Dental emergencies come in many forms, including toothaches, lost fillings, broken or loose teeth, and more. It’s important to address these emergencies quickly to ensure you’re safe and to keep your beautiful smile intact. 

While it can be hard to control your emotions during these stressful situations, it’s helpful to know how to proceed if the worst occurs. Straight from the experts at Rhoades DDS, here’s what NOT to do in a dental emergency.  


DON’T panic! 

No matter what kind of dental emergency, we understand that it can be hard to stay calm. Still, it’s important to take charge of the situation – whether it’s your own dental emergency or that of a loved one. 

First, assess the situation. In case of a true emergency, like an accident or a health situation requiring urgent help, call 911, or ask someone else to call for you if you’re unable to do so.

Emergency dental care issues can be scary and painful. But staying calm can make all the difference in getting the speedy care you or a loved one needs. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths to help minimize panic. 


DON’T look for baby teeth! 

If a young child’s baby teeth are knocked out or damaged in any way, don’t worry about looking for them. Their baby teeth will not be reattached as a part of their emergency dental care. Instead, shift your attention to rinsing their mouth out with water, which will help wash away any blood and clean any soft tissue cuts. You can also supply them with a cold compress to help with any potential swelling. 

On the other hand, if an adult breaks a tooth or has one knocked out, holding onto any tooth fragments is a good idea. There is still a chance of reattachment if it an adult tooth has been damaged. 


DON’T assume you need the emergency room! 

Most oral injuries, while very painful, are not automatically life-threatening. There are a few circumstances to consider before deciding whether or not you need a trip to the emergency room: 


  • If you are experiencing swelling that makes breathing or swallowing difficult, you should immediately go to the emergency room for emergency care. 
  • If you experience significant facial trauma, or contact to your head or neck, you will likely benefit from a trip to the emergency room. This will help make sure that you haven’t sustained any broken bones or a concussion. 
  • Go to the emergency room if you’re experiencing oral or facial bleeding that can’t be controlled. Hospitals are better prepared to address significant blood loss, as well as broken bones or other complications. 
  • Call 911 if dental injuries are part of larger trauma, like an accident or other sudden emergency.


Always keep in mind that a hospital can refer you to an emergency dental care provider once they’ve addressed any other issues. This will help ensure you receive the comprehensive care that you need. 


DON’T use aspirin or ibuprofen! 

Both aspirin and ibuprofen can help mitigate pain – but they can also thin your blood. That’s why aspirin or ibuprofen are not a good idea if you need to go to the dentist for emergency dental care. After any trauma or any procedure, it’s critical that your blood clots quickly in order to keep you safe. 

If you need pain medication, it’s likely better to use acetaminophen (like Tylenol) or naproxen (like Advil) because they don’t interfere with your blood’s ability to clot. You can also use over-the-counter oral numbing gels as needed, if you find that oral medications aren’t helping. 


DON’T minimize emergencies!

If you’re experiencing a dental issue, don’t hesitate to get treatment right away! Especially in the middle of a busy day, you might be tempted to ignore the symptoms of an emergency. But getting timely care can make all the difference in your recovery. Waiting can exacerbate pain and worsen the situation. Take dental emergencies seriously, and get care as quickly as you can.


Accessing the treatment you need 

No matter how much pain you’re in or how the dental emergency came to be, tooth pain is always a sign of an oral issue. It’s best to seek out support from the emergency room or an emergency dentist soon after this type of pain begins; infections can come along very soon after these types of incidents happen. Dental emergencies can lead to serious complications if they’re not addressed quickly and effectively. 

When in doubt, connect with your local emergency dental care team for a consultation and a recommendation of next steps. Learning more about emergency dental care can help you put a plan in place in case you find yourself – or a loved one – dealing with a dental emergency.