common sources of jaw pain

What To Do If You Have a Dental Emergency

If you have ever had a dental emergency then you understand how frightening and painful it can be. Often people are unsure what constitutes a dental emergency, who they should call, and what they can do at home when they experience a dental emergency. Simply follow these guidelines for determining how to best handle your dental emergency.


Certain dental emergencies are urgent while others can be treated later on. It’s especially important to understand the difference between the two if you experience a dental emergency over the weekend or during nighttime when dental offices are typically closed.

The following are examples of urgent dental emergencies:

  • Bleeding gums that will not stop
  • A loose or knocked out tooth
  • Injured jaw
  • Painful swelling
  • Painful toothache that will not subside
  • Swollen cheeks or face in combination with a toothache
  • Extreme tooth sensitivity

Urgent dental emergencies should be dealt with right away! Call your dentist immediately if you experience any of the above problems.

Most dentists have an emergency number in the event that you experience any of the above problems outside of business hours. If you are still unable to reach your dentist for whatever reason, visit the emergency room in the event of an urgent dental emergency.

The following are examples of non-urgent dental emergencies:

  • Lost Filling, Crown, or Bridge
  • Broken or Cracked Tooth (unless the tooth is causing you severe pain)
  • Broken or Damaged Retainer or Night Guard
  • Food lodged between teeth
  • Dull toothache
  • Small Chip in Tooth
  • Mild tooth sensitivity

If you experience a non-urgent dental emergency, it is still recommended that you contact your dentist as soon as possible. While the situation may be able to wait a few days, it is imperative that you notify your dentist right away.


Your dentist is the obvious go-to when you experience a dental emergency, but in some situations, it may be best to go straight to the emergency room. As a general rule, you should go to the emergency room if you are experiencing unbearable pain or bleeding that cannot be stopped and your dentist’s office is closed.

If you are not in excruciating pain, you are advised to call your dentist and explain the situation. Most dentists will attempt to see you as soon as possible, but don’t fret if they can’t see you right away. Many dental emergencies are not urgent (even though they may feel like they are!).


Depending on the dental emergency that you experience, there may be things you can do at home to help ease your pain and remedy the situation. Regardless of the emergency, one of the most important things to do is stay calm. When you get anxious your body triggers a number of responses that may make your emergency worse, so try your best to remain calm while seeking the assistance that you need.

The following are a list of suggested things you can do at home to help ease any pain or discomfort caused by a dental emergency:

  • Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a mug of boiling water and use it as a warm mouthwash to relieve irritation and reduce swelling.
  • If you have a tooth knocked out, put it in a glass of milk until you can get to your dentist.
  • Floss! If you are experiencing pain surrounding one specific tooth, it is possible that something has gotten stuck between your teeth or inside the gum tissue.
  • Use a cold compress to help reduce swelling, numb irritation, and stop any bleeding that may occur.
  • Swish with Hydrogen Peroxide to help kill bacteria and alleviate irritation.
  • Take the prescribed dose of an over-the-counter pain medication to help alleviate any discomfort.


If you suffer a dental emergency, you may be wondering what you can do in the future to prevent another one from occurring. The best way to protect yourself from a dental emergency is to see your Richmond, VA dentist twice a year for comprehensive hygiene visits. If you keep these appointments you are much less likely to have something painful and unexpected pop up in your mouth.

Other tips for preventing dental emergencies include:

  • Complete whatever treatment your dentist recommends for you during the advised treatment plan. Dental problems only get worse with time. If you put off a filling, crown, or root canal, you are putting yourself at-risk for unexpected pain down the road.
  • Brush and floss daily. Developing a strong oral hygiene routine will help keep your mouth healthy and your teeth strong.
  • Take it easy on foods that are especially tough or chewy. Examples include hard bread, jerky, pretzels, hard candy, and chewy candy.
  • Ask your dentist if you have periodontal disease (gum disease). If you have gum disease, you may need additional hygiene visits each year to take care of proper tooth maintenance.
    Receive an annual VELscope Oral Cancer Screening.

River Run Dental—Here For You In 2020:

The New Year is upon us and those of us at River Run Dental understand that dental emergencies are never a fun experience! We also know that what to do and interpreting how to handle a dental emergency can make a huge difference in the situation. Most importantly, remember to try and distinguish between whether the emergency is urgent or not. Once doing so, then you contact the appropriate professional to help you!

If you have a dental emergency, we would like to best serve you in 2020! Please contact River Run Dental for any dental situations that you may have.

POSTED IN: Dental Emergencies, Dental Health, Dental Hygiene, Dental Tips


  1.   Jordan

    Great advice here. It’s very important to get help as soon as possible if there is a problem with your teeth. The sooner you get help, the sooner problems can be fixed. Thanks for sharing these tips on what to do!

  2.   Carol Eaton

    Your practice is the only one I have been to, and believe me I have been to a lot of dental practices throughout my life, that ever sends out emails that are not only very helpful but very caring. Also none have had any patient appreciation events. I haven’t been able to attend due to circumstances with my husband’s triple bypass surgery and us living 45-60 minutes away but I know everyone that has been able to attend has had a great time. I will always be a patient of your practice and recommend anyone I can to you. My husband who hates seeing dentists cause they are so rough on his mouth told me the other day “I might just see Dr. Rusnick instead of my regular dentist.” High praise coming from my hubby. Just need to get him fully back to normal before he has to endure another type of pain.

  3.   Lillian Schaeffer

    Thanks for sharing this great post about dealing with a dental emergency. I haven’t had to deal with any emergency situations like this, and I appreciate your suggestion to go to the dentist if there isn’t exceptional pain involved. I’ll definitely keep this in mind in case I do run into an urgent situation like this.

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