Dental problems can be costly and painful. And because over a third of all Americans don’t have dental insurance, many wait until dental problems become serious before seeking out medical attention. But what constitutes a dental emergency, and how do you know when you need urgent medical care for a dental problem? Keep reading to learn when to visit the emergency room for dental care.

extreme tooth sensitivity, discomfort, and swelling are common dental emergencies.

Common Dental Emergencies

  • Knocked-out tooth

  • Infections 

  • Extreme tooth sensitivity 

  • Mouth sores 

  • Abscessed gums 

  • Bleeding 

  • Swelling 

  • Broken teeth  

Can You Go to the Emergency Room for a Tooth? 

You can absolutely visit the emergency room for dental care. Dental pain can be indicative of a more serious and potentially life-threatening condition, so it’s important to act quickly if you suspect that something is wrong.

Dental pain can be indicative of a more serious condition and can be diagnosed at an emergency room.

What Will the ER Do for a Tooth Infection?

Depending on the source of your dental issues, an emergency room doctor might recommend various different courses of treatment. If there seems to be swelling or an infection, they might prescribe an anti-inflammatory medicine or an antibiotic. For a broken tooth or orofacial trauma, they might simply prescribe something for the pain.  

Can the ER Help with Severe Tooth Pain?

If you are experiencing unbearable pain in your teeth, an emergency room visit can help you find relief. Whether you’ve had a tooth extracted, broken crown, or other dental procedure, sometimes over-the-counter medications simply don’t work. An emergency room doctor can help by administering a dose of stronger pain medication to manage the discomfort until you can set an appointment with your dentist to treat the problem. 

if a toothache has spread to other parts of the face / head, it may be time to visit an emergency room.

What Qualifies as a Dental Emergency? 

Emergencies tend to happen outside of business hours for most dental offices, and you may find yourself unable to get in to see your dentist when something goes wrong. But when is it acceptable to visit an emergency room or urgent care for dental pain? Here are a list of Dos and Don’ts to consider before making the trip to the ER: 

Do go to the emergency room if: 

  • Your toothache pain has spread to other parts of your face, particularly the eye and jaw area
  • Your toothache is accompanied by a high fever
  • You are bleeding uncontrollably 
  • You have trouble swallowing or bleeding
  • You are getting worse after 24 hours of antibiotics 
  • You experienced a trauma or blow to the face that causes dental discomfort or irregularity

Don’t got to the ER if: 

  • Minor pain is your only symptom
  • You had a tooth extraction or dental operation less than 24 hours prior to experiencing pain
  • You or your child have a broken or chipped tooth 

Dental emergencies can be scary, but many aren’t as serious as they seem. A quick Google search or an after-hours call to your dentist can help you discern whether or not you actually need to see an emergency room doctor or if the issue can wait until the next day. If you can’t contact your dentist, call your local emergency room for advice on whether or not to come in. 

How to Avoid Dental Emergencies

Dental issues are the main source of entirely avoidable trips to the emergency room. And while you should absolutely seek help if your teeth are causing you pain, the better solution to prevent dental emergencies altogether is to simply keep up with regular dental appointments. Yearly dental cleanings can help identify any issues you may be having, spare you a trip to hospital emergency rooms, and keep ER beds clear for more pressing emergencies.

Visit Village Emergency Centers

At Village Emergency Centers, no issue is too big or small. If you are experiencing dental pain that warrants emergency care, our qualified team of board-certified emergency doctors are ready and willing to help. Still wondering when to visit an emergency room for dental care? Don’t wait—visit a Village Emergency Center location near you!