What To Do When You Experience A Dental Emergency

What To Do When You Experience A Dental Emergency

February 5, 2024

What is Emergency Dentistry?

Emergency dentistry in Wilkes-Barre, PA, addresses urgent dental problems requiring immediate attention. This branch of dentistry deals with severe pain, trauma, infections, and other conditions that can’t wait for a regular dental appointment. It’s the solution when facing a situation that demands instant care to alleviate severe discomfort, save a tooth, or prevent long-term complications.

Moreover, emergency dental care is tailored to address the physical aspects of dental trauma and its psychological impact. Dental emergencies can be extremely distressing, and the compassionate care provided by emergency dental professionals can help alleviate the anxiety and fear associated with such events. This aspect of care is particularly important for patients with dental phobia, as a positive emergency care experience can help reduce fear of future dental visits.

Common Types of Dental Emergencies

Several scenarios qualify as dental emergencies:

Soft Tissue Injuries: Injuries to the gums, tongue, or inner cheeks can lead to bleeding and require immediate care to prevent infection and manage pain.

Jaw Pain or Discomfort: This can be a sign of temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), infection, or injury. Severe or sudden jaw pain should be addressed promptly.

Dental Abscesses at Different Stages: An abscess can occur at different stages of severity. While initial symptoms might include a pimple-like swelling on the gum, it can quickly escalate to severe pain, facial swelling, and fever, requiring urgent intervention.

Severe or Prolonged Bleeding: Post-dental surgery, bleeding or bleeding due to oral injury needs immediate attention to prevent excessive blood loss and further complications.

Swelling or Infection Signs: Swelling of the face or gums, especially when accompanied by fever, can indicate an underlying infection that demands urgent care.

Sudden or Severe Sensitivity to Temperature: This might indicate a cracked tooth, exposed nerve, or severe decay and should be treated as soon as possible to avoid further deterioration.

Each of these emergencies requires immediate attention, not just to alleviate pain but also to prevent the situation from worsening. Awareness of these scenarios can help individuals recognize when to seek urgent dental care, ensuring timely treatment and better outcomes for oral health. Remember, delaying treatment in these cases can lead to more complex issues, increased discomfort, and, in some cases, irreversible damage.

How to Prepare for a Dental Emergency

Being prepared can make a significant difference in a dental emergency. Here are some tips:

Keep a Dental First Aid Kit: This kit should include not only gauze and a small container with a lid but also items like dental cement, a small mirror, and a cold pack. Dental cement can temporarily solve a lost filling or crown, while the mirror can help you inspect hard-to-see areas. Remember to include the contact information of your emergency dentist for quick access.

Know Your Dentist’s Emergency Protocol: Familiarize yourself with the procedures followed by your dental office, such as NEPA Dental Group, during emergencies. Find out if they offer after-hours service or have specific instructions for emergencies. This knowledge can save valuable time and ensure you receive the right care swiftly.

Regular Dental Check-Ups: Consistent visits to your dentist can play a crucial role in preventing emergencies. These check-ups allow for early detection and treatment of issues that could escalate into emergencies, such as hidden tooth decay or weakened dental work. Your dentist can also provide personalized tips on maintaining oral health and preventing accidents.

Educate Yourself and Family: Knowing the basics of dental first aid can be invaluable. For instance, understanding how to rinse and store a knocked-out tooth can increase the chances of successful re-implantation. Educate your family members, especially children, about what to do in case of dental injuries.

Emergency Contact List: Besides your dentist’s contact, have a list of alternative emergency dental clinics or hospitals with dental departments. This is especially important if you travel often or live in an area with limited dental services.

Dental Insurance Information: Keep your dental insurance details readily accessible. Knowing your coverage can help expedite the treatment process and reduce stress regarding treatment costs.

Preventive Measures: Use mouthguards to prevent tooth injuries during sports or physical activities. Avoid using your teeth to open packages or bite hard objects, as these habits can lead to dental emergencies.

