Dental Health Info Article

Emergency Room Dental Care

For the most urgent dental problems, you’re going to need emergency treatment. If making an appointment with a dentist isn’t an option, you can receive limited dental care at an emergency room instead. Read on to learn more about the type of care you can receive in the emergency room.

Dental emergencies

Dental pain is one of the most intense forms of discomfort that a person can experience. If you’re experiencing a level of pain which is stopping you from concentrating, eating, drinking, sleeping, or doing simple tasks, you may need to receive emergency care. The following are some of the most common reasons why people seek emergency dental care.  If you have any of the following conditions, please see a medical professional immediately:

  • Abscess

An abscess is a collection of pus which has formed inside the teeth or gums. You’ll experience an intense and throbbing sort of pain which is worse when you lie down, and has the potential to spread to your neck, jaw and, ears.

  • Tooth avulsion

Avulsion is the technical term for knocking a tooth out of your mouth. In some instances, the tooth can be saved, however, you’ll need to act fast.

  • Broken tooth

A cracked, chipped, or fractured tooth can cause intense pain, and is an extremely common reason behind people seeking emergency room dental care. It’s often accompanied by gum and tissue damage.

  • Severe toothache

Often the result of tooth decay (also known as caries), a toothache can feel sharp or dull (in which case, it could be the result of periodontal disease). You won’t necessarily be able to tell whether the pain is coming from your upper or lower teeth, and the area of your jaw closest to the affected tooth may feel particularly sore.

  • Broken braces

If part of your braces have come loose – or a wire is sticking out – it can cause some discomfort to the wearer, which can necessitate a visit to an emergency room dentist.

  • Swollen, discolored or bleeding gums

If you’re experiencing severe bleeding in your gums, there’s a chance that you have gum disease. This is a very serious issue, and can be a factor in the death of gum tissue, tooth ligaments, and in the most major cases, bone itself. 

  • Foreign objects lodged in mouth/teeth

Food can easily get wedged under the gum line, and if left untreated it can eventually lead to an infection.

With dental injuries, time is always of the essence. The quicker you can receive treatment, the greater your chances of saving your tooth, and your smile.

Emergency room dental care vs dentist

If you’re experiencing a dental emergency, you’ll need to choose between visiting an emergency room in a hospital or visiting a dentist. If you do visit an emergency room, there are a couple of things that you need to consider:

  • They cannot provide routine care
  • They generally do not have an on-call dentist available
  • The only people who are able and qualified to provide dental treatment are dentists

Unless you are losing a life-threatening amount of blood, you have difficulty breathing (as could be the case for a severe dental abscess) or you’ve received a traumatic injury to your head, jaw, or mouth, you should always visit an emergency dentist rather than a hospital, as emergency room dental care is relatively limited. This way, you can make sure that you get the treatment that you need to resolve your dental problems in the correct manner.


Upon arriving at the emergency room, your dental injuries will be assessed by the on-call doctor. If an emergency room dentist is available, you’ll be referred to them. If not, there’s a limited extent to which you can receive treatment. You’ll be given some pain relief and antibiotics for stabilization, but the reality is that without visiting a dentist, you’re not going to receive an appropriate level of care in an emergency room.

Do you have a dental emergency and need immediate treatment? Contact 1-800-DENTIST, and one of our referral specialists will put you in touch with the right emergency dentist for your needs.