What to Do in a Dental Emergency

Dental accidents happen—especially in the lives of adventurous Coloradoans. Maybe you chipped a tooth while climbing, or perhaps an infection began to develop on a long-term camping trip. Unfortunately, dental emergencies often happen outside of normal dentist hours. So—what do you do?

When assessing your dental emergency, it is essential to designate it as either non-urgent, urgent, or a life-threatening emergency. as not requiring urgent care. Once you have sorted your condition into the appropriate category, you can choose between waiting for a dental appointment, visiting an urgent care center, or heading straight to the ER.

A Helpful Guide to Your Condition
The following conditions are non-emergencies; you should still seek a dentist appointment as soon as possible, but you do not require emergency medical care. This includes the following problems:

  • Dull toothache
  • Lost filling, bridge, or crown
  • Broken or chipped tooth (unless the pain is severe)
  • Damaged tooth
  • Object(s) caught between teeth
  • Broken braces or wires

In assessing these issues, you should think first about the amount of pain you are experiencing. If you can bear it for another day or two, or if you have access to drugstore numbing creams, you do not need to visit an emergency facility. However, if your lost filling has exposed a nerve, or your broken tooth is incredibly painful, you may want to consider visiting an emergency facility.

The following conditions require emergency care; while some dental problems can be treated at home, these require professional and urgent attention.

  • Seriously injured jaw
  • Painful swelling
  • Tooth infection which leads to fever, severe pain, and swelling
  • A permanent tooth that has been partially or fully knocked out

If you are experiencing these conditions, it may be necessary to go to the ER.
Where Do I Go for Immediate Help?
Assessing the severity of a dental injury is a difficult task. Other than pain, many of the issues you are experiencing may be invisible. The dental office can handle the vast majority of non-urgent issues, and many common injuries are treatable at home. However, if you experience serious dental injury or pain, have no reason to believe your life is in danger, and can’t be seen right away by a dentist, we recommend visiting an urgent care center.

Often, dental “emergencies” are non-life-threatening. If you visit a standard emergency room without a life-threatening injury, you may need to wait several hours before being seen. To that end, your bill will likely be much more than if you saw a dentist or urgent care physician. Urgent care is an excellent, accessible, and affordable alternative for these situations.

However, if you’re experiencing an emergency, we recommend calling your dentist before taking action. Even if the injury occurs in the middle of the night, your dentist’s voicemail will likely provide some type of instruction and a recommended doctor to call. If you do not have a dentist, or if this phone call provides no additional information, an urgent care facility is the most accessible option.