Dental Emergencies: Most Common Ones & What to Do?

Posted on June 10th, 2024.

Dental emergencies can range from minor discomfort to severe pain, impacting daily life and overall well-being. They range from minor issues, such as a toothache, to more severe problems like broken teeth or abscesses. 

Understanding how to identify and respond to common dental emergencies can make a crucial difference in the outcome, potentially alleviating pain and preventing further complications

This blog post will explore various common dental emergencies, provide detailed guidance on what to do when these emergencies occur, and offer practical tips on preventing such emergencies.

Common Dental Emergencies

Dental emergencies are urgent issues that require immediate attention to alleviate pain, prevent further damage, or address serious infections. Here are some of the most common ones:

1. Toothaches

Toothaches are one of the most common dental complaints and can be indicative of various underlying issues, such as decay or infection.

  • Causes: Toothaches can result from tooth decay, infections, gum disease, or trauma. They often signify underlying issues that need professional attention.
  • Symptoms: Sharp or throbbing pain, sensitivity to temperature, swelling, and bad breath.
  • Treatment Options: Rinse your mouth with warm water, floss gently to remove any trapped food, and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. Over-the-counter pain relief can help, but seeing an emergency dentist is essential to address the root cause.

2. Abscesses

An abscess is a severe infection at the root of a tooth or in the spaces between the teeth and gums, often filled with pus.

  • Causes: Abscesses are typically caused by bacterial infections, often resulting from untreated tooth decay or gum disease. They can form at the root of a tooth or in the gums.
  • Symptoms: Severe pain, swelling, fever, and a bad taste in the mouth due to pus drainage.
  • Treatment Options: Rinse your mouth with a mild saltwater solution to alleviate discomfort and help draw out pus. Contact your dentist immediately for emergency treatment, which may include antibiotics or drainage procedures.

3. Chipped or Broken Teeth

Chipped or broken teeth can occur due to accidents, sports injuries, or biting down on hard objects, resulting in damage that can affect both the appearance and function of the tooth.

  • Causes: Biting hard foods, accidents, or sports injuries can cause teeth to chip or break.
  • Symptoms: Pain, especially when chewing, sensitivity, and sharp edges that can cut the tongue or cheeks.
  • Treatment Options: Rinse your mouth with warm water, save any broken pieces, and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. Use dental cement (available at pharmacies) to cover sharp edges temporarily. Visit an emergency dentist for a permanent solution, such as bonding, veneers, or crowns.

4. Lost Fillings

Lost fillings occur when the material used to fill cavities falls out, leaving the tooth vulnerable to further decay and damage.

  • Causes: Fillings can fall out due to additional decay, chewing hard foods, or trauma.
  • Symptoms: Sensitivity, pain, and a noticeable gap in the tooth.
  • Treatment Options: Keep the area clean by rinsing with warm water and avoid eating on the affected side. Temporary dental filling materials from pharmacies can help cover the cavity. See your dentist as soon as possible to replace the filling.

5. Other Common Dental Emergencies

Other dental emergencies include tooth sensitivity and gum recession, which can cause significant discomfort and lead to more severe issues if not addressed promptly.

  • Tooth Sensitivity: Often caused by enamel erosion or exposed roots. Using desensitising toothpaste and avoiding triggers like hot or cold foods can help. Persistent sensitivity requires a dentist's evaluation.
  • Gum Recession: Can lead to sensitivity and increased risk of decay. Good oral hygiene and regular dental visits are key to managing and preventing further recession.

What to Do in Case of a Dental Emergency

Knowing what steps to take in the event of a dental emergency can significantly impact the outcome and reduce the risk of complications. Here are some immediate actions to consider:

Immediate Steps


  • Call Your Dentist: Contact your dental clinic for advice and to schedule an emergency appointment.
  • Rinse Your Mouth: Use warm water to clean your mouth gently and remove debris.
  • Apply a Cold Compress: Reduce swelling and alleviate pain by applying a cold compress to the affected area.

When to Go to the Emergency Room


  • Severe Facial Swelling: This can indicate a serious infection that needs immediate medical attention.
  • Difficulty Breathing: Swelling or infections that impact breathing require urgent care.
  • Severe Pain: Unmanageable pain that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medication should be treated promptly.

When to Go to an Emergency Dentist


  • Toothaches: Persistent pain should be evaluated by a dentist to prevent further complications.
  • Abscesses: Immediate treatment is necessary to control infection and relieve pain.
  • Chipped or Broken Teeth: Dental intervention is needed to restore the tooth and prevent further damage.
  • Lost Fillings: Prompt replacement of lost fillings helps prevent decay and discomfort.

Preventing Dental Emergencies

Preventing dental emergencies is key to maintaining good oral health and avoiding unexpected dental issues. Implementing the following practices can help reduce the risk of dental emergencies:

Regular Dental Check-Ups

Regular dental visits are crucial in identifying and preventing potential problems before they become emergencies. Dentists can spot early signs of decay, gum disease, and other issues, providing timely treatment and advice.

Good Oral Hygiene

Maintaining good oral hygiene is fundamental in preventing dental emergencies. Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing regularly, and using mouthwash can prevent decay and gum disease.

Avoiding Sugary Snacks

Limiting the intake of sugary snacks and drinks reduces the risk of tooth decay. Instead, opt for healthy alternatives like fruits, vegetables, and nuts, which support oral health.

Avoiding Hard Foods

Avoid chewing on hard foods like ice, popcorn kernels, and hard candies, which can crack or chip teeth. Instead, choose softer alternatives that are less likely to cause damage.

Addressing Dental Issues Early

If you notice any dental issues such as sensitivity, pain, or swelling, seek dental care promptly. Early intervention can prevent minor problems from developing into emergencies.

Staying Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water helps wash away food particles and bacteria, reducing the risk of decay and maintaining overall oral health.

Related: https://palcaredental.co.uk/blog/10-types-of-dental-emergencies-and-how-to-avoid-them

Final Words

Understanding common dental emergencies and knowing what to do in such situations can significantly impact the outcome and prevent further complications. Regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene are essential in preventing emergencies and maintaining overall oral health.

At Palcare Dental, we are dedicated to providing prompt and effective emergency dental care. Located in Middlesex, our family dental practice treats patients of all ages, offering a wide range of services, from routine check-ups and teeth cleaning to advanced cosmetic procedures like crowns and veneers. We use advanced dental equipment to ensure the highest quality care. In emergencies, we offer urgent services such as bonding, root canals, crowns, and bridges to address immediate dental issues swiftly and effectively.

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Reach us out at 020 8568 0737 or email us at [email protected] if you experience a dental emergency or need to schedule a check-up. Our team is here to help ensure your oral

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