Dental Emergencies: What to Do When You Can’t Get to the Dentist Right Away

It’s crucial to recognize what constitutes a dental emergency. Common signs include severe pain, bleeding, swelling, or any issue that significantly affects your oral function.

Handling a Toothache

Experiencing a toothache can be an excruciating and distressing ordeal, making it difficult to concentrate on anything else. Whether it’s a sharp, stabbing pain or a persistent, throbbing ache, toothaches can significantly interfere with your daily activities. Here’s how you can handle a toothache effectively:

Rinse with Warm Saltwater

One of the simplest and most effective home remedies for toothache relief is rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water and gently swish it around your mouth for about 30 seconds.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Non-prescription pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be helpful in managing toothache discomfort. Follow the recommended dosage instructions on the label and avoid exceeding the daily limit.

Avoid Extreme Temperatures

When dealing with a toothache, it’s crucial to avoid exposing the affected tooth to extreme temperatures. Refrain from consuming very hot or cold foods and beverages as they can trigger or exacerbate the pain.

Elevate Your Head

When lying down, elevate your head with an extra pillow to reduce blood flow to the affected tooth. This can help alleviate pressure and minimize the intensity of the pain.

Cold Compress

If you experience swelling or inflammation around the painful tooth, applying a cold compress to the cheek can help reduce these symptoms. Wrap a bag of ice or a cold pack in a cloth and hold it against the affected area for 15-20 minutes.

Dealing with a Chipped or Broken Tooth

Accidents happen, and a chipped or broken tooth can be distressing. Here’s what you can do until you see your dentist:

Save any Broken Tooth Pieces

If your tooth chips or breaks, try to save any broken pieces. Keep them in a clean container with milk or saliva to preserve them until you can see your dentist. Avoid using water, as it may damage the tooth fragments and reduce the chances of successful reattachment.

Cover Sharp Edges

To protect your tongue and cheeks from sharp edges of a broken tooth, use dental wax or sugarless gum. Soften a small piece of dental wax or gum and place it over the jagged part of the broken tooth.

Coping with a Knocked-Out Tooth

A knocked-out tooth requires immediate action to increase the chances of saving it. Follow these steps:

Handle the Tooth Gently

When you discover a knocked-out tooth, it’s crucial to handle it with the utmost care. Hold the tooth by the crown, which is the top part visible in your mouth. Avoid touching the root at all costs. Touching the root can damage these tissues and reduce the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Reinsert the Tooth (If Possible)

If the knocked-out tooth is clean and free from any debris, you can attempt to reinsert it into its socket. Gently and carefully guide the tooth back into the empty space it came from. Once in position, hold it in place by gently biting down on a clean cloth or a moistened gauze pad.

Keep the Tooth Moist

If you cannot reinsert the knocked-out tooth into its socket, it’s essential to keep it moist to enhance its chances of survival. Place the tooth in a container filled with milk. Milk provides an ideal environment to maintain the tooth’s moisture and preserve its delicate tissues.

Seek Immediate Dental Care

Time is critical when dealing with a knocked-out tooth. Contact your dentist or an emergency dental clinic as soon as possible to arrange an immediate appointment.
The sooner you receive professional dental care, the higher the chances of successful reattachment of the tooth.

Controlling a Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is a painful and potentially serious condition that requires immediate attention. While waiting to see your dentist, you can take the following steps to help alleviate the discomfort:

Rinse with Saltwater

Gently rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater several times a day can be beneficial in managing a dental abscess. Saltwater has natural antiseptic properties that can help reduce the level of bacteria in the affected area.

Use Ice Packs

Applying ice packs to the outside of your cheek near the affected area can help with swelling and alleviate pain. The cold temperature can help reduce inflammation and provide temporary relief. Wrap a bag of ice or a cold pack in a thin cloth and hold it against the affected area for about 15-20 minutes at a time.

Handling an Object Stuck Between Teeth

If something gets stuck between your teeth, avoid using sharp objects to remove it, as it may cause injury. Instead:

Be Cautious

While using dental floss, exercise caution to avoid snapping it forcefully between your teeth. Doing so could injure your gums or even chip your teeth. Use a gentle sawing motion and take your time to work the floss around the sides of the object until it becomes dislodged.

Visit the Dentist

If the object remains stubbornly stuck or you are unable to remove it safely with dental floss, it’s best to seek professional help from your dentist. Attempting to force the object out yourself may result in further complications, and your dentist will have the necessary tools and expertise to handle the situation without causing harm.

Preventive Measures

To reduce the likelihood of objects getting stuck between your teeth in the future, make sure to maintain regular dental check-ups and practice good oral hygiene.

Addressing a Broken Braces Wire

Dealing with a broken braces wire can be bothersome and potentially painful. The wire may start poking your cheeks or causing irritation in your mouth.

Use Orthodontic

Wax: Orthodontic wax is a soft and pliable material specifically designed for braces. Take a small piece of wax and roll it into a ball. Then, carefully apply the wax to the part of the wire that is protruding and causing irritation.
The wax will create a smooth surface, preventing the wire from poking your cheeks and lips.

Use a Pencil Eraser

If the wire is sticking out and causing discomfort, you can try a gentle and cautious approach to push it back into place. Take the eraser end of a pencil and use it to gently nudge the wire back into the bracket slot. Be very gentle to avoid further damage or displacing other parts of the braces.


Can I wait to see a dentist for a knocked-out tooth?

No, you should seek dental care immediately. The sooner you receive treatment, the higher the chances of saving the tooth.

Are dental emergencies preventable?

While some emergencies are accidental, maintaining good oral hygiene and attending regular dental check-ups can reduce the risk.

What if I accidentally swallow a dental restoration, such as a filling or crown?

While swallowing a small dental restoration is usually not harmful, it’s best to inform your dentist. They will determine if any further action is necessary.

Can I use superglue to reattach a broken tooth or restoration at home?

No, using superglue or any household adhesives on teeth is not safe and can cause further damage. Always seek professional dental care.


Dental emergencies can happen when you least expect them, causing pain and anxiety. By being prepared and following the tips mentioned in this article, you can manage these situations effectively until you can see your dentist.