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Emergency services Dr Mariam Chung Reviewed by Dr Mariam Chung, Dentist

Dental emergencies can happen any time. Find an emergency dentist near you, plus quick tips for damaged teeth and dental accidents.

Medical emergency

If you or someone else have sustained trauma to the head or jaw, or are experiencing dizziness or loss of consciousness:

IN AUSTRALIA CALL 000 - NEW ZEALAND CALL 111

 

Dental emergency

If you or someone else are experiencing a toothache or have damaged a tooth, crown, dentures or orthodontic appliance:

FIND YOUR NEAREST DENTIST

 

If you or someone in your family has a dental emergency, it's important to know what to do and how to access urgent dental care when you need it most.

Many dentists set aside time in their daily schedules for patients who need same-day appointments because of an urgent problem. If you need an emergency dentist, find a dentist near you and explain the situation so they can advise your soonest appointment time and any steps you should be taking in the meantime. 

Find an emergency dentist near you.

Looking for advice about a certain type of dental emergency? Jump to a specific problem or topic:  

  • Tooth knocked out
  • Cracked or chipped teeth
  • Toothache
  • Jaw pain
  • Injuries to your lips, gums, cheeks or tongue
  • Damaged dental work or appliances
  • Tips for lowering your risk of a dental emergency

Do you need an emergency dentist?

So what kind of problems are considered dental emergencies? In most cases, this is any issue that needs quick attention from a dental professional. If you think you have a medical emergency, such as head trauma, dizziness or difficulty breathing, we advise calling emergency services on 000 in Australia, or 111 in New Zealand. Locate your nearest emergency department in Australia or in New Zealand.

A dental emergency is usually any damage, sudden pain, swelling or other symptoms related to your teeth, mouth, jaws and dental restorations. Common dental emergencies include:

  • toothache
  • knocked out tooth
  • chipped tooth
  • cracked tooth
  • bitten lip, tongue or cheek
  • lost filling
  • broken crown
  • broken dentures
  • broken braces

If your tooth is knocked out, seeing a dentist within 30 minutes could impact the likelihood of saving the tooth. But not all dental emergencies require same-day appointments. A dental professional can advise whether it’s possible to wait a few days for an appointment or if you need to seek urgent care immediately.

Either way, it’s important to get in contact with a dental professional as soon as you can, even if it’s just to confirm that you’re safe to wait a few days for an appointment.

Young Adults Phone

What to do in a dental emergency

If you have a dental emergency, trying to stay calm and being prepared can lower the risk of infections or other complications and improve your chances of making a full recovery. Here's what to do in common emergency situations:

Tooth knocked out

If an adult tooth gets knocked out, there's a chance it could be saved if:

  • the tooth is still intact
  • you handle and store it correctly
  • you can get to a dentist within 30 minutes

To improve the chance that your tooth can be saved:

  1. Pick up the tooth by the crown (the surface that’s usually visible and used for chewing) and avoid touching the root, as this can cause damage. If the tooth is dirty, rinse it quickly in water but don't scrub it.
  2. Try to place the tooth back into your mouth and hold it in place. If it doesn't fit, place it in a container of milk. Do not store it in water.
  3. As soon as the tooth is secure, immediately seek an urgent dental appointment. Visit a dentist as soon as possible to see if they can reintegrate the tooth.

It's not always possible to save a knocked-out tooth. In this case, your dentist is likely to discuss options for replacing the tooth, such as a dental implant, dental bridge or denture.

If a child loses a baby tooth, don't try to put it back into their mouth. This could risk damaging the adult tooth underneath, even if it hasn’t yet erupted.

Cracked or chipped tooth

A chipped tooth or cracked tooth may be vulnerable to infections and might make eating difficult. A dentist should treat a damaged tooth as soon as possible.

In the meantime, rinse your mouth with warm water to remove any fragments or debris, use painkillers if needed and apply a cold compress on your face if you need to reduce any swelling.

Read more about cracks and chips.

Tooth pain

Rinse your mouth with warm water to wash away any food or debris from your teeth. Taking over-the-counter pain medication may help until you have a chance to see a dentist. Don't place aspirin directly onto an aching tooth, as this can burn your gums.

If your toothache is accompanied by swelling, this could be a sign of an infection and needs urgent attention. After you’ve contacted a dentist, place a cold compress on the outside of the cheek to help reduce swelling. Don't apply heat, as this can make an infection worse.

Read more about dental pain, potential causes, and what you can do.

Jaw pain

If your jaw feels painful, stiff or makes sounds when you eat or open and close your mouth, you should make an appointment to see a dentist or doctor. They will try to diagnose the cause, which might be an injury, dislocated jaw or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD). Learn more about jaw joint disorders.

Over-the-counter painkillers may help relieve jaw pain in the short term. If you also have swelling, you can take anti-inflammatory medication or try applying a cold compress to your jaw

Soft tissue injuries

If you cut or bite your lip, tongue, gums or cheek, you should first clean the area gently with warm salt water to remove any dirt or debris and lower the risk of infection. To address any bleeding, press down firmly with a clean bandage or cloth and wait for at least 10 minutes. If bleeding continues after 15 minutes, visit your dentist or an emergency room.

If part of your mouth is swollen, apply a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in a clean cloth to your face, not to the injury itself.

Damaged dental work or appliances

Losing or damaging a filling, crown, dentures or braces could affect your ability to eat and may risk hurting the soft tissues of your mouth (your cheeks, tongue or gum tissue). Make an emergency appointment with a dentist to repair or replace your dental restoration or appliance as soon as possible.

If a broken crown, damaged braces, or damaged dentures have sharp edges that are irritating your cheeks, lips or tongue, you may be able to gently apply a bit of dental wax to the broken edge. It’s best to ask your dentist or orthodontist over the phone if this could be a temporary solution while you wait for your appointment. 

How to prevent a dental emergency

Sometimes life happens and you can’t avoid an accident. But, by taking steps to protect yourself and your family from dental injuries, you may be able to lower your risk of an emergency.

  • Protect your teeth while playing sports and other risky activities by wearing a custom mouthguard provided by your dentist.
  • Don't bite or chew on hard objects such as ice cubes, pen tops or your fingernails.
  • Never use your teeth as tools to open packaging or crack open nuts.
Go Back to Top

Queensland Government. Emergency dental [Online] 2015 [Accessed January 2019] Available from: www.qld.gov.au

Healthdirect. Dental injury [Online] 2017 [Accessed January 2019] Available from: www.healthdirect.gov.au

The purpose of this article is to promote better understanding of dental health topics. It’s not meant to replace professional advice or diagnosis. Always talk to a dentist, doctor or other qualified healthcare professional if you have a question about dental or medical conditions.

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