Tooth Problems 101: How to Handle a Dental Emergency

Every individual suffers a tooth problem once in a while; it could be a knocked-out, chipped, broken or cracked tooth. Accidents happen, and knowing what to do when these accidents take place can spell the difference between losing and saving a tooth.

Here’s how you can manage common dental emergencies once they occur to you or a member of your family:


1. Severe Toothache

A toothache can run from a minor irritation to a serious dental emergency. If the pain does reach serious levels, head to the dental office quickly .

Here are other things you can do:

  •         Make sure your mouth is clean by brushing and flossing. Ensure that the pain is not caused by food and plaque stuck between teeth.
  •         Avoid Aspirin. Placing aspirin on your gums as it can burn your gum tissues and if you require an extraction it reduces your ability to form a blood clot so will increase the risk of bleeding after treatment.
  •         If you are having difficulty swallowing and experiencing severe facial swelling, go to the nearest emergency room in your area


2. Bleeding Gums

If you are seeing blood inside your mouth, you may have gum disease or gingivitis. If the bleeding is caused by gum disease, the sooner you get treated, the better.

However, if bleeding occurs and still continues after undergoing treatment by your dentist, head back to the dental clinic. If the bleeding is caused by an injury, arrange to see your dentist as soon as possible. A moist handkerchief or towel and firm, continuous pressure over the site of bleeding will typically stop any bleeding fairly quickly. Avoid using tissues for this purpose which stick to everything and often cause more bleeding on removal.


3. Cracked or Broken Tooth

When your tooth gets cracked or broken, locate any tooth fragments and make sure to bring them with you to the dentist as soon as possible. Sometimes the dentist can bond the fragments back to your tooth quickly before more damage is sustained.

Follow these steps as well:

  •         Clean the area with the broken tooth gently. Is the tooth sensitive? Is the tooth bleeding? Your dentist will want to know to arrange the correct treatment.
  •         Protect the detached tooth fragments. They are easy to lose! Place them in a jar with some water in it.
  •         Reduce any bleeding by applying a cold compress on your face


4. Knocked-out Tooth

When one of your teeth has been knocked out, rushing to a trusted clinic for emergency dental care is crucial if you are to preserve and keep your tooth.

Your knocked out tooth needs to be re-implanted as soon as possible. This is the key to survival of the tooth. If the tooth is clean, replace it in the socket as quickly as possible.

If the knocked-out tooth is dirty, keep it moist in a biological fluid. Saliva and/or blood is the ideal fluid because you’ll have both readily available. If you do not have a container, the tooth can be kept under the lip until you see a dentist.

It is advisable that you see the dentist ASAP to increase the chances of successfully re-attaching the tooth. Re-implanting the tooth within the first 30 minutes greatly improves the chances of success.


5. Broken Jaw

This is a very serious emergency that you must bring to your dentist’s attention immediately. Attending an emergency department of a hospital will be necessary for treatment.

A broken jaw is usually caused by accidents when riding an automobile, playing a sport, or even at work. The signs of a broken jaw can include difficulty opening, a change in the way your teeth bite together, numbness, swelling or bruising in your face, jaw pain, bleeding from your mouth, and teeth that are broken or have become loose.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Apply a cold compress on the affected area by using ice wrapped in cloth to reduce the swelling
  • Make sure to provide steady support to your jaw

Your dentist will then examine your jaw and determine whether there is a fracture and arrange for you to be cared for by a maxilla-facial surgeon for definitive treatment.

With healthy teeth and gums, you can continue flashing that vibrant smile with a complete set of teeth, enjoying your favorite food and drinks, and communicating freely with others. However, you may experience dental issues every now and then. With these helpful tips, you can react appropriately to various dental emergencies in the event that they happen to you.



Dr. Michael Letham is the owner and dentist at 24/7 Dental and Bayside Smiles. He graduated from Sydney University in 2000 with Honours, receiving the R Morse Withycombe Prize for Proficiency in Clinical Periodontics (gum treatment). Striving to provide a modern, holistic approach to dental care that is tailored to each individual’s requirements, Mike’s focus is on being thorough and meticulous whilst being caring and compassionate.