Guard Your Health is a resource for Army National Guard Soldiers and family members. Find health-related tools and information. Hear from fellow Soldiers and Families. Make medical readiness part of your personal mission.

What to Do in a Dental Emergency

Young woman hold her hand to her cheek in pain.


In this Article:

  • Take dental emergencies seriously and seek care as soon as you can.
  • Learn ways to manage dental pain and damage while you wait to see a dentist.
  • Locate low-cost options for dental treatment.

Have you ever chipped a tooth while playing sports? Or lost a filling while eating? When you experience dental injuries like these, you should get care immediately. Keeping your grill in tact will help with your appearance and overall dental readiness.

Don’t Wait Too Long to See a Dentist

When a dental accident happens, make an appointment sooner than later. Otherwise, you may risk:

  • Permanent damage to your gums, nerves, or blood vessels
  • Infection, which could spread to other parts of your body
  • Developing other health problems
  • Being unable to work or unfit for duty

So how long can you wait? Experts recommend seeing a dentist within 24 hours of your dental injury. Most dentists will make time for emergencies, so call right away for an appointment. Don’t let money hold you back. You can find free or low cost dental care in your area.

Ways to Temporarily Treat Your Dental Injury

While you wait to see your dentist, you can try some home remedies. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever and try the tips below depending on the type of damage:

  • Toothache. Brush, floss, or rinse your mouth with mouthwash. Then, press an ice pack (or a bag of ice wrapped in a towel) against your mouth or cheek where you feel pain.
  • Lost filling. Swab the tooth with over-the-counter dental cement or clove oil. You could also try sticking a piece of sugarless gum or wax into the cavity to shield it.
  • Lost crown. If you can, slip the crown back over your tooth after you coat the inside of it with over-the-counter dental cement, or toothpaste. If you can’t slip the crown back on, swab the tooth with over-the-counter dental cement or clove oil. Save the crown to take with you to the dentist, if possible.
  • Chipped or cracked tooth. Clean your mouth by rinsing with warm water. Press an ice pack against your mouth or cheek if you feel pain. Save the broken pieces of the tooth to take to the dentist, if possible.
  • Abscess (pimple-like swelling or sores). Rinse your mouth with salt water. To make your own salt water, mix 1 teaspoon of salt with one cup of very warm water.

When to Seek Care Right Away

Some dental injuries, like the ones below, are so serious that you need to see a dentist or an oral surgeon, or go to the emergency room ASAP:

  • Knocked out tooth. DO NOT wash the tooth, and try to touch it as little as possible. Try to save the tooth by placing it in a cup of warm milk or warm water, or wrap it loosely in a damp towel. See a dentist right away.
  • Damage to tongue, inner cheeks, gums, and/or lips. Rinse your mouth with salt water (see above for making your own) and then place a moist piece of first-aid gauze or a damp tea bag against the injured spot. You can also press an ice pack against your mouth or cheek to help control bleeding and temporarily ease pain. For really big cuts, go to the emergency room. For smaller ones, call your dental office to determine if you need to be seen by an oral surgeon.
  • Broken front tooth. See a dentist right away if you see blood in the white part of the tooth, or if the tooth looks pink near the break.
  • Broken jaw. Go to the emergency room right away. Press an ice pack against your jaw. DO NOT eat or take any over-the-counter pain medications.

You can prevent dental emergencies by wearing a mouth guard when playing sports, getting regular dental checkups, and avoiding using your teeth to open or carry things. Guarding your smile now will keep you from getting sidelined in the future!

Want More?