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Dental Emergencies: Should I Go to the ER?
Jan 26, 2022

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Dental pain can flare up quickly and intensely. What if your dentist’s office isn’t open? Or what if the pain is so severe that you think you may need treatment beyond what your dentist can offer? Whatever the scenario, there are plenty of instances where patients debate whether they should go to the emergency room. 

The Question: Should You Go to the ER or Wait To See Your Dentist?


Most people do not realize that many dentists are willing to schedule emergency appointments during regular business hours and after hours or on weekends to get them into their offices immediately if the need is great. While many people may think that rushing to the ER would be is more advantageous in terms of time and urgency, the fact remains that in most cases, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your dentist to determine the cause of your situation correctly. Having a dentist you and your family see regularly is also essential to building a relationship for the future.


Types of Dental Emergencies


According to American Family Physician, “Dental emergencies are extremely common in America. In one recent survey, 22 percent of the general population had experienced orofacial pain in the preceding six months and 12 percent experienced toothaches.” Many types of dental situations are considered an emergency, and your dentist is typically the best professional to determine the urgency and severity of your condition.


For example, some emergencies can include:


  • Pulpal inflammation
  • Bacterial Infection
  • Inflamed Gum Line
  • Broken/Loose/Missing Tooth


Dental non-emergencies consist of examples where the situation is less complex, therefore not needing immediate attention. These could include:


  • Minor chipping/cracking of the tooth
  • Mild toothache (as long as it is not causing an abscess, gum issues, or fever.)

Should I go to the ER if I can’t schedule an immediate appointment with my dentist?


While the thought of running to the ER may be tempting while you’re dealing with mouth pain, a dentist would recommend that you schedule an appointment with your dentist.


Prior to 2020, dental-related ER visits were on the rise, adding to already problematic overcrowding. Today, emergency rooms are dealing with increasingly complex conditions for patients needing immediate medical attention and an ever-increasing staff shortage as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind, we recommend that you consult the emergency dentist on staff for any situation before heading right to the ER. 


Speaking with a dentist in your area first can save you time, stress, money. They may be able to diagnose the severity of your situation over the phone and, if necessary, help you with an immediate emergency appointment to treat the problem. Many ER doctors will also refer dental emergencies back to the patient’s dentist, increasing the time it takes to receive care and the cost of doing so.