Is That Dental Problem a True Emergency?

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A dental emergency is nothing to overlook; ignoring problems in your mouth or with your teeth can mean eventual tooth loss, as well as the increased risk of an oral infection. This type of infection can spread to another part of your body. On the other hand, not every small ache you get in your mouth or problem with your teeth will mean that you should immediately run off to an emergency dentist. While it's always good to see a dentist as soon as you can when you're not sure if something is an emergency, note a few ways to determine if the problems you're experiencing are urgent or can wait until your next dental appointment.


Bleeding gums are not necessarily a dental emergency; if you're a bit vigorous with your toothbrush or flossing, your gums can get cut and bleed. If you've scraped your gums with a hard type of food such as candy or toffee, your gums might bleed. However, small cuts and sores from everyday occurrences should only be seen on the inside of the cheeks and the gums. If the blood seems to be coming from under a tooth rather than the gums or cheeks, you probably have an infected or loose tooth and a dental emergency.


A sore jaw can be from stiff muscles in the neck or shoulders; you may have stiffened up during sleep or didn't support your upper body properly during a workout. However, if the pain feels like it's coming from under a tooth, this usually means an oral infection. Pain from the upper part of the mouth in the back may mean that you have an impacted molar that is sitting under the gum line; ignoring it can lead to an oral infection as well.

Cracks and chips in the teeth

A hairline crack in the tooth may not be a true dental emergency; it's not unusual for teeth to get small cracks from aging, decay, and the like. This should be checked by your dentist at your next visit. A larger crack that spans the height of the tooth may be more serious; this might lead to an actual chip in the tooth, with part of it breaking away. A small chip in the tooth is the same; your dentist can fill that in with a bonding agent or veneer at your earliest convenience, but if the chip means that some of the tooth has come out of the gum line or that nerves are exposed, this needs to be covered immediately so you don't actually lose the tooth.