Dental Tips |4 min read

5 Things You Should Know in a Dental Emergency

A woman holding her cheek in pain with a dental emergency

Time is of the essence when it comes to a dental emergency. Be prepared to handle any situation by reviewing this blog – it may just save your or someone else’s tooth one day!

1. What is a dental emergency?

First, you’ll want to know if you’re experiencing a dental emergency.

Use this list below as a guide:

  • Knocked-out tooth
  • Broken tooth
  • Cracked or chipped tooth
  • Loose adult tooth
  • Damaged or lost restoration
  • Unusual swelling
  • Persistent pain
  • Heightened sensitivity
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection or abscess

If you’re unsure, call your dentist for his/her recommendation.

2. What should you do?

Step 1:

Remain calm!

Step 2:

Tend to the problem.

Depending on your situation, this step may differ. For example:

Knock out a tooth?

Grab it by the crown, rinse it in water, and try to place it back in the socket. Or put it in a jar of milk.

Break or chip a tooth?

Grab the pieces, rinse your mouth with water, and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling.

Experiencing severe pain or swelling?

Apply an ice pack, rinse with warm salt water, or take over-the-counter painkillers.

Food stuck between your teeth?

Got floss handy? Try flossing it out, and if that doesn’t work, tie a knot in the floss and try again. You can also try rinsing your mouth to dislodge what’s stuck.

Lose a filling or damage a restoration?

Use orthodontic wax to seal sensitive areas of your tooth or gumline and to protect your cheeks. If you don’t have wax, avoid chewing on that area and hot or cold temperature foods/drinks, which can cause tooth sensitivity.

Step 3:

Get medical help from your dentist!

3. Who should you call for emergency dental care?

Short answer: your dentist!

If your scenario is life-threatening, call 911.

Otherwise, we don’t recommend going to the hospital, emergency room, or urgent care for a dental emergency.

Instead, call your dentist and get their expertise on the matter.


Most hospitals don’t have dentists on staff, which means you won’t receive the treatment needed to resolve your emergency.

Most of the time, they’ll treat your symptoms by providing painkillers or antibiotics and then refer you back to your dentist for follow-up care.

In some states, it’s illegal for anyone other than a dentist to perform dentistry.

What if it’s outside my dentist’s business hours?

Still call your dentist!

Most dentists have an automated after-hours recording that’ll give you instructions on what to do or who to call if you experience an emergency.

4. How much does emergency dentistry cost?

There isn’t a set cost for any dental service, so the best answer we can give you is this:

Don’t let costs stop you from seeking immediate dental care.

The longer you avoid getting treatment, the pricier your treatment will become, and the fewer options you’ll have.

Let’s not forget about the potential health risks, either. By delaying dental care, your oral health can worsen and result in overall health risks, like heart disease and strokes.

Does insurance cover emergency dentistry?

Emergency dental coverage varies between plans. To find out if you’re covered, look into your benefits or contact your dentist for verification.

In some cases, your medical insurance may cover your dental emergency visit.

5. Does emergency dental care hurt?

Emergency dentistry is best known for getting you out of pain – not causing more.

You’ll most likely get numbed before any procedure is performed. If recommended, you may be prescribed painkillers or antibiotics, which can ease your symptoms afterward.

The most important thing to remember: Call your dentist

Even a minor toothache is worth a call to your dentist because it’s a sign, something is wrong.

At Giesy Family & Implant Dentistry, we treat patients like family. When you experience a dental emergency, we want to help – help you get out of pain, save your tooth, make a cost-effective decision, protect your overall health, and so forth.

We also place a big emphasis on comfort because we understand going to the dentist isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to do. From noise-reducing headphones to having one dentist for all your dental needs, we try to make dentistry a convenient and positive experience.

Need to contact an emergency dentist in Tacoma?

Contact Dr. Giesy and our friendly team by:

Our dental office serves patients from all over the Tacoma area, including Ruston, Spanaway, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, University Place, Fircrest, Olympia, Puyallup, Federal Way, Fife, and Port Orchard.