What should you do if you lose a tooth? Feel a throbbing toothache? Suffer from sore and tender gums? Will things get better on their own? Or should you call your dentist or go straight to the emergency room?

In this article, you’ll learn about the most common dental emergencies and what you should do.

Did you crack, break, or fracture a tooth?

Teeth are amazingly strong. In fact, tooth enamel is the hardest part of the human body. But as anyone who’s bit down on a cherry pit or popcorn kernel can tell you — it’s not invincible. When you break a tooth, you’ll need to see your dentist right away, especially if you’re in pain.

Your dentist can relieve pain from a broken tooth and restore the look and function of the tooth, possibly through the use of a dental implant or crown.

Seriously damaged teeth that require a dentist’s immediate attention are:

  • Causing severe pain
  • Loose in their socket
  • Knocked out completely

What causes tooth damage?

The most common causes of serious tooth damage include:

  • Biting on hard foods or silverware
  • Injuries during sports or car accidents
  • Tripping and falling

What to do when a tooth is knocked out:

  • Don’t touch the tooth’s root. Handle it only by the tooth itself.
  • Rinse the tooth gently with running water and no soap. Don’t rub it dry.
  • If possible, gently place the tooth back in the socket
  • See your dentist as quickly as possible – ideally within a few hours

Extreme mouth pain

You know your body better than anyone else. Listen to it. Be extremely conscious of pain in your teeth, gums, or tongue that is:

  • Sharp
  • Throbbing
  • Burning
  • Continuing to build in intensity

You can use cold packs, over-the-counter pain medication, or a warm saltwater rinse. But if these don’t offer any relief, contact your dentist.

Infections and abscesses

Serious and even life-threatening infections can start in your mouth. When gum tissue or a tooth develops an infection or abscess, fast treatment is essential. See your dentist right away if you experience:

  • Draining, fluid, or pus in your mouth
  • A tender, swollen, or abnormally painful area in your mouth
  • Pain in your mouth accompanied by even a slight fever
  • Visible redness or an area that is “warm”

Antibiotics can be used to treat infections. But the cause of the infection may require dental treatment in order to prevent recurrence. Your dentist will discuss your options with you.


Even if you’re in good dental health, you may bleed a little bit if you brush too hard or floss a little too aggressively. This isn’t what we’re talking about here. If your mouth is bleeding and something seems “off”, get help.

Tea bags?

If your mouth or gums are bleeding, you can try pressing a black tea bag against them. The acids in black tea aid in the formation of blood clots. This is not a permanent solution. If bleeding resumes, see your dentist.

When to call 911 or go to the emergency room

Your dentist can help with urgent dental health issues. But if your overall health is at risk, you need to go to the emergency room or call 911 for assistance.

Use your best judgement. But if you’ve been in an accident, trust people around you. Don’t put off getting emergency treatment if:

  • You experienced a head injury, and especially if you lost consciousness
  • You were in a car accident
  • Your pain is above an 8 or 9 on a 10 point pain scale — or it feels like the worst pain of your life
  • You have chronic health conditions that may contribute to pain your mouth, including immunological disorders or cancer, or other conditions
  • You have a high fever and/or chills
  • You have a deep cut on your tongue or cheek. These areas have many nerves and contain many blood vessels. To prevent long-term damage, a doctor may be needed to assess and repair the injury.

When you don’t need an emergency dentist

Sometimes you don’t have to drop everything and call your dentist. Instead, you can wait for a convenient appointment. Common examples of non-emergent dental health problems include…

  • Teeth with small cracks or chips that aren’t painful and aren’t keeping you from eating or talking normally.
  • Toothaches caused by hot or cold temperatures or when chewing. Call your dentist — you might have a cavity but it may not require emergency care.
  • Occasional bleeding gums can be a warning sign of gum disease.
  • Your jaw hurts and you hear a clicking sound. You might have TMJ disorder, which is treatable.

If you’re stressed or worried, call your dentist’s office.

Children and emergency dentistry

Many times, younger kids will try to hide their symptoms or compensate by doing things like chewing on one side of their mouth. If you’re a parent, listen to your gut and don’t be afraid to contact your dentist. Keep an eye out for kids who:

  • Fall from their bike or get hurt when playing sports
  • Wince painfully when eating or drinking
  • Lose their appetite all of a sudden
  • Get quiet and are less talkative
  • Seem extra tired in the morning — this can be a symptom of pain keeping them awake at night
  • Start putting fingers in their mouth or running their tongue around their mouth

These non-verbal signs may be warning you about dental problems needing attention from an emergency dentist.

Emergency Dental Contacts in Corvallis

If you’re in the Corvallis area, make sure these numbers are in your phone in case of a dental emergency:

  • Timberhill Dental – Call us and we’ll see you as soon as we can – (541) 754-0144
  • Samaritan Urgent Care Walk In Clinic – 5234 Philomath Blvd, (541) 768-4970
  • Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center- Emergency Room – 3600 NW Samaritan Drive, (541) 768-5111
  • Emergency Services – 911