Dealing with Common Dental Emergencies

Would you know what to do if your child knocked a tooth out while playing? Or how to handle a cracked tooth? Sometimes dental emergencies happen (especially with children!), and it’s best to know what to do before they happen. Here are some of the most common dental emergencies and what steps to take if one happens to you or your child.

Knocked-Out Tooth

This is a true emergency and requires prompt action. It is possible to save the tooth if it’s treated correctly and in a timely manner.

Collect the tooth and rinse with water only if necessary (if it’s fallen in the dirt, for example). Keep the tooth moist at all times and put it back in the socket, only if possible. A good solution is to keep it wet by putting it in a container of milk. (And even though you may be tempted, do not put it in water!)

Then call your dentist immediately. If it’s after hours, call to see if they have emergency care and if not, look for an after-hours dental care facility in your city. For the best results, seek dental treatment within 30 minutes of injury.

Cracked tooth

While a cracked tooth is not as severe an emergency as a tooth that’s been knocked out entirely, it’s still best to take action quickly. Rinse your mouth with warm water and then apply a cold compress against the side of the mouth where the cracked tooth is. Then call your dentist as soon as possible.


Rinse the mouth with warm water and if there’s food caught between the teeth, use dental floss to remove it. In the majority of cases, it’s okay to wait to call your dentist until it’s convenient. While toothache can feel unbearable, it’s usually not life threatening.

However, there are cases where the pain can indicate infection which should be treated promptly. In this situation, the symptoms won’t be restricted to the tooth. There may be swelling in the gums and face and/or pus coming from the infected area. Fever, high or low blood pressure, confusion, and rapid breathing are other signs of infection.

If you notice these signs or symptoms in yourself or your child, seek medical attention immediately.

Tongue or lip bite

Rinse the mouth with warm water and apply a cold compress to where it hurts. If it’s bleeding, apply pressure until the bleeding stops. There’s no need to call your dentist after this accident unless the bleeding is excessive or doesn’t stop after about 15 minutes.

Object stuck in the teeth

Use floss to remove whatever is stuck in the teeth only – do not use anything else to try to get it out, such as a pen, tweezers, or scissors, as that can make lead to more damage.

Is it an Emergency or Not?

Sometimes it’s simply impossible to know if you need immediate care. If you’re ever in doubt, call your dentist and discuss your symptoms. They will tell you if your problem can wait or should be looked at right away. You can also go to an urgent care facility or hospital emergency department, but seeking professional dental assistance is the best option. The most important thing is not to wait too long.