Make sure to contact your dentist immediately for care if you experience a dental emergency. Here’s what to do while you wait.


Most toothaches require treatment by the dentist. You should see your dentist immediately if the pain lasts for more than 24-48 hours, if you have a fever, or if you have signs of infection (swelling, discharge, redness).

Some steps you can take to ease the pain while you wait include:

  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  • Try to remove any food particles with dental floss.
  • Apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek.
  • Put clove oil on a small piece of cotton and apply it to the area.
  • Try an over-the-counter product containing benzocaine.

Never place aspirin or a painkiller directly on your gums, as this can cause burns.

Knocked Out Teeth

If you have knocked out a tooth, call your dentist immediately for emergency care. Your tooth has the highest chance of being saved if you can see your dentist within an hour.

In the meantime:

  • Retrieve the tooth, holding it by the crown (not the roots).
  • Rinse the tooth with water to remove any dirt.
  • Try to put it back into place if possible, but don’t force it.
  • If the tooth cannot be put back in the mouth, put it in a glass of milk.

If milk is not available, water with a pinch of table salt is an acceptable substitute.

Chipped and Broken Teeth

All tooth fractures require a visit to the dentist. If the chip is minor, home care may be sufficient until you can get an appointment. If the tooth has been moderately fractured or if there is severe damage, you should get emergency care as soon as possible.

While you wait:

  • Gather any pieces of the tooth that you can find.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  • Apply a cold compress to your mouth, near the tooth, to minimize swelling.

If there is any bleeding, apply gauze to the tooth and/or gums until the bleeding stops.

Other Common Dental Emergencies

Here are some at-home care tips for other common dental emergencies.

  • Lost fillings – remove the filling and discard it. Use an over-the-counter dental cement to seal the area and take an over-the-counter pain reliever for pain. Call and make an appointment with your dentist.
  • Lost crowns – retrieve the crown and keep it for your dentist. Use an over-the-counter dental cement to seal the area and take an over-the-counter pain reliever for pain. Call your dentist as soon as possible.
  • Broken or loose brackets and wires – use orthodontic wax to reattach wires, move them to a more comfortable position, or cover sharp ends. See your orthodontist as soon as possible.
  • Loose teeth – contact you dentist for emergency care. In the meantime, take an over-the-counter pain reliever and apply a cold compress to outside of the cheek.
  • Mouth injuries – rinse the mouth with saltwater and, using pressure, apply a moist piece of gauze or a tea bag to stop the bleeding. Obtain emergency care if the bleeding does not stop.