The Most Important Things to Remember in a Dental Emergency

Nothing can ruin the holidays more than a dental emergency!  This blog aims to help you understand what you need to know about handling dental emergencies.  Knowing this information before an emergency happens will help you deal with it more efficiently and with the best long-term outcome.


Man holding jaw in pain
Toothaches, especially severe or long-lasting ones, can indicate a dental emergency.

By far, the most common dental emergency is a toothache.  In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is easy to put off dealing with a sensitive tooth or other dental problem.  This often means they can flare up into a full-blown toothache at the most inconvenient time.

How to Handle an Emergency Toothache:

  1. Call your dentist ASAP. If your dentist is unavailable, he or she may provide an on-call dentist available for emergencies during any special holiday closings. In our case, since we have three dental offices in Pensacola and Cantonment, we can usually find somewhere to fit you in quickly.
  2. Rinse with warm salt water. Keeping your mouth clean during a toothache is of utmost importance.  Rinsing with warm salt water will help soothe any gum infections or mouth sores.
  3. Take over-the-counter pain relievers, like Motrin or Advil. The main ingredient in these medications is a powerful anti-inflammatory drug that will alleviate toothache pain better than aspirin or Tylenol.  If you need additional pain relief, you can supplement with Tylenol by alternating between the two medications every 4 hours.
  4. Use over-the-counter oral hygiene products aimed at tooth sensitivity. Sensodyne toothpaste and Crest SensiStop Strips are wonderful ways to soothe sensitive teeth until you can get in to see your dentist.
  5. DO NOT place aspirin on your tooth or gums. This does not alleviate the pain of a toothache and can result in painful mouth sores.

Abscess (Tooth Infection)

A tooth abscess is another very common dental emergency.  It surprises most people to learn that these infections can occur with minimal to no pain at all!  If the nerve inside a tooth has died, then no toothache will accompany the abscess.

Abscesses can cause small blister-like swellings inside the mouth next to the infected tooth, or they can cause the entire face to swell. Abscesses are dangerous infections that can be life-threatening!

How to Handle a Tooth Abscess:

  1. Call your dentist ASAP. Infections are dangerous and need treatment with antibiotics as soon as possible.
  2. Go to Urgent Care. If your dentist (or any dentist) is unable to see you, go to an urgent care facility.  Tooth infections can spread to the brain, bloodstream or airway, any of which can kill you!
  3. Rinse with warm salt water. Keep your mouth free of any debris that could aggravate the infection.
  4. DO NOT attempt to squeeze or pop any blister or swelling! This actually makes the infection worse by introducing even more bacteria to the area.
  5. Follow through with any recommended dental treatment. Even if the swelling goes away with antibiotics, the source of the infection is still present, and the infection will return if no dental treatment occurs.

Broken or Chipped Tooth

Man smiling with chipped tooth
A chipped tooth, though unsightly, may not be a dental emergency.

All the fun associated with the holidays can lead to some accidents.  Rough-housing with Uncle Joe or playing with your new Christmas puppy might lead to a head-butt to the face!  If you chip or break a front tooth, here is what you need to know.

How to Handle a Chipped Tooth:

  1. Assess the size of the damage. Most chipped teeth are not an emergency.  They might present a cosmetic challenge, but if the chip or break does not expose the nerve of the tooth, treatment can usually wait.  Look closely at the tooth to see if any pink or red spots right in the center are visible.  This is the nerve tissue inside the hollow center of the tooth.  If this is NOT visible, it is not an emergency.  If this IS visible, then it IS an emergency.
  2. Try to save the chipped piece of tooth. If you can find the piece that chipped away, keep it!  Often we can bond it back to your tooth, giving the best cosmetic results.
  3. Use over-the-counter sensitivity products if the tooth feels sensitive to cold air or drinks. Crest SensiStop Strips are wonderful for stopping sensitivity quickly!
  4. Call your dentist ASAP to schedule an appointment for treatment of the chipped tooth. The treatment also varies depending on the size of the chip.

Tooth Knocked Completely Out

Man with knocked out tooth
When a tooth is knocked out, it is ALWAYS a dental emergency and treatment is needed immediately.

If you or your child knocks a tooth out completely, you must work fast!  This is the one dental emergency where every minute counts.

  1. Find the tooth! Re-implanting the original tooth is always our first priority.  When done quickly enough, the jaw bone will re-attach to the original tooth.
  2. DO NOT attempt to clean the tooth. Rinsing or brushing the tooth can remove important cells that are required to reattach to the jaw bone.
  3. Store the tooth in a glass of milk or your mouth. We know, that sounds really gross.  But saliva is the very best solution for a tooth to be in.  If you can stomach it, put it in your mouth and hold it until you get to the dentist.
  4. See any dentist ASAP. Delegate to someone to begin searching for a dentist who is open to see you NOW.  The tooth, once re-implanted, requires splinting (attachment to neighboring teeth) while it heals back into the bone. Give any of our offices a call and we can try to fit you in to one of our three locations in Pensacola and Cantonment.

What about other dental emergencies?

Call our office today! Our front office staff can inform you of the steps we take to address dental emergencies. They can also schedule you for a visit with one of our dentists.They can answer any question you have about a dental emergency! If you need to see someone immediately, we can fit you in to one of our three locations.