A Guide on How to Manage Chipped, Cracked, or Knocked-Out Teeth

A Guide on How to Manage Chipped, Cracked, or Knocked-Out Teeth

Dental emergencies can happen when we least expect them, causing pain and distress. Whether it’s a chipped tooth from biting something hard, a cracked tooth due to an accident, or a knocked-out tooth while playing sports, knowing how to handle these situations can make a big difference in saving your smile.

In this guide, we will discuss the signs of a dental emergency, what to do in different scenarios, and how to prevent dental emergencies from happening in the first place.

Signs of a Dental Emergency

Recognizing the signs of an emergency dental situation is essential, as prompt action can help prevent further damage and increase the chances of successful treatment. Contact your emergency dentist as soon as possible if you experience the following signs:

  • Severe toothache. Experiencing intense, persistent tooth pain could be a sign of an underlying issue like an infection or tooth decay.
  • Swelling. Swelling in the face, gums, or jaw can indicate an infection or abscess and should be evaluated by a dentist.
  • Bleeding gums. While minor bleeding during brushing or flossing is normal, excessive or ongoing bleeding could indicate gum disease or other oral health issues.
  • Loose teeth. Adult teeth should not feel loose or shift position. If you notice movement or instability in your teeth, seek dental care promptly.
  • Knocked-out tooth. If a tooth has been completely knocked out, immediate action is crucial. Try to reinsert the tooth into the socket or place it in milk or saliva and see a dentist immediately.
  • Cracked or broken tooth. If you have a fractured or broken tooth, it may be considered a dental emergency, especially if it causes severe pain or exposes the nerves.
  • Lost dental restoration. If a filling, crown, bridge, or other dental restoration falls out or becomes loose, have it repaired or replaced to prevent further damage or infection.
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste. Chronic bad breath or a foul taste in your mouth could indicate an oral health problem that requires attention.
  • Abscess. An abscess is a pocket of pus that forms due to a bacterial infection. It can cause severe pain, swelling, and a fever. Immediate dental care is needed to treat the abscess and prevent complications.

What Are Considered Dental Emergencies and How to Manage Them

1. Severe Toothache

As mentioned, a severe toothache can be a sign of an underlying dental issue, such as an infection or tooth decay. To manage and provide temporary relief, follow the following:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  • Use dental floss to remove any food particles that may be causing the pain.
  • Apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek to reduce swelling.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary, following the recommended dosage.

2. Chipped or Broken Teeth

If you chip or break a tooth, it’s essential to seek dental care as soon as possible. How to fix a chipped tooth depends on the severity of the issue. Your dentist may recommend dental bonding, veneers, crowns, implants, or bridges.

In the meantime, here’s what you can do:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water.
  • If you can find the broken pieces, wash them with warm water and save them.
  • Use dental wax or sugarless gum to cover sharp edges and protect your tongue and cheeks.
  • If there’s severe bleeding, apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek until the bleeding stops. This also helps reduce swelling.

3. Lost Filling

Losing a filling can be uncomfortable and leave your tooth vulnerable.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Keep the area clean by rinsing it with warm water.
  • Apply dental cement, which can be purchased at a pharmacy, to fill the cavity temporarily.
  • Avoid chewing on that side of your mouth until you see a dentist.

4. Lost Crown

If your dental crown comes off, try the following:

  • Carefully clean both the crown and the tooth.
  • Apply dental cement or denture adhesive to the inner surface of the crown.
  • Gently place the crown back onto the tooth and bite down to ensure a proper fit.
  • Make an appointment with your dentist to have the crown permanently reattached.

5. Knocked-Out Tooth

A knocked out tooth requires immediate attention to increase the chances of successful re-implantation.

Follow these steps:

  • Pick up the tooth by the crown, avoiding touching the root.
  • Rinse it gently with water if dirty, but do not scrub or remove any tissue fragments.
  • Try to reinsert the tooth back into its socket, holding it in place with a clean cloth or tissue.
  • If reinsertion is impossible, place the tooth in a milk or saline solution container and seek dental care immediately.

6. Extruded Tooth (Partially Dislodged)

When a tooth is partially dislodged, it’s crucial to act promptly.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary.
  • Visit your dentist as soon as possible, as they may need to reposition and stabilize the tooth.

7. Abscess

An abscess is a painful infection that requires immediate attention.

If you suspect an abscess, follow these steps:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater to help alleviate the pain and draw out some of the infection.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary.
  • Contact your dentist for an emergency appointment.

8. Broken Braces or Wires

If you have broken braces or wires, addressing the issue promptly is vital.

Try the following:

  • Use the eraser end of a pencil to push a wire into a more comfortable position.
  • Cover sharp edges with dental wax or sugarless gum to protect your lips and cheeks.
  • Contact your orthodontist for further guidance.

9. Soft Tissue Injuries

Injuries to the mouth’s soft tissues, such as the gums, lips, or tongue, can be painful and may require immediate attention.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Clean the area gently with warm water.
  • Apply pressure with a clean cloth or gauze to control bleeding.
  • If bleeding does not stop or the injury is severe, seek immediate medical attention.

10. Objects Caught Between Teeth

Having an object caught between your teeth can be uncomfortable and potentially lead to further complications. Follow these steps to try and remove the object:

  • Gently try to remove the object using dental floss. Be careful not to force it and cause any injury.
  • If flossing doesn’t work, try using an interdental brush or a water flosser to dislodge the object.
  • If you cannot remove the object on your own, schedule an appointment with your dentist.

How to Prevent Dental Emergencies

While it’s impossible to eliminate the risk of dental emergencies, there are steps you can take to minimize the chances of them occurring:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings.
  • Wear a mouthguard when participating in sports or activities that pose a risk of dental injuries or trauma.
  • Avoid biting or chewing on hard objects like ice, pens, or popcorn kernels.
  • Break bad habits like nail biting or using your teeth to open packages.
  • Be cautious when eating sticky or chewy foods, as they can cause dental damage.
  • Stay hydrated to keep your mouth moist and prevent dry mouth, which can increase the risk of tooth decay.
  • Keep emergency contact information for your dentist readily available.


Dental emergencies can happen unexpectedly, causing pain and distress. Recognizing the signs of a dental emergency and taking appropriate action can prevent further or even permanent damage and increase the chances of successful treatment. Remember to maintain good oral hygiene, wear protective gear when needed, and be mindful of your dental health.

In case of any dental emergencies, contact your dentist immediately for professional care and assistance.