How to Manage the Pain

Managing pain is crucial in a dental emergency. Effective pain management provides immediate relief and can prevent complications until you get professional care. Here are some additional strategies:

Cold Compress: Applying a cold compress to the outside of your cheek can significantly reduce swelling and numb the area, providing temporary relief. This method is particularly effective for soft tissue injuries like lips and gums.

Saltwater Rinse: A saltwater rinse is a gentle way to clean your mouth and reduce discomfort. It can help dislodge any food particles or debris that may be aggravating the pain and helps reduce inflammation and kill harmful bacteria.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: Medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be taken according to the recommended dosage to alleviate pain. These medications help reduce pain and decrease inflammation, which is often a significant contributor to dental discomfort.

Avoiding Certain Foods: Until you can see a dentist, avoid foods that are too hot, cold, or hard. Eating soft foods and avoiding the affected area can help minimize pain and prevent further damage to your teeth or gums.

Elevation: When resting, keep your head elevated. Lying flat can increase blood flow to the affected area, potentially worsening swelling and pain.

Avoiding Aspirin Directly on Gums: While Aspirin can be taken orally for pain relief, avoid placing it directly on your gums or the affected tooth, as it can burn the gum tissue and cause an ulcer.

Clove Oil: A natural remedy, clove oil contains eugenol, a natural anesthetic. Applying a small amount to the affected area can temporarily numb the pain. However, use it sparingly and be cautious if you have never used it.

Tips for Dealing with A Dental Emergency

In an emergency, stay calm and follow these steps:

Rinse Your Mouth: If you experience trauma or have a broken tooth, gently rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area and remove debris.

Apply Pressure to Stop Bleeding: If there’s bleeding, use a piece of gauze or a clean cloth to apply gentle pressure. Keep it in place until the bleeding subsides, which should be within 10-15 minutes.

Avoid Aspirin for Bleeding Wounds: While managing pain is important, avoid Aspirin as it can increase bleeding. Opt for acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead.

Don’t Apply Heat: While a cold compress can be beneficial outside the mouth, avoid using heat, as it can exacerbate swelling and increase pain.

Be Careful with What You Eat: If you have a broken tooth or lost filling, avoid eating hard, crunchy, or sticky foods that can aggravate the situation.

Temporary Solutions: For a lost filling, you can temporarily place a piece of sugar-free gum into the cavity as a makeshift filling. Similarly, for a dislodged crown, place it back over the tooth using over-the-counter dental cement or toothpaste.

When to Seek Medical Assistance

Sometimes, a dental emergency might require medical assistance, especially if:

Severe Trauma: If you experience a significant injury to the head or jaw, it’s crucial to seek medical assistance. Such trauma could result in concussions or more severe conditions that require a doctor’s attention.

Uncontrollable Bleeding: Minor bleeding from a dental procedure or injury can be common if the bleeding is heavy and does not subside with pressure; it’s a sign to seek medical help. Profuse bleeding could indicate a deeper injury or a need for more specialized care.

Swelling Affecting Breathing: Swelling in the mouth or facial area that impedes breathing is a serious concern. This could indicate an allergic reaction, infection, or other medical conditions requiring immediate intervention.

Signs of Infection: If you suspect an infection, especially if it’s accompanied by fever, extreme discomfort, or a bad taste in the mouth from drainage, it’s time to see a doctor. Infections can spread rapidly and may need more than just dental care.

Difficulty Swallowing or Speaking: If a dental issue leads to trouble swallowing or speaking, it could indicate swelling or an obstruction that requires urgent medical attention.

Numbness: Sudden numbness in the face, mouth, or tongue, especially after an injury or dental procedure, should be addressed immediately as it could signify nerve damage or other serious issues.


A dental emergency can bring a lot of stress, but knowing how to react to such situation can make a significant difference. Remember, the key is to act promptly and seek urgent dental care from your emergency dentist. With the right approach, many dental emergencies can be managed effectively, minimizing discomfort and ensuring the best possible outcome for your dental health.

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