Helping Seniors Live Healthier Lives

Oh My Tooth! What To Do In A Dental Emergency

If you received a blow to the mouth that knocked out, broke, or cracked a tooth, or forced it out of its normal position and/or caused gum damage, this is a dental emergency.  You should see your dentist right away to save your tooth.


You should call your dentist to arrange an emergency visit, because he or she can accurately assess the damage and begin treatment right away to save the tooth.

Tooth Knocked Out

 If your tooth is completely knocked out you should hold it by the crown and avoid touching the root. You may rinse the tooth very gently if needed and place the tooth in the empty socket or between your cheek and gums, if possible. Otherwise, you can wrap the tooth in gauze or a cloth and keep put in a container with milk in it to keep it moist.

Broken or Cracked Tooth

If the tooth is fractured you should rinse your mouth warm water. You can take an OTC medicine for pain but avoid aspirin because it is an anticoagulant and discourages normal blood clotting. You will want to use an ice pack to discourage swelling and bruising. Fractures are characterized as minor, moderate, and severe.

A minor fracture could be smoothed or restored if needed. Moderate fractures have damage to the dentin and pulp along with the enamel and may require a crown. A severely fractured tooth may need to be pulled and an implant put in its place.

Tooth Knocked Out of Position

You can try using light pressure to reposition a tooth that has been knocked out of alignment. Bite down to keep it in position until you get to the dentist office.

Tissue Damage

Lacerations, tears, or puncture wounds to your cheek, tongue, or lips should be rinsed with warm water and you need to seek care at a hospital emergency department. A pad of sterile gauze applied lightly to the injury may slow down bleeding until you can get there.

Possible Fractured Jaw

If you think you possibly broke your jaw, you can go to a dentist for an X-ray or to the hospital emergency department. A cold pack applied lightly to the jaw can reduce swelling. 

Throbbing Teeth or Gums

If you have intense throbbing pain from a tooth, this is a sign of infection and possibly an abscess. You need to see a dentist as soon as possible and go on an antibiotic because tooth and gum infections can have serious consequences to your health. The dentist will also want to assess damage to the tooth or gum to prepare for further treatment.


If at all possible you should prevent injury to your mouth and teeth. You can avoid injuries in these ways:

  • Never crunch hard things like corn kernels, ice or hard candy to prevent cracked teeth.
  • Don't use your teeth as tools to cut, tear, or pull off things.
  • Always use a mouth-guard when engaging in sports that require one.
  • Avoid people who are prone to aggression and violence.

An emergency dental care kit is a useful addition to your first aid kit at home or work. You can make one with a small plastic container that has a lid. Old film containers or prescription containers work well for this. Add some gauze, a clean square of cloth or handkerchief, some OTC pain medication, and a slip containing your dentist's phone numbers.

For more dental tips, contact a professional such as Doran J Riehl, D.D.S. P.S.