A dental emergency could vary from a sudden toothache to swelling in the mouth or outside/on one’s face to a broken tooth. The fact that it’s called an “emergency” means that it’s pretty annoying and uncomfortable in a way that you need to do something about it now.

So, as a rule of thumb, you should see your dentist as soon as possible for anything that is considered a dental emergency. I try to explain a few cases of these emergencies.


Usually, a toothache is the natural alert mechanism of one’s body telling them that there is a potential infection. Usually though one starts taking pain medication and goes through their day, which is understandable, however it normally results in the spread and worsening of the potential infection. There are times that I see patients who’ve been living with the pain for months and by the time they come in to be seen, there is not much that can be done about the tooth and it needs to be taken out (which should always be the very last option). This makes something that could have been treated easily into something that is more expensive emotionally and financially. Also, take a look at our post for toothache remedies.

Broken/chipped tooth

If the emergency is a broken/chipped tooth, even if it doesn’t hurt or bothers one, it’s best to see a dentist at least for a consultation. We already talked about broken/chipped front tooth in details and we will have more posts on other types of broken teeth soon as this is a common occurrence. Again, there are a lot of cases where by the time patient makes it to the office, there is either recurrent decay in the area or the tooth breaks down even more which again could be causes for root canal treatments, crowns or even extractions.


Swellings in the mouth could be indication for various issues, as little as food having gotten stuck underneath the gums for a while to a large infection at the root/previous root canal treated tooth or a bad case of periodontal/gum disease. Swellings that are in the lower jaw, particularly in the wisdom teeth areas should be taken seriously as they could lead to medical emergencies fairly quickly; swelling in the lower jaw could spread to one’s neck, pressing on the airways overtime and causing issues with breathing which needs emergency attention in a hospital setting and IV antibiotics at the least.

What can be done before seeing the dentist?

Stay off the tooth, contact the office, describe your symptoms and get a consultation for that. Sometimes a prescription for antibiotics or pain medication can be called in to help for a few days until the actual appointment time. Normally offices are great with accommodating dental emergency cases; after all, it’s called an emergency for a reason!

In Soothing Dental San Francisco, we offer same-day appointments for dental emergencies. Book an appointment online, call our office at (415) 989-3953) or send us an email (appt@soothing.dental).

7 comments on “What Can You Do in a Dental Emergency?

  1. I broke a couple of teeth during my rugby game and I’m not sure what to do. At first I thought about going to my dentist, but I wasn’t sure if there was something that I could do on my own to fix this problem. Now that I see that it is important to see my dentist, I plan getting a consultation first and seeing what my options are to get them fixed.

  2. Knowing what to do in a dental emergency can really save your tooth. I know that I chipped a couple of teeth and knowing that milk kept them safe I was able to save them. It made a huge difference.

  3. I did not know that a toothache was the natural alert mechanism of the body telling a person that there is a potential infection. It is good to know that if this emergency dental situation does happen, the best thing to do is to consult a dentist as soon as possible. Pain medication can only do so much. Thanks for this information.

  4. I have always wondered why I got toothaches, and now I’m worried I might have an infection. I have had a toothache for a couple of weeks now and it’s driving me crazy. I think if a toothache persists beyond a day or two it’s probably time to see a dentist about it.

  5. My son loves to place sports and last night during his baseball game the ball hit him in the mouth chipping a couple of his teeth. You mentioned that if the emergency is a broken/chipped tooth, even if it doesn’t hurt or bothers one, it’s best to see a dentist at least for a consultation. Do most dentists offer emergency appointments? Finding a dentist that offers emergency appointments might be his best option.

  6. I like how you said that having a broken tooth could be a reason to visit a professional sooner than later. I didn’t know that swelling in your gums could mean that there’s food under the tissue and could get infected or spread. Thanks for these tips; my husband and I are considering looking into a good dental clinic just in case someone in our family ever has a dental emergency.

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