When a dental emergency strikes, it can turn a normal day into an excruciating experience. From a sudden injury to a debilitating toothache, these dental problems may require immediate attention to alleviate the pain or prevent more damage. It’s important, then, to understand what to do in a dental emergency. Whether it means taking preventive measures or having an emergency dental kit set aside, these tips can help you maintain your oral health. Here is a helpful dental emergency guide.

1. Toothache

A toothache can cause mild discomfort or it can leave you in agony, affecting your ability to eat and sleep. There are many reasons a toothache may occur and why it may end up being a dental emergency.

Tooth Decay

The most common reason for toothaches is tooth decay. This could be due to a cavity or a rotting tooth. When plaque builds up on the surface of your teeth, it produces acids that slowly eat away at your enamel. As the cavities penetrate deeper into your teeth, they reach the pulp. Once the bacteria progresses into your pulp, it causes an infection.


A tooth infection can be due to a cavity or an injury and is caused by a bacterial infection in the pulp. Infections don’t go away on their own. Instead, the bacteria simply spreads to the surrounding tissue. If you have a tooth infection, there will be swelling of your gums around the infected tooth.

Gum Disease

If you have periodontal or gum disease, you shouldn’t ignore it. Gum disease affects the tissue that holds your teeth in place, and if untreated, it can result in your teeth simply rotting and falling out. Gum disease is typically caused by poor brushing habits so that over time, a thick layer of plaque builds up over the teeth and gums. Unfortunately, gum disease can’t be cured. However, it is treatable, and dentists can stop the infection from spreading further.

Tips to Avoid Toothaches

Try to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. This will remove any plaque buildup in your mouth. It’s also a good idea to floss daily to remove any plaque or food particles caught in between your teeth or under your gum line. An antibacterial mouthwash can also help kill any lingering bacteria in your mouth.

Eating a healthy diet is crucial, too. The bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar, so try to limit eating sugary foods and drinks. Instead of drinking soda and juices, drink lots of water instead. Water helps wash away acid and bacteria in your mouth. Try to eat a balanced diet. Calcium, for example, can help strengthen your teeth.

If you smoke or vape, consider quitting altogether. Tobacco products not only stain your teeth, they also increase your risk of gum disease.

Finally, try to visit your dentist twice a year for cleanings and checkups. At Ranieu Family Dental, we can examine your mouth to see if there are any cavities or issues with your gum.

2. Chipped or Broken Teeth

One of the most pressing dental emergencies is a chipped or broken tooth. Quick action is crucial to save the tooth and prevent further damage. Here are some reasons a chipped or broken tooth may occur.


Even if you take good care of your teeth, an accident can unexpectedly occur. If you fall and land on your face, you may accidentally break or chip your tooth. Vehicle accidents – from a car or bike – can also damage a tooth; and a hard blow to your face, whether intentional or accidental, can cause your tooth to chip or break.

Sports Injuries

Sports injuries are common reasons for chipped or broken teeth. Athletes who box, play football, or who don’t wear mouthguards have a higher risk of mouth injuries. Contact sports, such as hockey or basketball, can also result in hard blows to the mouth, causing teeth to chip.

Biting Down on Hard Objects

Many people may not be aware that biting down on hard objects, like hard candies or nuts, can chip your teeth. Other ways you can chip your teeth are by opening bottles or tearing open packets.

Teeth Grinding or Bruxism

Regularly grinding your teeth – usually during sleep – can slowly wear down your enamel and cause your enamel to crack over time.

Tips to Avoid Chipped or Broken Teeth

One of the best ways to avoid chipped or broken teeth while playing sports is by wearing a sports mouthguard. Mouthguards can be custom-fitted so that your teeth are always protected from impacts. For those who grind their teeth at night, it’s a good idea to purchase a night guard. A night guard can protect your enamel and prevent damage caused by grinding.

Try to avoid biting down on hard objects or food, especially with your front teeth. Cut food into smaller pieces and then chew them with your molars. Practicing safe habits is important, too. Instead of using your teeth to open bottles or packages, use tools or bottle openers.

3. Knocked-Out Tooth

A knocked-out tooth can be one of the most scariest experiences. Besides being painful, it can result in permanent damage if you don’t seek immediate dental care. Although you can avoid experiencing a knocked-out tooth to some degree, it’s more important to learn what steps to take if it does happen.

As with a chipped tooth, a knocked-out tooth can occur if you receive a blow to your face, if you have a vehicle accident, or if you’re involved in a sports injury like boxing. You may also lose one or more teeth if you have a physical confrontation that involves punches. In addition, some jobs that involve heavy machinery or tools may increase the risk of facial injuries.

