Dental Emergencies

7 Most Common Dental Emergencies & How Can You Prevent Them?

Good dental health not only affects your ability to eat and speak but also impacts your confidence and quality of life, along with your overall well being. Correct dental care can prevent a myriad of problems, from cavities to gum disease.

However, common dental emergencies can still occur even with the best care, often requiring immediate attention to alleviate pain and prevent further damage.

What is a Dental Emergency?

A dental emergency refers to any oral health issue that requires prompt intervention and immediate attention to stop bleeding, alleviate severe pain, or save a tooth.  Knowing how to identify a dental emergency and understanding the right steps to manage it can make a huge difference in the outcome.

7 Most Common Dental Emergencies & How to Prevent Them

1. Toothache

Toothaches are among the most common dental complaints a patient has. It can range from an annoying annoyance to a severe, debilitating pain. 

A toothache qualifies as a dental emergency when: 

  • The pain is so severe that it interferes with daily activities
  • You experience swelling in the face or jaw
  • You have a fever accompanying the pain
  • You have difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Prevention Strategies

  • Brush your teeth at least two times every day and floss daily to clean between your teeth where the toothbrush can’t reach. 
  • Visit your dentist regularly (usually every six months) for professional cleanings and examinations. 
  • Refrain from consuming sugary snacks and beverages that can encourage harmful bacteria in your mouth

2. Chipped or Broken Teeth

Chipped or broken teeth occur due to multiple reasons, including accidents or trauma, biting on tough objects, or bruxism. While the severity of pain from a broken or chipped tooth may vary, the affected tooth does cause significant discomfort.

A chipped or broken tooth qualifies as a dental emergency if: 

  • There is severe, persistent pain.
  • There is uncontrolled bleeding.
  • There is major damage due to a large break or a missing tooth fragment.
  • The chip or break has exposed the tooth nerves.
  • The trauma has impacted multiple teeth.
  • The sharp or jagged edges of the affected tooth could cause further damage.

Prevention Strategies

  • Stop chewing on hard objects, such as pens, nails, ice, and pencils, that can stress and crack your teeth. 
  • Use a mouthguard during sports to protect your teeth from impact. 
  • Avoid using your teeth as tools.

3. Knocked-Out Tooth

A knocked-out tooth is one of the most severe dental emergencies. This condition occurs when a tooth is completely dislodged from its socket due to trauma. You can suffer from a knocked-out tooth due to physical altercations, sports injuries, or accidents, among other things. 

A knocked-out tooth can be considered as a dental emergency when:

  • The tooth has been completely dislodged out of the socket.
  • There is severe pain and uncontrollable bleeding.
  • The tooth socket and tissue are exposed.
  • There is a risk of potential infection and/or damage to the surrounding teeth and structures.

Prevention Strategies

  • Use mouthguards while playing contact sports to prevent direct impact. 
  • Be mindful and aware while performing physical activities such as biking, skateboarding, etc., where falls or collisions are possible. 
  • Avoid unnecessary risks like climbing unsafe structures or engaging in rough play that could lead to falls or impacts.

4. Lost Filling or Crown

A lost filling or crown qualifies as a dental emergency due to the immediate and potential long-term problems it can cause. Fillings and crowns are vital for restoring and protecting decayed or damaged teeth.

You can consider a lost filling or crown as a dental emergency when:

  • Your affected tooth is experiencing severe pain or sensitivity.
  • There is a high risk of bacterial infection in the exposed tooth. 
  • The structural integrity of the tooth is susceptible to further damage. 
  • There is a possibility of impact on the adjacent teeth or overall oral health. 
  • You are unable to eat or speak properly. 

Prevention Strategies

  • Schedule routine checkups combined with professional cleanings with your dentist.
  • Avoid sticky and hard foods that could dislodge your crown or fillings. 
  • Be mindful when chewing, and focus on distributing pressure evenly among your teeth. 
  • Manage your bruxism through stress management or wearing night guards.

5. Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth occurs when a bacterial infection develops within the tooth or the surrounding gum tissue. The infection usually originates from untreated tooth decay, a cracked or fractured tooth, or gum disease. 

An abscessed tooth can become a serious issue that should not be taken lightly, especially if:

  • You notice facial swelling in the face, jaw, or neck, which could indicate a spreading infection. 
  • You notice swollen gums around the affected tooth. 
  • There is a presence of fever. 
  • There is visible pus discharge or drainage. 
  • You have difficulty breathing or swallowing. 
  • You realize that the affected tooth is becoming loose. 

Prevention Strategies

  • Use a fluoride toothpaste for your teeth. Employ a soft-bristled toothbrush. 
  • Floss every day to remove plaque and stray food particles between your teeth.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings. 
  • Address dental issues like cavities, gum disease, or tooth sensitivity promptly. 

6.Broken Braces & Wires

Broken braces and wires are a common orthodontic issue that can quickly become a dental emergency. Broken orthodontia can lead to significant discomfort and pain, disruption in the treatment process, and potential injury risk to the mouth’s soft tissues. 

Broken braces and wires qualify as a medical emergency in the following cases: 

  • If the broken braces or wires are causing severe pain or discomfort
  • If it interferes with eating, speaking, or sleeping
  • If the broken wires are poking or cutting the inside of the cheeks, gums, or tongue
  • If the broken braces or wires make it difficult to eat, speak, or perform daily activities comfortably

Prevention Strategies

  • Avoid hard, sticky foods which can damage orthodontia. 
  • Always wear a mouthguard if you participate in contact sports. 
  • Schedule regular orthodontic checkups. 
  • Avoid using teeth as tools to prevent damage to your braces and wires. 

7. Soft Tissue Injuries 

Soft tissue injuries refer to damage to the gums, cheeks, tongue, and lips. They can result from various causes, such as accidental bites, falls, sports-related impacts, or other trauma. 

Oral soft tissue injuries qualify as a dental emergency if: 

  • The bleeding from an injury does not stop after 15 minutes of applied pressure.
  • The cut is deep and gaping. 
  • The symptoms are increased pain, pus discharge, swelling, or redness. 
  • The injury causes swelling that makes breathing or swallowing difficult. 

Prevention Strategies

  • Always wear a mouthguard when participating in contact sports.
  • Adopt safe eating habits, such as chewing carefully, eating slowly, and avoiding talking while eating. 
  • Avoid chewing on non-food items, such as hard objects like nails, pens, pencils, or ice.   


Dental emergencies can be painful and disruptive, often requiring immediate attention to prevent further complications. By understanding common dental emergencies, you can be better prepared to prevent and manage them effectively.

Facing a Dental Emergency in Bellingham? Contact Diamond Dental

Stop facing scary dental emergencies alone. Our experienced team at Diamond Dental can provide prompt, professional care to address your dental emergency swiftly and effectively.

Don’t hesitate—reach out to us at the first sign of a dental emergency!

Schedule your visit today


  • For a toothache, rinse your mouth with warm water and use dental floss to remove any trapped food. 
  • Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling if you have a chipped or broken tooth. 
  • If a tooth is knocked out, try to place it back in its socket or keep it moist in milk or saliva until you reach the dentist. 
  • For lost fillings or crowns, cover the area with dental cement or sugarless gum as a temporary measure. 

Always contact your dentist as soon as possible to schedule an emergency appointment.

An oral issue is considered an emergency if you experience severe pain, excessive bleeding, or signs of infection such as fever or swelling. It is imperative to seek prompt dental care at the earliest in such cases.

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