Dental Emergency – Overview, Examples, Cost

Dental emergencies can be both physically and mentally distressing. Being informed is the first step in handling a dental emergency and reducing your chance of more serious problems down the line.

Don’t let dental emergencies catch you off guard – know what counts as an emergency, what doesn’t, and how to perform first aid while you wait for your emergency appointment. Get in touch with us any time you need emergency dental care!

What is a Dental Emergency?

What is a Dental Emergency?

A dental emergency is any dental concern that requires immediate attention to reduce severe pain, stop ongoing bleeding, or save a tooth.

Non-emergencies are less urgent problems that can typically wait for a scheduled dental appointment, like a chipped tooth, minor tooth sensitivity, or a loose filling.

What are Common Dental Emergencies?

Severe Toothache

A severe toothache is considered a dental emergency because it can indicate serious underlying issues such as an infection, abscess, or a cracked tooth. Left untreated, it could lead to even more severe health problems, including the spread of infection, extreme pain, and possibly tooth loss.

Knocked-Out Tooth (Avulsed Tooth)

A knocked-out tooth is a dental emergency because the trauma can cause significant damage to surrounding tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. Immediate dental care can prevent complications like infection, bone loss, and permanent tooth loss.

Broken Tooth

A broken tooth qualifies as a dental emergency when the fracture is severe enough to cause pain or affect the tooth structure. Serious breaks can lead to nerve damage, infection, and further deterioration of the tooth if not treated quickly.

Lost Filling or Crown

Losing a filling or crown is an emergency because it leaves the underlying tooth exposed and vulnerable to damage and decay. You’ll need immediate attention to restore the tooth and protect it from further harm and potential infection.


A dental abscess is a serious dental emergency caused by a bacterial infection. It presents as a pocket of pus, typically accompanied by severe pain, swelling, and sometimes fever. Without emergency dental care, the infection can spread throughout the body and lead to more serious health problems.

Soft Tissue Injury

Injuries to the soft tissue in the mouth, like the gums, lips, tongue, or cheeks, are considered emergencies when these injuries involve significant bleeding, pain, damage, or require sutures.

Broken Braces

Broken braces are emergencies because they can cause discomfort, injury to the soft tissue of the mouth, and disrupt the alignment process of the teeth. You’ll need immediate repairs to avoid further complications and make sure your orthodontic treatment progresses as planned.

What Should You Do in a Dental Emergency?

What Should You do in a Dental Emergency

What You Should do in a Dental Emergency

Call your dentist’s office as soon as possible. Many dentists offer after-hours emergency services contacts and may have an answering service that can connect you with an on-call emergency dentist.

If your dentist is unavailable or if the emergency occurs outside of regular office hours, locate an emergency dental hospital. These facilities are equipped to handle dental emergencies and can provide immediate relief and necessary treatment.

When contacting your emergency dentist, be ready to describe your symptoms in detail. This includes the type and severity of pain, any visible damage, and when the problem began.

While waiting for your emergency dental appointment, you can take the necessary steps below to manage your discomfort and potentially minimise further damage.

Managing Bleeding

Rinse your mouth with warm water to clear away any debris and excess blood. Spit into a bowl to catch any possible tooth fragments. Place clean gauze or a thin cloth on the injured area and apply gentle pressure to control the bleeding.

Easing Pain

Take an over-the-counter painkiller to manage the discomfort until you can see a dentist. Rinsing with salt water may sting, but it helps keep your mouth clean and can prevent the pain from worsening.

Handling a Broken Tooth

Collect any broken pieces of the tooth to take them to the dentist. Avoid consuming hot or cold foods as they can make the pain feel worse.

Dealing with a Knocked-Out Tooth

Handle the tooth by the crown, not the root, and rinse it to remove any dirt. If it’s still intact and bleeding is minimal, gently try to place it back into its socket. If this isn’t possible, store it in a small amount of milk or your own saliva to keep it moist.

Lost Crown or Filling

If a filling comes out, rinse it with warm water and keep it safe to take to the dentist. For a loose crown, try not to touch the inside.

Rinse both the crown and your mouth with warm, salt water and try to reattach it. If you can’t reattach it, store the crown safely and take measures to protect the exposed tooth, avoiding hard foods.