Tips to Avoid Knocked-Out Teeth

The best way to prevent losing a tooth while on the job is to wear a helmet or a faceguard. Helmets and faceguards can prevent facial injuries during sports activities or while you’re at work. If you participate in contact sports, wear a custom-fitted mouthguard.

What to Do If You Lose a Tooth

While it may be difficult to avoid getting your tooth knocked out – especially if there’s an unavoidable accident – you should know what to do if something like this happens. Here’s a step-by-step dental emergency guide:

  • Pick up the knocked-out tooth by the crown and not the root.
  • Rinse the tooth carefully.
  • If possible, try to place the tooth back in its socket.
  • If you can’t put the tooth back, keep it moist by storing it in a saline or a milk solution.
  • Make an appointment with an emergency dentist in Vancouver WA immediately.

Remember, if your tooth gets knocked out, it can be saved and inserted back into its socket if you see a dentist as soon as possible.

4. Lost Dental Fillings or Crowns

Lost dental fillings or crowns are common dental emergencies that can cause pain. Although they may not seem like an emergency, they can expose the underlying tooth, potentially leading to more damage. If you lose your filling or crown, make an appointment as soon as you can with an emergency dentist in Vancouver WA.

Here are some reasons a lost dental filling or crown can occur.

Wear and Tear

Dental fillings or crowns don’t last forever. Metal fillings can last 20 years or longer, while composite resin lasts about 10-15 years. Dental crowns typically last between 10-30 years. In addition, fillings and crowns can eventually deteriorate after years of chewing and biting food. Sometimes, fillings or crowns may also crack after chewing hard foods or grinding your teeth while you sleep.

Tooth Decay

If you don’t brush and floss your teeth regularly, new cavities can form around the edges of your fillings or crowns. These new “holes” can destabilize the previous dental work, causing them to become loose or fall out.


Despite your best efforts, injuries to the mouth do happen. Fillings and crowns can come loose due to a blow to your mouth or after biting down on hard foods, such as nuts. These can crack crowns or dislodge fillings.

Tips to Avoid Losing Fillings or Crowns

To extend the lifespan of your fillings or crowns, maintain good oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily will prevent your teeth from decaying around your restorations.

Preventive care is the best way to ensure your fillings or crowns are in good condition. At Ranieu Family Dental, our dentists can monitor the condition of your dental restorations and let you know if there are potential issues. Besides checkups, we can remove any plaque or tartar buildup. This can help maintain the health of your restorations as well.

Avoid eating sticky foods as sticky foods can pull your fillings out. You should also avoid chewing on hard foods as you may accidentally crack your crowns.

What to Do If You Lose a Filling or a Crown

Try to address dental issues as soon as you can. If you sense that a restoration is loose, make an appointment with one of our dentists. We can restore fillings or crowns before they fall out.

However, if your dental restoration falls out, do the following:

  • Try to save the restoration. Sometimes, dentists can re-cement the restoration of your tooth.
  • Use over-the-counter dental cement to temporarily protect your tooth. This will help protect your exposed tooth until your dentist appointment.
  • Try not to chew on the affected side.
  • Use over-the-counter pain medication to relieve any pain or physical discomfort.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water twice a day to keep the area clean and to wash away any bacteria in your mouth.
  • Schedule a dentist appointment as soon as possible.

5. Abscess

An abscess is an infection that causes severe pain and swelling around the affected area. Symptoms of an abscess include a throbbing toothache, swelling in your cheek, sensitivity to hot or cold in the affected area, and tender lymph nodes. You may also experience pus draining from the area. To prevent the infection from spreading, make an appointment immediately with our emergency dentist Vancouver WA.

Here are some reasons an abscess may occur:

Tooth Decay

When you have a cavity that goes untreated, bacteria can eventually penetrate the affected area and reach the pulp. The pulp is a soft tissue that contains blood vessels and nerves. An infection in this area can quickly turn into an abscess.

Gum Disease

Gum disease or periodontitis can cause your gums to pull away from the teeth. This leaves small pockets of air between the teeth and gum where bacteria can penetrate. The bacteria can then spread to the surrounding tissue.

Tooth Injury

If you crack or chip your tooth, bacteria can enter the damaged area and infect your inner tooth as well as the pulp.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Neglecting to brush and floss your teeth daily will result in plaque building up on the surface of your teeth, leading to gum disease and tooth decay. Not maintaining your dental care can increase the risk of getting an abscess.

Tips to Avoid Getting an Abscess

An abscess is extremely painful, so it’s best to avoid experiencing one. To avoid any type of tooth infection, brush and floss your teeth daily. This will remove food particles and bacteria that can cause an infection. You can also use an antibacterial mouthwash to reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth.

Make sure to schedule bi-annual checkups with our dentists at Ranieu Family Dental. Our dentists can catch and treat cavities and gum disease early, before they develop into a major issue. You’ll also get X-rays once a year. X-rays are an excellent way for our dentists to inspect your teeth and detect problems.

