What constitutes a dental emergency?

What constitutes a dental emergency and what should a patient do if one occurs? Dr. Kartik Antani and Dr. Jong Wook Park of Napa Family Dental in Albuquerque, NM, can help you answer those questions and can help you plan for every circumstance.

Common Dental Emergencies

Not all dental problems constitute dental emergencies. However, there is broad agreement on some conditions that do rise to the level of emergency.

Dislodged Teeth

Knocked-out teeth often do constitute a dental emergency. Such instances can result from a variety of activities including playing contact sports like football or hockey, or from accidents involving automobiles or bicycles.

If a patient suffers a dislodged tooth, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends the following:

  • Keeping it moist in a cup of milk, water, or a tooth preservation solution
  • Trying to put the tooth back in place while avoiding contact with the root

Broken or Cracked Teeth

Cracked or chipped teeth can result from many of the same activities as those that can lead to dislodged teeth. Even common accidents around the house and eating ice or hard candy result in broken or cracked teeth.

If a tooth is broken, the patient should immediately rinse the area with warm water and then put a cold compress on the face to keep swelling down.


Another example of a dental emergency is a serious oral infection. While some infections, like gingivitis or cold sores require medical care, they may not rise to the level of emergency. Swelling around the jawline or under the mouth that is accompanied by difficulty breathing or swallowing could be a sign of Ludwig’s Aangina, however.

Ludwig’s Angina is an infection that affects the bottom of the mouth underneath the tongue. This condition requires immediate medical attention as the bacteria associated with it can travel from the mouth to the tissue around the heart.

What should patients do if they have any of these dental emergencies?

First, call your dentist. If it’s during normal operating hours, they may be able to see you first. If it is outside of regular business hours, you can seek attention at an urgent care facility or hospital emergency room.

In Advance of an Emergency

A patient should always know how dental emergencies are covered through their insurance and how much of a dental emergency their plan will cover. Patients are also strongly encouraged to have their dentist’s phone number saved for quick access. To report a possible dental emergency, patients should call our Albuquerque office at (505) 323-7700.

Dental Urgency

It may be that a patient has a toothache or a sudden case of sensitive teeth that needs to be looked at but doesn’t necessarily constitute an emergency.

These may be minor problems, but experts recommend not delaying trips to the dentist. Most serious conditions are easily treatable at one point so regular visits to the dentist are strongly encouraged.

Dr. Antani, Dr. Park, and the team are always ready to assist their patients, whether their needs are emergencies or of the less urgent variety. We offer a cell phone for emergency weekend calls and we also respond to messages online via Google and Facebook. To schedule a non-emergency dental appointment, give us a call or message us online.

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