What To Do In A Dental Emergency

Dental emergencies can occur at any time - but don't they always seem to happen over a holiday weekend, or the day you're leaving for vacation? When problems arise, at Peace Street Dental, we are here for our patients -including weekends and holidays. If a dental emergency occurs during our regular work week we will fit you in as soon as possible - usually with a same-day or next-day appointment. If it's the weekend or a holiday, we will do what is needed to save your tooth, reduce your pain, stabilize the injury, and help you feel comfortable with your appearance. If you need to see us right away contact our Raleigh dental practice for an emergency appointment. We only see current patients of record after regular office hours for emergency care. However, we welcome all emergency cases - new and current patients -during regular hours.

Here are some tips on how to handle the most common dental emergencies until you can get to our office:


If you are experiencing continuous, severe tooth pain or ache, this is a common symptom of an abscessed tooth. An abscess is an infection at the root of the tooth caused by pulp decay, and usually calls for a root canal. We recommend contacting our office immediately to examine the tooth and start treatment. If you do have an abscessed tooth it will only get worse without care.  Take these initial steps:  Rinse your mouth with warm water and use dental floss to remove any lodged food. If swelling appears, hold a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek. Never put aspirin against the gums or on the sore tooth, because it may burn the gum tissue.

Chipped or broken tooth

Chipped or broken teeth put you at risk for an infection of the tooth pulp. Rinse your mouth and any broken tooth pieces with warm water. If bleeding, apply a piece of gauze to the area for about 10 minutes or until the bleeding stops. Hold a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek to reduce swelling and ease pain. Take pain medication as needed.

Knocked-out tooth

When a tooth has been knocked out, the nerves, blood vessels, and supporting tissues are irreparably damaged. That is why all avulsed teeth will need a root canal. However, the bone can reattach to the root of the tooth once it's put back into place. The chances of saving a tooth are highest in young children, but adult teeth can be saved as well so always keep the tooth if it's a permanent one. A tooth has the highest chance of being saved when it is returned to the socket within one hour. 
Follow these suggestions to improve the chances of saving your tooth:

- Handle the tooth carefully. Try not to touch the root (the part of the tooth that was under the gum). It can be damaged easily. 

- If the tooth is dirty, hold it by the upper part (the crown) and rinse it with milk. If you don't have any milk, rinse it with water. Don't wipe it off with a washcloth, shirt, or other fabric. This could damage the tooth. 

- Keep the tooth moist. Drop it into a glass of milk. If you can't do this, place the tooth in your mouth, between the cheek and gum. A young child may not be able to safely "store" the tooth in his or her mouth without swallowing it. Instead, have the child spit into a cup. Place the tooth in the cup with the saliva. If nothing else is available, place the tooth in a cup of water. 

- If it is a permanent tooth, try slipping the tooth back into its socket. Make sure it's facing the right way. Don't try to force it into the socket. If it doesn't go back into place easily and without pressure, then just keep it moist (in milk, saliva, or water) and get to the office as soon as you can.

Extruded (partially dislodged) tooth

Apply a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek to ease pain. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever as needed.

Object caught between teeth

Use dental floss to gently and carefully remove the object. Never use a sharp instrument, because you risk cutting your gums or scratching the tooth surface.

Lost filling or crown

It is important to see Dr. Griffith as soon as you can if you lose a filling or crown. The exposed tooth is sensitive to pressure and temperature and can become more damaged without the protection of the restoration. If a crown is missing for a long time, your teeth may move and the crown will no longer fit. Here's what you can do before you get to the office:

- If you still have the crown and can place it back over the tooth, make sure to clean the inside as thoroughly as possible.  If it is painful, use a cotton swab to apply a little clove oil to the tooth.

- Try to slip the crown back over the tooth. Before putting the crown back in place, coat the inner surface with an over-the-counter dental cement, toothpaste, or denture adhesive to help hold it in place. Never use super glue! If you are concerned that you may swallow a loose crown, do not return it to your mouth.

- If you've lost the crown or filling entirely, place the over-the-counter dental cement over the tooth surface to protect and seal the area until you get to our office.  No dental cement?  Use a piece of sugarless chewing gum over the tooth until you can get in. 

Broken braces wire

If a wire breaks or sticks out and is poking you, use the eraser end of a pencil to move the wire. If that is not working, use orthodontic wax, a small cotton ball, or a piece of gauze to cover the wire tip. Don’t cut the wire, because you risk swallowing it.

Loose braces bracket or band

Use orthodontic wax to reattach a loose bracket or place the wax over the braces for cushioning. If a band is loose, save it until you see the orthodontist.


These are painful infections that sometimes look like a swollen pimple on the gum, usually at the tooth’s root or in the space between the teeth and gum. Rinse your mouth with a mild salt-water solution (one half-teaspoon of table salt in 8 ounces of water) several times a day, which will help ease any pain. It is critical to have this emergency attended to immediately to avoid the infection traveling through your system.

Soft-tissue injuries

Injuries to the tongue, cheeks, gums, and lips can bleed easily. Rinse your mouth with a mild salt-water solution. Hold a damp piece of gauze or a teabag to the site that is bleeding for about 15 minutes. Also, hold a cold compress to the outside of the mouth or cheek for 10 minutes. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, see your dentist right away or go to a hospital emergency room.

Many of the dental emergencies we treat at our Raleigh dental practice can be avoided with simple steps like wearing a mouth guard, getting routine preventive care, and following up on recommended treatment plans. We do our part to keep your teeth and mouth healthy and encourage you to do the same. Don't hesitate to contact us if you have a dental emergency - even if it's over the weekend.

For more information about Peace Street Dental or to schedule an emergency dental visit please call 919.755.3450 or visit our website.


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