What to Do If You Have an Abscess

If you have an abscess, do the following:

  • Take an over-the-counter medication to relieve the pain.
  • Rinse with salt water two to three times a day to prevent the infection from spreading.
  • Make an appointment with a dentist as soon as possible.

If you suspect you have an abscess, you must get treatment. An abscess won’t go away on its own. Our dentists at Ranieu Family Dental can perform a root canal, drain the abscess, or remove the affected tooth.

6. Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries to the lips, cheeks, gums, or tongue can be painful and may require stitches. There are several reasons these injuries occur.


Accidental falls or sports injuries can cause injuries to the soft tissues inside the mouth.


It’s easy to bite down on the inside of your cheek or tongue while chewing your food. This is a common cause of soft tissue injuries. People who grind their teeth during sleep may also bite the inside of their cheeks or tongue accidentally.

Braces or Retainers

Braces or retainers can sometimes irritate or injure the soft tissues inside the mouth.

Tips to Avoid Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue injuries can be hard to avoid, especially if the injury was due to an accident. However, if the accident occurred during a sports activity or while sleeping, consider investing in a mouthguard or night guard.

Avoid eating hard or sharp foods, and chew slowly. This can reduce the risk of injuries while biting down on food.

If you have soft tissue injuries from your braces or retainers, get regular dental checkups to adjust your braces so they don’t cause additional injury.

What to Do If You Have a Soft Tissue Injury

Unfortunately, soft tissue injuries can happen to anyone. Here is what to do if you experience one:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water two to three times a day to wash away any bacteria in your mouth. This reduces the risk of infection.
  • If you’re bleeding, use some gauze to apply pressure to the bleeding area. Hold the gauze in place until the bleeding stops.
  • If the area is swollen, apply an ice pack to the outside of the affected area to reduce swelling.
  • Avoid spicy or acidic foods and drinks as these could irritate your injury.
  • Make an appointment with your dentist if the injury is severe.

7. Broken Orthodontics

Broken orthodontics can be painful, may disrupt your orthodontic treatment, and can result in more serious health issues. If your braces or retainers break, they need to be fixed by a professional. Here are some reasons you may experience broken orthodontics.


Unfortunately, a blow to the mouth, a simple fall, or a sports injury can cause your braces to loosen or your retainers to bend and break.

Eating Hard or Sticky Foods

Chewing hard foods, such as nuts and candies, can damage braces and retainers. Sticky food can also dislodge the wires in retainers.

Wear and Tear

Over time, orthodontic appliances can weaken, causing the wires or components to break. This usually happens with older appliances that haven’t been replaced for a while.

Poor Habits

Poor habits, such as biting pens, can put undue pressure on orthodontic appliances, causing them to break. If you remove your retainers to eat and improperly handle them, they may break as well.

Tips to Avoid Broken Orthodontics

When you get fitted for braces or retainers, our dentists will give you guidelines on which foods to avoid. Hard and sticky foods can damage braces and retainers, so we typically recommend softer foods. If you do eat harder foods, we recommend that you cut them into smaller pieces to reduce the pressure on your orthodontic appliances. If you play sports, such as basketball, football, or hockey, wear a mouthguard to protect your mouth from injuries.

You should also inspect your braces or retainers regularly for signs of damage. If you see any issues, make an appointment with your orthodontist. Orthodontists also recommend that you get regular check-ups so they can make the necessary adjustments to your appliances.

Finally, handle your braces and retainers with care. When removing your retainers, remove them gently to avoid bending or breaking the wires. Store them in a safe place until you are ready to re-insert them. Try to avoid using your teeth to open bottles as this can put undue stress on your braces and break them.

What to Do If Your Orthodontic Appliances Break

If your braces or retainers break, assess the damage. If the damage is minor and causes very little discomfort, you may be able to wait until your next appointment. However, if the damage is more severe, you can contain the damage by doing the following:

  • Use over-the-counter orthodontic wax to cover any sharp, broken edges. This can prevent the broken edges from poking and injuring your cheeks and gums.
  • Sterilize tweezers with rubbing alcohol and try to push any wires back into place until your next orthodontist appointment. If the task seems too complicated, leave it as is.
  • Make an appointment with your orthodontist as soon as possible. Some orthodontists can provide temporary solutions if you describe the issue clearly. Follow their advice as they can help you contain the damage until your next appointment.

Immediate Dental Care in Vancouver, WA

If you have a dental emergency and need to make an appointment with an emergency dentist in Vancouver WA, contact Ranieu Family Dental. Weekend appointments are available and walk-ins are welcome. We offer emergency root canals, crowns, bridges, wisdom teeth removals, gum pain relief, and more. Contact our team to see how we can help.

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