Top 5 Most Common Dental Emergencies: What to do

dental injury tooth trauma

Urgent dental is needed when a tooth gets knocked out. More than five million teeth get knocked loose each year.

Quick action to reinsert a clean tooth improves healing and tooth survival.

If the tooth is completely “knocked out” of its socket, clean the tooth and immediately push it back into its socket.

Take the following steps:

Pick up the tooth by its crown. Avoid touching the tooth root.

Block the sink drain. Rinse the tooth gently in a stream of water. The goal is to remove dirt, but not the thin layer of clear tissue (ligament) that covers the root surface.

Place the tooth back into the socket if possible. Try to bite down gently while holding the tooth in place. 

Sometimes the tooth won’t go back into place. If this is the case, while going to the ER or dentist, put the tooth to a small clean plastic bag, pour some milk into the bag to keep the root wet.  Alternatively have patient keep the tooth moist with saliva by keeping it under his/her tongue or cheek.  Do not soak the tooth in fresh water.

The goal is to get the tooth reinserted ASAP.

Your best chance of saving the tooth happens within 30 minutes of it being dislodged.

tooth broken bonding

Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area.

Take over the counter pain medicine if you are experiencing any discomfort.

Depending on severity of the tooth damage, treatment may involve a simple tooth-colored bonded filling or possibly root canal therapy to quell discomfort and save the injured tooth if the tooth damage is more significant.

#3. Dental Abscess

A dental abscess happens when swelling or draining pus emerges from the gum tissue near the effected tooth. This can be very serious. See your dentist immediately if you suspect you have an abscessed tooth, especially if swelling, fever or redness of the face or neck occurs.

If you need more information on dental infections and treatment visit

The most common symptoms of dental infection:


Teeth sensitive to hot or cold

Bumps near the gums around the tooth

Tender lymph nodes in the neck

Swollen face

#2. Soft Tissue Injury

 Lacerations, punctures and bruises of the cheek, lip, tongue and throat have potential for bleeding and infection, particularly if the trauma resulted from an animal bite.

Always clean the area immediately if you experience a tissue injury. Rinse the mouth with clean water.  Warm salty water can be soothing, reduce bleeding and swelling. 

Use gauze or a clean cloth to apply pressure against the wound to stop the bleeding. Go to the emergency room as soon as possible for treatment. 

If bleeding is significant, avoid ibuprofen and aspirin, these medications can promote rather than stop bleeding.

#1.  Oral Infections with visible swelling of the face and neck.

Oral infections can very quickly turn from simply a painful episode into a life-threatening emergency.

Infections of the head and neck can and do progress to extend into the sinus and eye socket.  Dental infections also have potential to move below the tongue to the neck and into the spinal cord.

If ever swelling is noted to be migrating up toward the eye or down and back into the neck and throat that effects swallowing or breathing, an immediate trip to the emergency room is required.


With your dentist, address the cause of dental pain and particularly swelling when signs and symptoms first become evident.  Acting quickly in these situations can prevent ER visits, expense, pain, loss of teeth and missed days of work and school.

Developing a relationship with your local dentist to include twice-yearly dental cleanings, annual check ups that include dental x-rays and visual inspections for tooth and gum health along with oral cancer screening can prevent most dental emergencies.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a dental problem that involves pain, swelling, difficulty breathing or infection, don’t take chances with health, if a dentist is not available visit the emergency room for evaluation and treatment.

Roman Kotlarek D.D.S. D/B/A Roman Dental practices comprehensive dental services that include the prevention and treatment of dental emergencies.  For consultation contact: (281) 920-4200