What to Do If You Need an Emergency Dentist
If you have a dental emergency and need urgent dental treatment, it can be hard to find an emergency dentist in your area at short notice. Here we’ll explain how to find an out-of-hours dentist, how to alleviate dental pain, and how to be prepared for dental emergencies in the future.
Table of contents
What constitutes a dental emergency?
There are many different reasons why you may require emergency dental care. These can broadly be placed into two categories. The first is visible damage to teeth; the second is pain which indicates an underlying problem such as an abscess or tooth decay.
Any of the following may require you to seek emergency dental treatment:
- An accident which has damaged your teeth or mouth
- Loss of a tooth (known as an avulsed tooth)
- A crack or fracture to a tooth
- A tooth that is loose or has been knocked out of alignment (known as an extruded tooth)
- An impact that causes severe tooth pain even when there is no visible damage
- Wounds to the tissue of the lips, tongue or cheeks, even if teeth are unaffected
- Serious infection or abscess
- Severe pain, swelling or bleeding that develops soon after other dental treatment such as a filling, root canal, tooth extraction or dental implant
- Loss of a filling or crown
Depending on how serious the problem is and whether it’s causing you any pain, you’ll either need to:
- Visit a dentist straight away (possibly at a hospital)
- Make an emergency appointment to see a dentist the same day or the next day
- Book a routine appointment to have the problem treated
If you have chipped a tooth or have mild toothache, you probably won’t be treated as an emergency patient. Toothache which comes on gradually is a sign of a dental cavity, so you should still make an appointment to see your dentist soon. A lost filling may not cause any pain but it’s important to get it treated quickly otherwise other parts of the tooth may break off.
What to do if you have a dental emergency
Some dental problems are serious enough to warrant a hospital visit. If you experience any of the following you should go straight to your local A&E department where you can see an NHS dentist:
- Significant bleeding that won’t stop
- Severe pain that isn’t helped by painkillers
- Trauma to your face, mouth or teeth from an accident
If a tooth has been knocked out, it’s important you get to a dentist as quickly as possible. The sooner you can receive treatment, the better the chance your dentist will be able to successfully re-implant the tooth. Try to gently place the tooth back in its socket, but if this isn’t possible, keep it in a glass of milk while you get medical assistance.
If you are not in severe pain, your teeth are not loose, and your mouth is not bleeding, you probably don’t require immediate dental care. In these less severe cases you can make an emergency appointment with an NHS dentist, or you may be able to find a local walk-in dentist that can provide you with the treatment you need straight away.
If you’re unsure whether your dental problem requires immediate attention, the NHS 111 service will be able to advise you on the best course of action. They can also give you information about NHS dentists near you.
How to find an emergency dentist near you
If you have a dental emergency during regular working hours, it’s just a case of finding a local dentist that can fit you in quickly. Most dentists build time into their schedule that allows them to see patients at short notice if urgent dental treatment is needed.
Things get more complicated, however, if you need urgent dental care at night or on dentists’ days off. Finding a dentist near you open on Sunday can be harder than it sounds.
The first step you should take if you find yourself in need of a 24-hour dentist is to call your local dental practice, whatever the time of day or night. They should at least have a recorded message telling you how you can contact an out-of-hours dentist.
If your usual dental clinic can’t provide the urgent care you need because their wait times are too long or they don’t offer out-of-hours dental care, try searching for an emergency dentist online.
Ways to ease dental pain at home
Whether you have to wait a few hours or several days to see a dentist, you’ll want to do what you can to lessen your dental pain.
Regular painkillers should help relieve the pain until it’s time for your dentist appointment. Take paracetamol rather than ibuprofen or aspirin as the latter can thin your blood and make bleeding worse.
There are also some natural remedies that can provide temporary relief from tooth pain.
Perhaps the simplest – and the one you’re most likely to have on hand – is salt and hot water. Dissolve one tablespoon of salt in a glass of hot water and rinse or gargle it, repeating if necessary. The solution helps to draw fluids out of your gums, reducing irritation.
Lemons and limes can also help as the citric acid in them destroys bacteria. Cut a slice, bite into it slightly to release some juice, and then rub it on the painful areas in your mouth.
Alternatively you can try chewing fresh ginger or making a paste from crushed garlic and salt and applying it directly to the affected area.
Some essential oils and other natural products can also be effective at relieving pain in your mouth.
Remember these are not permanent treatments; just ways to temporarily ease your pain while you wait to see a dentist.
How much does an emergency dentist appointment cost?
The cost of emergency dental treatment may not be the first thing on your mind when this kind of incident occurs, but it’s still something you should be aware of.
If you are treated by an NHS dentist, the band 1 charge (£20.60 at time of writing) will apply. Even if you need an emergency tooth extraction or root canal – which would usually incur a higher charge – the base price will apply for urgent treatment.
There should be no additional charge if you require multiple visits for further treatment related to the same issue, as long as you visit the same dental clinic each time.
In cases where the only treatment is to stop bleeding, there should be no charge from your NHS dentist.
Non-NHS emergency dentist costs will, understandably, be considerably higher. Some may charge a fixed price for out-of-hours treatment, while others will charge according to the treatment needed.
The dentist may be able to just administer pain relief for a minimal cost until you’re able to see an NHS dentist. If, however, you need more complicated treatment – a tooth re-implanted, an abscess drained, or an emergency root canal, for example – you can expect the cost to be much higher.
Ways to avoid dental emergencies
There are some simple things you can do to reduce the likelihood of you needing to visit the dentist with an emergency:
- Have regular dental checkups to identify any potential problems and treat them before they become serious
- Don’t ignore minor toothache; the longer you leave it the more serious the underlying problem will become
- If you play contact sports, wear a mouthguard to protect against injury
- Avoid biting ice or other hard foods that may damage your teeth or existing fillings
As with any accidents, there is only so much you can do to prevent them. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to be prepared in case you do find yourself needing emergency dental care.
Be prepared for emergency dental treatment
Experiencing a dental emergency is bad enough without having to prolong the pain while you try to find a dentist.
Be prepared by researching local dental clinics before the need arises. Find out if any dentists near you open on Sundays, which ones provide 24-hour dental care, and what their charges are for emergency visits (if they don’t provide NHS treatment).
Then, keep a list of contact numbers somewhere safe. It’s a good idea to have details to hand for several 24-hour emergency dentists, just in case you can’t get in touch with your local dental practice or they can’t see you for some reason.
You can also keep a dental first aid kit to hand to help you treat injuries while you seek professional treatment. This kit can include:
- A small container (in which to keep any teeth that are knocked out)
- Antiseptic mouthwash
- Cotton wool balls or gauze, to stem bleeding
- Sugar-free gum (this can be used to plug the gap temporarily if you lose a filling)
Be sure to check your kit regularly to make sure none of the items have expired.
Although none of us want to be in a position where we need emergency dental care, we can still be informed and prepared so things go as smoothly as possible should an emergency occur.