What exactly is a dental emergency?

What is a dental emergency? Getting scheduled appointments with your dentist can take time. Getting an emergency appointment at inconvenient times can be a struggle. That alone can make dental issues feel more urgent. Deciding what truly constitutes as a dental emergency can be difficult.


Who provides emergency dental appointments?

Many dental practices offer a 24-hour emergency dentist appointments. Some may even have an on call dentist who can advise you on whether what you’re experiencing is a true dental emergency. Alternatively, you can phone your Primary Care Trust helpline, or NHS Direct.

What injuries could be a dental emergency?

One reason could be an avulsed tooth, or avulsed teeth. Avulsed means knocked out completely. If this happens to you, we reckon you’d be in a lot of pain. Your mouth will be bleeding. You will need to retrieve your tooth or teeth. Perhaps you can get someone nearby to help with that. Then get help from a 24-hour emergency dentist within the next hour. Quick tip: If you can, put your tooth or teeth into milk. This helps preserve the tooth much better than even water! Prompt action can mean the difference between saving your teeth, and losing them permanently.


An extruded tooth is a similar kind of injury to an avulsed tooth. It is usually caused by impact, but the tooth has not actually come out. It might have been knocked away from its usual position, or it might be hanging in by thin threads of tissue. If you are able to, push the tooth back into position. You need to see an emergency dentist as soon as possible, particularly if you are in a ‘hanging by the thread’ situation.

A broken tooth seems like an obvious dental emergency. However, if the end of the tooth has broken away, but there is no bleeding, this is less of an emergency. You may be able to wait to see a dentist the next day should that be your situation. If the broken tooth has also been knocked out of position, and the broken edge is sharp, this is a dental emergency that needs to be seen immediately because of the danger of your tongue or lips being damaged by the rough edge.

Damage causing severe pain or bleeding would be another reason to pick up the phone.


If you have been in an accident that has resulted in a blow to the face or jaw you might experience sever pain or bleeding. If you have severe pain in your teeth, there may be serious damage even though no teeth are obviously missing or broken. You will need an X-ray or other investigation to find out if you need treatment. Most dentists agree that severe pain after trauma always qualifies as a dental emergency.

Severe pain, swelling or bleeding following a dental procedure would also constitute as a dental emergency and you should contact someone immediately.

What isn’t a dental emergency?

Toothache can be incredibly painful. However, if there hasn’t been any injury beforehand, any bleeding, or obvious serious infection, a bout of toothache is not a dental emergency. Similarly a gum abscess or boil can be painful.  These can develop quickly and grow quite large in a small time. You will be in pain, but they are rarely as painful as a tooth abscess, and tend to go down within a couple of days.


Breaking your braces could be an emergency if the break has damaged your mouth or teeth. Otherwise, broken braces can usually be repaired temporarily or left off for a short time while you can make an appointment with your usual dentist. Loss of veneers or crowns are also not an emergency. There are products that can help:


Find emergency dental products

How do I find my nearest emergency dentist?

Click the link below and type in your location. Choose the advanced search and click on ’emergency dentistry’. This will give you a list of dentists near you that provide this service.



  1. Tyler Meredith on 1 May 2017 at 10:49 pm

    It’s interesting to read about what qualifies as a dental emergency and what some of the most common ones are. It makes sense that things like injuries to a tooth are among the most common whether a tooth is knocked out or chipped. I’ll have to remember this as my son starts playing sports to ensure his mouth can be treated properly if anything happens.

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