What Is Considered a Dental Emergency?

What Is Considered a Dental Emergency?

Dental emergencies happen when you least expect them. And without warning, you could be dealing with a little one who has a lot of discomfort, pain, and swelling. You could also find yourself holding your child’s tooth in your hand. 

Kids are always on the go - so you never know what each day may bring. But when it comes to your child’s oral health, knowing what to look for - and what is considered to be a true dental emergency can help guide you on your next steps. 

Is it a Dental Emergency?

Sometimes a dental issue may feel like an emergency, but it isn’t. For instance, a toothache with a dull ache may need the attention of a dentist, but it is not considered a true emergency. 

Below are a few questions to ask yourself to help determine if you and your child are facing a dental emergency. 

  • Is your child in severe pain? 
  • Is your child’s tooth bleeding? 
  • Has your child lost a tooth? 
  • Does your child have swelling? 
  • Do you see an abscess in your child’s mouth? 

If you are trying to determine whether what you are dealing with is really a dental emergency, consider this: emergency dentistry is designed to stop severe tooth pain, stop bleeding, and save a tooth. If your situation fits any of these, you may have an emergency. It is always ok to contact your dentist just to explain what is going on and determine whether it needs to be addressed immediately or if it should wait for a future appointment.  

Things that are not usually considered dental emergencies include toothaches, a broken or chipped tooth that doesn’t cause pain, a lost filling, or a lost crown. All require the attention of the dentist, but by scheduling an appointment to do so. 

Common Dental Emergencies

If your child is experiencing any of the below, consider it a dental emergency and contact your pediatric dentist immediately. 

A Knocked-Out Tooth. To save a tooth that has been knocked out completely, there are a couple of very important steps you will need to take. 

  • Pick up the tooth by the crown (do not touch the root) and rinse it off carefully without scrubbing or rubbing it. 
  • Place the tooth back into the socket only if its an adult tooth
  • Do not replace a baby tooth
  • If the socket placement is not possible, then place the tooth in a glass of milk. Depending on the age of your child, this may be a safer option. 
  • Call your dentist immediately. 

Saving an adult natural tooth is always the goal - but time is of the essence with this dental emergency. 

A Cracked Tooth. A cracked tooth doesn’t always warrant an emergency visit as some don’t hurt or even crack all the way through or cause much immediate concern. While you will want to contact the dentist right away, you may not need to be seen on an emergency basis. 

If the tooth has been cracked - and it is impacting the inside of the tooth, too - then this is definitely a dental emergency. Sometimes cracks can be so bad that they cannot even be saved. 

If your child has a cracked tooth, here’s what you can do: 

  • Rinse the mouth with warm water. 
  • Apply a cold compress (this helps minimize swelling)
  • Call your dentist immediately. 

Dental Abscess. An abscess is a pocket of pus that is inside the tooth or around the gums and causes an infection. Depending on how bad it is, this can be a very serious situation. 

A dental abscess can cause: 

  • Fever
  • Swollen face
  • Toothache
  • Bump on the gums
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold

If you notice any of these signs on your child, you should call your dentist immediately.


At My Town’s Little Dentist, we understand that dental emergencies can be scary - and that’s why we are here to answer your emergency call at all times. Though if the trauma is serious or life-threatening, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Contact our office at 516-226-7337. Or request an appointment online.