Dental emergencies can happen anytime and anywhere, and they usually happen when you least expect them. You could be driving in your car on the way to work when you feel a sudden and immediately painful twinge in your jaw, or enjoying a bit of camping with your family out in the middle of nowhere when you trip over a log and dislodge one of your front teeth. Although you can’t never really be fully prepared for one of these situations, there are steps you can take to minimize the pain and damage of a dental emergency.

In today’s blog, the fine dental doctors at Charlotte Progressive Dentistry of North Carolina would like to share some of the best tips on how to handle an unexpected dental emergency.

How To Handle An Emergency At Home Or Abroad

Luckily, most homes already have a handful of items in stock that can help alleviate a large number of the dental emergencies that can strike at a moment’s notice. It’s the best place to be (outside of already sitting in a dentist’s waiting office) when you abruptly get a toothache, swollen and bleeding gums, or a cracked tooth. Just so you’re prepared for the worst, check your medicine cabinet for these items that can come in handy during a dental emergency:

Both dental cement and orthodontic wax are available over the counter at most pharmacies. The rest of the items listed above are easily found at any grocery or drug store.

For emergencies when you’re on the road or otherwise away from home, it definitely pays to make sure you have easy access to these items in a carrying case or bag that you can take with you when you leave the house. It doesn’t have to be fully stocked, but depending on how long you plan to be away from your home, you’ll want to be sure to include enough items to temporarily mitigate the pain, suffering, and other effects of a dental accident or emergency.

Now that you have a good idea of what to keep close by, what are some of the most common dental emergencies that you might — but hopefully never — encounter, and how do you handle them?


Rinse out your mouth with warm water to keep the affected area as clean as possible. Next, use dental floss to remove any food particles that may be stuck near the tooth. If your mouth is swollen, apply a cold compress to the outside of your mouth in order to relieve as much pressure as possible. Call your local dentist immediately to avoid unnecessary pain and receive quick treatment.

Just in case you were thinking about applying aspirin directly to the tooth, do not do this! It’s an old wive’s tale that can potentially cause burning damage to the gum surrounding the tooth. If pain from the toothache is an issue you can’t ignore, swallow the aspirin instead or take a couple ibuprofen for best results.

Knocked-Out Teeth

If you can retrieve the broken tooth (or teeth if you’re extra unlucky), hold it by the crown only — touching the exposed nerve area can cause it to become infected.  If the tooth fell on the ground or otherwise came into contact with a foreign surface, rinse the tooth with water to clean it, but do not scrub it off to remove any tissue fragments or detritus.

You can attempt to put the tooth back in the socket, but make sure it is facing the right direction and do not force it in. If the tooth won’t go back in place, put it in a small container of milk or a water-and-salt solution to keep the nerve area from drying out. Contact your dentist immediately and they may be able to get the tooth back into its original place.

Broken Or Chipped Teeth

The first step you’ll want to take in the case of a broken or chipped tooth is to save any pieces of the tooth. Then, rinse your mouth out using warm water and apply a cold compress to the outside of the affected area to minimize any swelling. With any luck, your dentist can use the broken-off pieces as a model for replacement enamel in a bonding process that will make your tooth whole again.


An abscess in your mouth is a serious matter and should be handled as quickly as possible. Abscesses are basically infections that occur around the root of a tooth or in the spaces between the teeth and gums. Left untreated, an abscess can spread to other parts of the body, and it can permanently damage mouth tissue and teeth.

There’s not much you can do for an abscess, but you can minimize its potential damage by washing your mouth out with a solution of warm water and salt (normally a full glass of water with ½ a teaspoon of table salt mixed in); this will help ease pain and draw pus in the infected area up to the surface. Regardless of how bad you think the abscess might be, you need to contact your local dentist immediately so that they can take care of the issue.

Dislodged Crowns

If a crown falls out and hasn’t been lost or swallowed, keep it in a small container or covered in gauze so your dentist can reuse it. If the dislodged crown happens to be accompanied by pain, you can apply clove oil directly to the spot as a temporary measure.

If possible, slip the crown back over the tooth by coating it with a layer of dental cement or toothpaste and then putting the crown back in place. This way you can protect the tooth from further damage.

Lost Fillings

Unlike a dislodged crown, a filling that has lost its place cannot be reinserted in its original spot. As a temporary measure, put a glob of dental cement or a piece of sugarless gum in the hole to keep it protected from exposure to food and hot or cold liquids.

Broken Braces Or Wires

Try repositioning the broken section by pushing it around with your tongue to make it more comfortable. If that doesn’t work, you can take something soft like an eraser or a cotton swab and try to push the wire or brace back into position. When the wire can’t be repositioned, cover it with a chunk of orthodontic wax so it doesn’t poke the inside of your mouth.

Under no circumstances should you cut the broken piece off — it can become lodged in your mouth or end up in your lungs if you accidentally breathe it in.

Need Help With A Dental Emergency? Contact Charlotte Progressive Dentistry Today!

If you have a dental emergency and need immediate aid and live in the Charlotte, N.C. area, contact the friendly folks at Charlotte Progressive Dentistry. We are your local family dental care office, and would be glad to hear from you if you need emergency consultation in tooth care. In addition to advice you can trust, Charlotte Progressive Dentistry is staffed by experienced family dentists and oral surgeons, so they can handle anything from minor dental work to cosmetic dentistry, root canal therapy, jaw pain, and dental implants.

For more on how Charlotte Progressive Dentistry can help you with a dental emergency, please see our website.