Dental Emergencies

Accidents, sports-related injuries, tooth decay, and infection can cause dental emergencies. This page covers some common dental emergencies and how to deal with them.

Knocked out tooth

If you’ve knocked out a permanent (adult) tooth, act quickly, because your dentist may be able to replant it. If it’s completely knocked out, rinse it with water, but don’t scrub it, and try to place it back into the opening. Hold the tooth by the crown (top), not the root, to avoid damage to the ligaments on the root surface. The sooner the tooth is replaced, the greater the likelihood it will reattach successfully.

If you can’t put the tooth back into its opening, store it in your mouth next to the cheek. If you think you might swallow the tooth, store it in a container of cold milk. If you see bleeding from the opening, rinse the mouth out with water. Place a wad of tissue or gauze on the opening and bite down on the gauze. The pressure will usually stop the bleeding.

With proper action, a knocked out tooth can be successfully replanted and last for years.


Infection, decay, or loss of the nerve root is the cause of most tooth pain. Contact your dentist as soon as possible and explain your symptoms. Over-the-counter pain medicine can ease the pain temporarily. Never put medication directly against the gums because it may burn gum tissue. Ice can bring temporary relief to a sore tooth. However, heat can make things worse.

Chipped or broken tooth

Broken teeth can almost always be saved. Call your dentist, explain what happened, and ask to be seen as soon as possible. Bring any pieces of the chipped or broken tooth to your dentist, if possible. For a small break, your dentist may use a white filling to fix the tooth. A broken tooth may need a root canal and/or a crown to be successfully restored.

Bitten tongue or lip

Apply pressure with a clean cloth to stop any bleeding. Use an ice pack to reduce the swelling. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, go to your dentist or a hospital emergency room immediately.

Objects caught between teeth

Try to remove the object gently with dental floss. Don’t try to remove the object with a sharp or pointed instrument because you could cut your gums or scratch the tooth’s surface. If you can’t remove the object, see your dentist.