Soft Tissue Injuries

For injuries to the tongue, cheeks, gums, or lips, rinse your mouth with a saltwater solution to clean the area. Apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth to alleviate swelling and numb the pain.

If there is significant bleeding, apply gentle pressure with clean gauze or a thin cloth and seek immediate medical attention.

Why You Should Always Visit Your Dentist for Dental Emergencies

Why You Should Always Visit Your Dentist for Dental Emergencies
Why Should You Always Visit Your Dentist for Dental Emergencies

Pain Relief

Dental emergencies often involve severe pain, and a dentist can diagnose the cause and provide immediate pain relief. Delaying treatment can lead to prolonged suffering and potential complications.

Preventing Infection

The infection can spread from the tooth to surrounding tissues, including the jawbone and sinuses. An untreated infection can spread to other parts of your body, potentially causing serious health issues like sepsis (a life-threatening systemic infection), endocarditis and cavernous sinus thrombosis.

By getting emergency dental care, you can prevent the infection from spreading and safeguard your overall health. Your dentist can prescribe antibiotics and perform the necessary procedures to address the infection effectively.

Saving a Tooth

If you’ve knocked out a tooth, immediate action can make the difference between saving and losing it. Dentists are trained to handle such emergencies and can re-implant the tooth if you seek help quickly – ideally within an hour of the incident.

Minimising Damage

Early intervention in cases like chipped or broken teeth can prevent further damage. Without prompt treatment, a minor chip can lead to larger fractures, decay, or infection.

Addressing the issue early can save you from more extensive and costly treatments later, such as root canals or crowns. Your dentist can repair the damage with fillings, bonding, or other appropriate treatments.

Cost of Emergency Dental Care

When facing a dental emergency, understanding the potential costs can help you prepare. Here’s a summary of what you might expect to pay for various emergency dental procedures

Average Emergency Dental Care Costs

Emergency Consultation

Cost Range: $100 to $150

Initial consultations to diagnose and plan the treatment of dental emergencies generally fall within this range.

Chipped Tooth

Cost Range: $100 to $350

Chipped teeth often require simple repairs, which can vary depending on the severity and the materials used.

Root Canal Treatment

Cost Range: $600 to $2,000

Root canals are complex procedures that can vary widely in cost based on the tooth affected and the extent of the infection.

Tooth Extraction

Cost Range: $130 to $600

Emergency dental extractions can be straightforward or complex, impacting the overall cost. Simple extractions are on the lower end, while surgical extractions are more expensive.

Simple Procedures (like fillings)

Cost Range: $100 to $300

Basic treatments like fillings to address immediate issues are usually less expensive, but still vary based on the material used and the tooth’s location.

Are Dental Emergencies Covered by Medicare in Australia?

No, Medicare does not cover dental procedures, including emergencies. In most cases, your dental insurance is included in private health insurance policies under “extras cover”. These policies usually cover:

  • Preventive Dental Services: Routine check-ups, cleanings, fluoride treatments, and X-rays. Most policies cover these services either fully or partially.
  • General Dental Services: Treatments such as fillings, extractions, and root canals. Coverage for these services typically ranges around 50–80% of the costs.
  • Major Dental Services: Complex procedures including crowns, bridges, dentures, and orthodontics. Coverage is usually around 50% of the costs, and some policies may have waiting periods for these benefits.

Payment Plans

Many dental practices in Australia now offer interest-free payment plans through AfterPay, Zip Pay, and ZipMoney. These options allow patients to manage the cost of their dental treatments more easily, making dental care more accessible and affordable.


Dental emergencies can strike unexpectedly, but with the right knowledge, you can navigate them calmly and effectively. When in doubt, always contact your dentist or an emergency dental clinic. Swift action can save your smile and your overall health.

Dental Emergency FAQs

Is it safe to use ice or heat for dental pain relief?

Yes, it’s generally safe to use ice for dental pain relief. Ice packs can help reduce inflammation and numb the pain, especially after dental procedures or if there’s swelling.

How do I know if my tooth is just sensitive or if it is a serious issue?

If your tooth pain is brief and triggered by specific stimuli like heat or cold, it’s likely sensitivity. But if the pain is intense, constant, and accompanied by swelling or fever, it could indicate an infection and you should see a dentist.


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