Is It a Dental Emergency? 5 Signs to Watch Out For


Are your tooth aches and pains normal, or are they something you should worry about? Knowing what is considered a dental emergency and what is not will help you avoid needless stress and even save cash you some cash in the long run.

Not all dental situations are emergencies (thank goodness!), and to determine if you need to make a trip to the dentist ASAP, watch out for the following signs.

1. Loose tooth

As an adult, you shouldn’t be experiencing a wiggly or lose tooth. By this time, your teeth are already mature enough. They have grown sturdy and mature to aid you in eating, speaking and living a healthy lifestyle.

If you start to feel that your teeth are becoming loose, this may be due to the following reasons:

Tooth Injury

Loose teeth may suggest a tooth injury. This is quite painful and will entail that you seek medical attention right away. Although your teeth may appear to be intact, you still need to make an emergency appointment to check for any jaw or nerve damage. While this may not cause direct symptoms, treatment is a must before your condition worsens.

Localized Infection

To understand what type of infection you’re experiencing, you should contact a dentist immediately. If loose teeth are causing your toothaches, you may be feeling the symptoms of infection. Early treatment is important to prevent teeth extraction and the infection from spreading.

2. Swollen jaw

Any swelling around the jaw can also mean tooth infection. If you’re in extreme pain due to your swollen jaw, go to your dentist at once.

Salivary Gland Infection

If you have a swollen jaw, fever, bad taste, difficulty of breathing or swallowing, these are signs that you should visit your dentist right away. A salivary gland infection is a bacterial infection triggered by an obstruction in the salivary glands. A blockage will prevent your saliva from doing its work — which is to wash away bacteria and break down food.

3. Abscessed tooth

A dental abscess is something you shouldn’t take lightly. It’s a potentially life-threatening condition in which a pouch of pus in your tooth has led to an infection. This is an emergency situation as the infection may spread to surrounding tissues, the jaw and other parts of your body.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Lymph nodes in the neck
  • Bump on the gums close to the infected tooth
  • Tooth sensitivity to cold or hot food
  • Persistent toothache
  • Swelling in the face

An abscess is usually found at the root of a tooth. Typically, this is due to severe gum disease, untreated cavity or any tooth trauma. It will usually require surgery to ensure the right treatment of infection, and to drain the abscess completely.

Before you rush to the dentist, make sure to rinse your mouth using water with a little salt several times to ease the pain, and to draw the pus to the surface.

4. Bleeding and aching gums

Seeing your gums bleed after flossing isn’t exactly normal, it may be an early sign of gingivitis or gum disease. If the bleeding is recurring, excessive and your gums are aching, this calls for an emergency.

Treating gum disease early is the key to keeping your teeth and gums healthy.

5. Knocked-out tooth

If you want to preserve your tooth after it has fallen off or got knocked out, your quick action will help the dentist reinsert it immediately.

  1. Pick up the tooth carefully by the crown, be careful not to touch the root.
  2. Rinse it cautiously without brushing and place it in a small container.
  3. Bring the knocked-out tooth to the dentist quickly to increase the chances of saving it.

Avoid Potential Emergencies

Be proactive with your oral hygiene and dental check-ups to prevent emergencies from arising. During your visits to your dentist, he’ll check for any signs of gum disease, infection, tooth decay, loose fillings and crowns.

Addressing these problems before they develop into something worse will be good for your dental health and wallet as well.

Pay attention to what your teeth and body tell you to be aware of emergency conditions. Although disciplined dental hygiene can help keep dental conditions at bay, dental emergencies can still happen. Be vigilant of the five warning signs above, and be alert to any significant changes in your mouth.


Dr. Yvette Porter is the founding dentist at Apple Dental in Newstead, Brisbane, which she started over 11 years ago, and continues to own and practice there today. She works with a team of female dentists who aim to provide gentle, and affordable dental care to patients in Brisbane. Dr. Porter is a member of the Australian Dental Association and is passionate about family, and children’s dentistry, hoping to make their dental experience truly pleasant.



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