When to Call An Emergency Dentist

At Brooks Gap Dental Group, we are three collaborative practices under one roof, and we’re here to help take the stress out of the unexpected by providing emergency dental services to new and returning patients. If you are currently experiencing a dental emergency in Hoover, AL, contact the appropriate office (either family & general, pediatrics, or orthodontics) for prompt assistance. If you are calling after hours, our answering service is available to take your call and relay your message to one of our dentists, who will contact you as soon as possible.

Knowing what to do in case of a dental emergency is not unlike learning how to install your car’s spare tire in case of a flat. When you’ve prepared yourself for an unforeseen—and potentially uncomfortable—situation, you’re more likely to tap into a sense of control while preventing further damage or complications.

Here’s how you can respond to the most common dental issues and injuries, with practical tips for preventing a dental emergency.


From a dull throb to sharp pain, a toothache can be distracting at best and excruciating at worst. Though most toothaches are typically caused by tooth decay, gum disease, trauma, or infection, other dental issues, such as teeth grinding, clenching (bruxism), or jaw issues (TMD) can also be the cause of troubling tooth pain.

In all cases, tooth pain is a sign that you need to see your dentist ASAP.  While you wait for your appointment, you may be able to find short-term relief by swishing with salt water, applying a few drops of clove oil with a cotton swab, or taking over-the-counter pain medications. You can also apply a wrapped ice pack to your cheek above the affected tooth for 20 minutes, repeating hourly or as needed.

Tooth Abscess

The result of a bacterial infection, an abscessed tooth is a pocket of pus that forms within your gums or on the tip of a tooth’s root. Alongside causing tooth sensitivity and pain while biting or chewing, an abscessed tooth can also cause redness and discomfort in your gums, and radiating pain in the ear, neck, or jaw.

As an abscessed tooth won’t heal on its own and can cause serious complications, it’s vital that you seek emergency care from your dentist. If your abscess ruptures, you may experience almost immediate pain relief and a foul taste in your mouth as the pus drains out. Though you may be experiencing pain relief, you’re still vulnerable to the complications of a tooth abscess, such as tooth loss and infection.

If you have severe or throbbing tooth pain that’s accompanied by fever, facial swelling, a rapid heart rate, confusion, or difficulty breathing or swallowing, go to the emergency room. These symptoms may be a sign that the infection has spread into your jaw or surrounding tissues, which can cause life-threatening sepsis without swift medical treatment.

Lost Filling or Crown

Fillings and crowns provide structure and protection to teeth that have been compromised by damage or decay. These restorations can last for many years with proper care, though they can chip, fall out, or become loose for several reasons, including underlying tooth decay, bruxism, exposure to sticky foods, or simply the age of the crown or filling.

If you’ve lost a crown or filling, it’s essential to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible to prevent further decay, damage, or tooth loss. Though only your dentist can provide you with a long-lasting solution, you can temporarily seal and protect a tooth that’s lost a crown or filling by applying dental cement—available in the dental aisle of drugstores and pharmacies—onto the surface of the affected tooth.

Chips or Breaks

Chips, cracks, and breaks are one of the most common dental injuries and often result from an accident or sports injury. Chips and cracks may or may not cause pain, though should always be treated as soon as possible to prevent further damage and undesirable complications, such as a painful tooth abscess or tooth loss.

If you have a chipped, cracked, or broken tooth, contact your emergency dentist for advice and treatment ASAP. While you wait to be seen, you can gargle with a warm saline solution to help prevent infection and apply a wrapped ice pack to the cheek above the affected tooth to help ease the pain. If you recover any fragments of tooth, you can preserve the pieces in cold milk or an emergency tooth-preservation product approved by the ADA.

Knocked-Out Tooth

A knocked-out tooth is a traumatic dental injury that requires swift action and immediate emergency care from your dentist to reduce complications and increase the likelihood of saving your tooth.

If you or your child has traumatically lost a tooth, use sterile gauze pads to control any bleeding and find the tooth as quickly as possible. Avoid touching the tooth roots as you gently pick up the tooth and rinse it under slow-running water. To prevent the tooth from drying out on the way to your emergency dentist, try to carefully place the tooth back in its socket or hold it between your cheeks and gums. Alternately, you can place the tooth in a small jar of cold milk or an ADA-approved emergency tooth-preservation product.

Jaw Fracture or Dislocation

Often caused by some sort of facial trauma, a broken, fractured, or dislocated jaw is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention to minimize complications, alleviate pain, and promote proper healing. If you have sustained a jaw injury, gently apply a wrapped ice pack to your face and go straight to your nearest emergency department for treatment.

When a person has loose ligaments in their temporomandibular joints (known as TMJ hypermobility), the jaws may dislocate in the absence of a traumatic injury, such as when opening the mouth to full capacity during yawning. If you suddenly start experiencing jaw pain, bite abnormalities, or difficulty opening or closing your mouth, contact your dentist for emergency care. If your dentist is not able to see you immediately, seek medical attention at your nearest emergency department.

How to Prevent Dental Emergencies

Though life will inevitably bring the unexpected, here are a few steps you can take to prevent a dental emergency:

  • Good oral health habits. A healthy diet, good hydration, smoking abstinence, and daily brushing and flossing can help you prevent toothaches, tooth abscesses, and lost crowns and fillings by minimizing your risk of periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay. You can also prevent chips, cracks, and restoration damage when you avoid chewing on hard, sticky candies, ice, your nails, pens, and other objects that aren’t food. 
  • Routine dental visits. Routine dental visits give your dentist the chance to catch potential issues, like tooth decay and failing restorations, in their earliest stages. For your best oral health all year long, plan to see your dentist at least twice annually.  
  • Mouthguards. Mouthguards are custom-made dental appliances that can protect your teeth from injury during contact sports and from damage caused by grinding and clenching your teeth while you sleep (bruxism). Your dentist will prescribe the right mouthguard for your needs, or evaluate your current mouthguard for proper functioning.

From dental emergency prevention to intervention, our dental teams are here to help you and your family with all your oral health needs. Increase your peace of mind by adding our office number to your contact list in case of a dental emergency and by scheduling your next preventative dental appointment.