What is a dental emergency and how do you deal with one?

A dental emergency refers to any sudden, unexpected, and potentially serious oral health issue that requires immediate attention from a dental professional

What is a dental emergency and how do you deal with one?

A dental emergency refers to any sudden, unexpected, and potentially serious oral health issue that requires immediate attention from a dental professional. Some common dental emergencies include severe toothaches, knocked-out teeth, broken or cracked teeth, infections, and severe gum pain or swelling.

Here's how you can deal with a dental emergency:

  • Severe Toothache: Rinse your mouth with warm water and use dental floss to remove any food particles that may be causing discomfort. Do not apply aspirin or any other painkiller directly to the gum tissues, as it can cause irritation. Contact your dentist for an appointment as soon as possible.
  • Knocked-Out Tooth: Retrieve the tooth, holding it by the crown (avoid touching the root), and rinse it gently with water if it's dirty. Try to reinsert it into the socket if possible, but do not force it. If reinsertion isn't possible, keep the tooth moist by placing it in milk or saliva, and seek emergency dental care immediately.
  • Broken or Cracked Tooth: Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area. If there is swelling, apply a cold compress to the outside of the cheek. Save any broken tooth fragments. Contact your dentist immediately for assessment and treatment.
  • Infections: Symptoms of oral infections include swelling, pain, fever, and difficulty swallowing. Rinse your mouth with warm salt water to alleviate discomfort. Contact your dentist for an emergency appointment to address the infection and prevent it from spreading.
  • Severe Gum Pain or Swelling: Rinse your mouth with warm salt water and gently floss around the affected area to remove any debris. Apply a cold compress to the outside of the cheek to reduce swelling and discomfort. Contact your dentist for evaluation and treatment.


In an emergency room (ER), the approach to tooth pain may vary depending on the severity and underlying cause. Here are some common actions the ER may take for tooth pain:

  • Assessment and Examination: The ER medical staff will conduct an initial assessment to understand the nature and severity of the tooth pain. They may ask about your medical history, symptoms, and any recent dental procedures or issues.
  • Pain Management: To alleviate immediate pain, the ER may provide pain relief medications such as over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. In some cases, they may administer stronger pain medications or local anesthesia for more severe pain.
  • Evaluation of Oral Health: While the ER can provide temporary pain relief, they are not equipped for comprehensive dental care. They may examine your mouth to check for visible signs of infection, swelling, or injury. However, they may recommend follow-up care with a dentist for a thorough evaluation and treatment.
  • Referral to a Dentist: The ER's primary goal is to stabilize the patient and manage acute symptoms. They will likely refer you to a dentist for further evaluation and treatment, especially if the tooth pain is due to dental issues such as infections, abscesses, or dental trauma.
  • Education and Instructions: The ER staff may provide instructions on how to manage pain and discomfort at home until you can see a dentist. This may include using cold compresses, avoiding certain foods or activities, and taking prescribed medications as directed.


In many cases, a dentist can perform a tooth extraction on the same day if the tooth is infected and requires immediate attention. However, several factors will influence whether same-day extraction is feasible:

  • Severity of Infection: If the infection is severe and has caused significant swelling, inflammation, or abscess formation, the dentist may need to address the infection first before proceeding with extraction. This may involve prescribing antibiotics and/or draining the abscess to reduce swelling and control the infection.
  • Patient's Overall Health: The dentist will consider the patient's overall health and medical history before deciding on same-day extraction. Certain medical conditions or medications may require additional precautions or consultation with the patient's healthcare provider before proceeding with the procedure.
  • Complexity of Extraction: The complexity of the tooth extraction procedure also plays a role. Some extractions, particularly for impacted or severely damaged teeth, may require more time and specialized techniques. The dentist will assess the complexity and feasibility of same-day extraction based on the individual case.
  • Availability and Scheduling: The availability of the dentist and the dental office's schedule may affect whether same-day extraction can be accommodated. Emergency dental appointments for extractions are often prioritized, but it's essential to check with the dental office regarding their availability.
  • Preparation and Consent: Before performing a tooth extraction, the dentist will typically explain the procedure, discuss any potential risks or complications, and obtain informed consent from the patient or their guardian. This process may require some time and preparation before proceeding with the extraction.

If same-day extraction is not possible due to any of these factors, the dentist will prioritize managing the infection, alleviating pain, and scheduling the extraction at the earliest convenient time.


If a tooth infection spreads to the jaw, it can lead to a condition called a dental abscess or a severe oral infection. Here is what can happen:

  • Abscess Formation: The infection may cause the formation of a dental abscess, which is a collection of pus typically located at the root of the tooth or in the surrounding gum tissue. Abscesses are often painful and can cause swelling, redness, and tenderness in the affected area.
  • Cellulitis: If the infection continues to spread, it can lead to cellulitis, a bacterial infection that affects the soft tissues of the face and neck. Symptoms of cellulitis may include severe swelling, warmth, redness, and pain in the affected area. In severe cases, cellulitis can spread rapidly and become life-threatening if not treated promptly.
  • Osteomyelitis: In some cases, a tooth infection that spreads to the jawbone can cause a condition called osteomyelitis, which is an infection of the bone. Osteomyelitis can cause severe pain, swelling, and difficulty in moving the jaw. It requires aggressive treatment, including antibiotics and sometimes surgical intervention to remove infected bone tissue.
  • Systemic Infection: If the infection enters the bloodstream, it can lead to a systemic infection called sepsis. Sepsis is a severe condition that can affect multiple organs and systems in the body, leading to life-threatening complications if not treated promptly.

To prevent the spread of infection to the jaw or other areas, it's crucial to seek prompt dental care if you experience symptoms of a tooth infection, such as severe tooth pain, swelling, redness, or drainage of pus. A dentist can assess the extent of the infection, provide appropriate treatment (such as antibiotics and dental procedures like root canal therapy or tooth extraction), and prevent complications from developing.


Finding a 24-hour emergency dentist in Ottawa can be crucial if you're experiencing severe dental pain or an urgent oral health issue outside of regular business hours. Here are some steps you can take to find a 24-hour emergency dentist in Ottawa:

  • Check Online Directories: Use online directories such as Google Maps, Yelp, or specific dental directories that allow you to search for emergency dentists in Ottawa. These directories often provide contact information, reviews, and hours of operation for emergency dental clinics.
  • Contact Local Dental Associations: Reach out to local dental associations or dental societies in Ottawa. They may have information about emergency dental services available in the area, including clinics that operate 24 hours a day or have after-hours emergency appointments.
  • Call Dental Clinics: Contact dental clinics in Ottawa directly and inquire about their emergency dental services. Some clinics may offer extended hours or have on-call dentists available for emergencies. Ask about their availability, services provided, and any fees associated with emergency visits.
  • Visit Hospital Emergency Departments: While dental clinics are the preferred option for dental emergencies, hospital emergency departments in Ottawa may also provide emergency dental care, especially for severe cases or when dental clinics are not available. Call ahead to inquire about their dental services and procedures for dental emergencies.
  • Check Online Resources: Explore online resources specific to emergency dental care in Ottawa. Some websites or apps specialize in connecting patients with emergency dental services, allowing you to find nearby clinics, check availability, and schedule appointments if possible.
  • Call 613-523-4185: Contact this number for the name and number of the dentist on duty and then contact the duty dentist's office directly to schedule an appointment. On-call dentists take emergency cases from 9am - 9pm, 7 days a week.

If your tooth is infected and you need an emergency dentist in Kanata, please call Kanata South Dental at 613-519-1400. Dr. Taner Cakmak and his professional team would be happy to help you.

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