How Do I Know If I Have a Dental Emergency?

A dental emergency can happen at any time, and it can be stressful and upsetting. But what exactly is a dental emergency, and what can you do about it?

Our teeth play a huge role in our day-to-day lives, whether we’re smiling and laughing with friends or eating food. But they’re also extremely fragile. Biting something hard, taking a fall or playing sports can all result in dental injuries, whether it’s a chipped tooth or something much more serious. But what exactly makes a dental emergency?

Can an Injury Cause a Dental Emergency?

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A Head Injury

If you’ve had a fall, whether it’s off a bike, down the stairs or a trip in the street, you might break or loosen your teeth. While these are certainly dental emergencies, your first priority should be to go your nearest Accident and Emergency (A&E). This is to ensure you don’t have a concussion, which can have more serious health implications.

Avulsed Teeth

Avulsed teeth means teeth that are knocked out completely. This can cause a lot of pain and some bleeding that needs to be seen to. In the case that this happens, you’ll need to retrieve your tooth or teeth and contact an emergency dentist as soon as possible. Getting immediate help can prevent you from losing your teeth permanently.

Extruding Teeth

An extruded tooth is caused by a sudden impact — but unlike an avulsed tooth, it hasn’t fallen out of the mouth. An extruded tooth might be protruding, out of position or even hanging from a thread of thin tissue. While your mouth may not be bleeding and you may be able to push the affected tooth back into position, it’s still important to see a dentist as soon as you can.

A Broken Tooth

You may have chipped or broken your tooth. Even if it’s not bleeding, this doesn’t mean you don’t need emergency help. While it might be possible to see an emergency dentist the following day (if the tooth got broken outside of working hours), if the tooth has a sharp edge, this should be seen to immediately. Any sharp edges can cause damage to the lips and tongue, especially if sleeping overnight, making it crucial to visit your nearest emergency dentist.

Severe Pain Caused by Damage

Dental pain can be agonising in any circumstance. However, if you’ve suffered a blow to your jaw and are experiencing severe pain, this qualifies as a dental emergency. While you may not have any physical symptoms, such as a broken or extruding tooth, an X-ray will need to be done to determine if you need further treatment.

Severe Bleeding

Heavy bleeding that does not stop after a few minutes is serious in any circumstance. If you’ve damaged your teeth and are suffering from severe bleeding, this is a dental emergency and you should seek help. Taking immediate action can make the difference between saving your teeth or losing them.

What About Post-Dental Treatment?

Woman dentist talking to her patient | fresh dental smile clinic - dentists in York

A dental emergency might not just occur from a fall or accident. If you’ve recently had dental treatment and are suffering with pain, you may need to see an emergency dentist.

Following a Dental Procedure

If you’ve had a dental procedure, such as a tooth extraction, and are experiencing severe pain, bleeding or swelling, you should see your dentist immediately to identify and treat the cause. This can help safeguard against further infection and potential complications.

A Tooth Abscess

A tooth abscess can cause severe pain, enough to be debilitating and prevent you from eating, sleeping or even working. An abscess should be checked out at the earliest convenience. While mild pain may be bearable, any severe swelling or flu-like symptoms should be a warning flag. If your abscess is making it difficult for you to breath, you should go straight to A&E.

I’ve Lost a Filling: Do I Need an Emergency Dentist?

The answer to this is generally no, however not in all cases. Losing a crown or filling does not mean you need to visit your dentist in the middle of the night. However, you should visit your dentist during working hours as soon as possible, as your tooth may continue to get damaged or even break up spontaneously making it totally unasaveable.

If the nerve of your tooth is exposed, this can be painful and may prevent you from eating. If this is the case, an emergency dentist will often perform a repair until you can see your usual dentist.

Dealing with Dentophobia

Closeup Patient scared of dental procedure | fresh dental smile clinic - dental phobia

Dentophobia is a serious condition that affects at least 13% of the population and translates simply to a fear of the dentist. Few people enjoy going to the dentist, but if you have a significant fear and are faced with a dental emergency, it can be easy to pretend everything’s okay. This is why it’s so important to find an emergency dentist you can trust. At Fresh Dental Smile Clinic, we specialise in supporting nervous patients and emergency dentistry so whatever your problem, we have dedicated and caring staff in place to help you.


If you’ve had a fall or are suffering from severe pain, you may have a dental emergency. Give us a call on 01904 623 687 and speak to our  dentists who will give you the advice and support you need.