What is considered a dental emergency?

When you are experiencing dental pain it can have a detrimental effect on all areas of life. What starts as a little tooth pain can cause headaches, sleepless nights and an inability to consume food or drink.

Dental emergencies are different from medical emergencies and it is therefore important to understand what a dental emergency is and how it can be treated. At Revitalise Dental Centre we take dental emergencies seriously and offer emergency dental appointments for new and existing patients.

If you are unsure as to whether you may currently be experiencing a dental emergency, this blog aims to clarify what a dental emergency is, how it is treated and how it differs from a medical emergency.

Whether or not your symptoms are consistent with a dental emergency you should contact a dentist for advice. Your dentist may be able to offer an ad hoc appointment at short notice so that you can get back to feeling better as soon as possible.

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 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.

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 when it is not 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 an ad hoc appointment and you could receive treatment much sooner than you expect.

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 can be a serious and life-threatening condition. An abscess is a pocket of pus. This can cause fever, tender lymph nodes in the neck, swelling in the face and a protruding ‘bump’ next to the infected tooth. If you suspect that you may have an abscess, you should book an emergency dentist appointment right away.

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 and you should avoid painkillers such as numbing gel prior to your emergency appointment.

Knocked-Out Tooth

When you experience a knocked-out tooth, it can be easy to panic, especially when the tooth is from the very front of your mouth. However, a knocked-out tooth is not just a cosmetic problem. A gap in the gum caused by a missing tooth can cause remaining teeth to move and can cause weakening in the jaw.

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.

If you are unable to access an emergency appointment at your usual dental practice, you may be able to contact another dental practice to access an emergency appointment without being registered.

What should I expect from an emergency appointment?

Depending on your emergency, your dentist will locate and treat the cause of the problem. If you are in severe pain your dentist will be able to diagnose the issue and offer pain relief. In some instances, it may be necessary to remove a tooth causing pain but your dentist will explain this before it happens.

If you have a knocked-out tooth, depending on how soon you are able to get an emergency appointment, your dentist may be able to reinsert the tooth. To hold it in place they will fix the tooth to the teeth either side of it. You may need to return in a couple of weeks to have the splint removed.

If your tooth cannot be saved, it can normally be replaced with an implant or bridge. Your dentist will be able to advise on the best course of action during your emergency appointment.

If you have an abscess your dentist will use your emergency appointment to assess the affected area and attempt to remove the abscess. Depending on where the abscess is in your mouth there are a number of ways that your dentist will be able to remove it, including:

Root Canal – A root canal can remove the abscess from the affected tooth before filling and sealing it.

Tooth Extraction – This may be necessary if it is not possible to perform a root canal treatment.

Incision and Drainage – This is where a small incision is made and the abscess is drained. This is often used as a temporary solution and further treatment may be needed.

Your dentist will be able to diagnose the cause of your pain and offer any treatment. If you need any further treatment, then your dentist will book your next appointment. If you need replacement teeth for instance, you will be able to return to have these fitted as soon as these are ready.

At Revitalise Dental Centre we are able to offer complete care, this includes creating dental prosthetics. All your crowns and veneers are made at our on-site laboratory, Dental Precision, which means that you can replace any missing teeth swiftly, safe in the knowledge that we have taken care of every detail.

Do I have to pay for an emergency appointment?

You will have to pay for your emergency appointment or any subsequent treatment that you receive. Often the cost of the emergency treatment (to relieve pain or threat to life) is covered in the cost of the treatment. Further treatment however, such as a dental implant for a knocked-out tooth will not be covered by the cost of your emergency appointment.

What is the difference between a dental emergency and medical emergency?

A dental emergency applies only to oral health and whilst it may need urgent treatment, it may not necessarily pose a threat to medical health. For instance, a knocked-out tooth is considered a dental emergency because the tooth will need immediate attention to be saved but it is not considered a medical emergency unless you have also experienced trauma to any other part of the body.

A medical emergency is a sudden trauma or symptoms which pose a threat to life and can only be assessed immediately by a doctor.

Should I go to A&E for a dental emergency?

You should only visit the Accident and Emergency department for a genuine and life-threatening medical emergency. It is not necessary to visit A&E for a dental emergency unless you have experienced trauma to the mouth or face, experiencing severe bleeding or you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms.

If you are experiencing a dental emergency, you should book an appointment with a dentist immediately.

Can I call 111 for a dental emergency?

If you are unsure about whether you are experiencing a dental emergency or whether you should go to A&E, you can call the NHS helpline 111. The telephone operator will be able to advise whether you need to see a dentist or go to A&E.

The staff at 111 will not be able to book a private emergency appointment but once you have received the necessary advice you will be able to book your emergency dental treatment to be seen as soon as possible.

Do I have to go to my usual dentist?

When you are experiencing a dental emergency, you do not have to visit your usual dentist. Many dental practices offer a number of emergency appointments for existing and new patients. Even at your usual dental practice you may not see your regular dentist as emergency appointments are assigned differently.

Your emergency dentist will be trained in emergency dental care and will be able to advise on the best course of action for pain relief and treating the cause of the problem.

Emergency treatment at Revitalise Dental Centre

Dental emergencies can be scary and confusing but they are easily solved. At Revitalise Dental Centre we understand how sensitive emergency dental situations can be. Our emergency dental appointments offer existing and new patients a relaxed atmosphere and experienced and knowledgeable dental practitioners so that dental emergencies can be resolved as soon as possible.

Should you need further treatment after your emergency appointment we have a full roster of cosmetic, Implant, orthodontic and endodontic dentists who can advise on further treatment to ensure that you are sporting your best smile.

To book an emergency appointment, please call 01872 555 911 and a member of our team will be able to advise on your next steps.

About the author

Author

Martin Docking is the Founder of Revitalise Dental Centre. Widely recognised as a leading Clinical Dental Technician Martin has a passion for embracing new skills, techniques and materials to deliver the best products, service and patient care.

Connect with Martin Docking on LinkedIn.

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What our Clients say

Marion visited Revitalise to reclaim her smile with a complete implant treatment. In this video, she explains how the staff at the practice put her at ease and why she recommends Revitalise to everyone she meets.


Client: Marion
Treatment: Complete mouth secured with implants

“The minute I met Martin, I just knew he was so calm and relaxing. So then we had a discussion and Martin said what he could do and it had to be what our pocket could afford as well and we went ahead with it. The experience I had at this dentist was unbelievable, it was a journey I loved every minute of.”


Client: Dee
Treatment: Dental Implants

“There’s always smiling, handshakes, hugs and plenty of tea and coffee. They looked after my husband who was there for the day. They do the sedation and Hayley looked after me. Obviously I was unaware of exactly what they were doing, but they always make you feel so comfortable. Although you’re nervous, I don’t think I could’ve gone and got the same treatment anywhere else.”


Client: Carolyn
Treatment: Dental Implants

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