gently rinse off the root in cold water if it is dirty; do not scrub or remove any attached tissue fragment on the root
  • gently insert (but don't force) tooth in the socket; make sure it is facing the right way; bite on a handkerchief to hold it in place
  • if it is not possible to insert the tooth put the tooth in a suitable storage medium such as milk, saline, or contact lens solutions. The best medium, if available, is Hank's Balanced Salt Solution or a product called 'Save-A-Tooth'
  • go to the dentist as quickly as possible to have the tooth implanted (if not already done) and splinted
  • knocked out teeth with the highest chances of being saved are those seen by the dentist and returned to their socket within 1 hour of being knocked out

Displaced tooth

  • if the tooth is pushed inward or outward and is out of place seek dental care immediately to have the tooth repositioned and splinted

Lacerations and bleeding

  • rinse the area with warm salt water
  • if bleeding apply pressure with a moist gauze or tea bag for 15-20 minutes
  • if the bleeding does not stop continue to apply pressure and seek emergency care
  • sutures are often needed to repair lacerations

Soft tissue trauma

  • apply a cold compress to the traumatized area to reduce swelling

Fractured teeth

  • retrieve and clean tooth fragment(s) and bring it with you to the dentist (sometimes it can be bonded back onto the tooth)

Jaw fracture

  • if you can't open your jaws properly or your teeth do not come together normally you should be screened at the hospital emergency department for a possible jaw fracture

Non-trauma related emergencies:


  • clean any irritating debris by rinsing with warm salt water and flossing gently
  • a cold compress on the cheek over the area may help
  • take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as Ibuprofen (if not allergic to it)
  • avoid anything that stimulates the pain such as cold and hot foods, sweets, or chewing

Swelling of the gums or other soft tissues:

  • the swelling may or may not be very painful
  • swelling indicates an infection and the patient should seek immediate dental care to determine its cause and start antibiotic treatment
  • rinse with warm salt water 
  • if painful take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as Ibuprofen (if not allergic)

Broken tooth, lost filling, or uncemented crown

  • avoid chewing on it
  • keep it clean
  • if it has a sharp edge or an exposed area that is sensitive you can cover it with over-the-counter dental cement or dental wax or you can put a piece sugar-free gum over the area
  • see your dentist as soon as possible
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