When is Tooth Pain a Dental Emergency?

When is Tooth Pain a Dental Emergency?

Tooth pain can really make you miserable, regardless of whether your pain comes from something minor, such as a popcorn kernel stuck in your gums, or something more serious.

However, sometimes dental pain points to a problem so serious that it requires emergency dental care. It’s important to recognize these signs so that you can get the appropriate treatment right away. 

The providers at Supertooth Dental Group in Bethesda, Gaithersburg, and Germantown, Maryland, offer this guide to help you recognize when your tooth pain is a dental emergency.

Abscess or facial swelling

Facial swelling is often a sign of an abscess, which results from an infection in your tooth, jaw, or gums. This is one of the most serious dental emergencies because it can have serious, even fatal, effects.

An abscess will not go away without treatment. In the meantime, stay upright — even while asleep — and be sure to drink plenty of fluids.

Cracked or broken tooth

If you’ve cracked or broken a tooth, perhaps while eating, it might not be a dental emergency. If the tooth is only chipped, you can probably wait until the next day to contact the dentist. 

However, the more severe the crack or break, the sooner you need to call the dentist for help. Fractured or broken teeth often indicate that there’s more damage inside the tooth. Until you’re seen, you can take Tylenol®, but avoid aspirin or ibuprofen. You should also avoid using topical pain relievers such as Orajel®.

Knocked-out tooth

If your tooth was knocked out, this is also an emergency situation. The sooner you’re able to see a dentist after a tooth is knocked out, the more likely the dentist can reattach it. 

Save the tooth, taking care not to touch the roots or nerves that may be attached. Rinse it, and if possible, try to place it back in your mouth. If that won’t work, put the tooth in a small cup of milk.

Loose tooth 

If your tooth is loose or out of alignment, call the dentist right away. In the meantime, you can try to put the tooth back in position using very gentle pressure. (Don’t force it, however; you could unintentionally end up dislodging the tooth altogether.) You can also bite down to keep the tooth from moving farther out of alignment.


Bleeding may or may not be a dental emergency, depending on the source and the severity. If your gums are bleeding after you floss your teeth, for example, this doesn’t require an emergency call to the dentist, although you should be seen soon. 

However, if you’re bleeding a lot due to an injury to your cheeks, tongue, or lips, these are considered soft tissue injuries that do require emergency attention.

If you have dental pain, it’s not necessarily a dental emergency. It could be the result of a cavity or grinding your teeth. However, any dental pain shouldn’t be ignored. It still warrants a call to the dentist during normal business hours.

When you suspect that you have a dental emergency, call us as soon as possible, of course. Although you can request routine appointments online, we recommend that you contact our team at Supertooth Dental Group immediately.

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