Delta Dental of Michigan

What to Do in a Dental Emergency

It’s important to take action quickly in emergency dental situations. Here are a few tips on how to handle tooth injuries and pains:

Knocked-out tooth

If a permanent tooth is knocked completely out, time is of the essence. Immediately call your dentist for an emergency appointment. It is critical to get the person and their tooth to the dental office within one half hour. This makes it possible to re-implant the tooth with a high degree of success. If possible, gently place the tooth back in its socket as a means of transport. Otherwise, transport it in a cup of milk, salt water, or saliva. If none of these are available, use a cup of plain water. You may also place the tooth between the cheek and gum (unless the child is too young).

Loosened tooth

If a tooth is pushed either inward or outward, try to reposition it using very little pressure. Do not force the tooth into its socket. Try to get the injured person to a dentist as soon as possible. The tooth may be stabilized and held in place with a moist tissue or gauze on the way.

Broken tooth

Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area and soothe the tooth. Place an ice pack on the cheek nearest the injury to help keep the swelling down. See your dentist as soon as possible.


If a toothache develops, keep food away from the tooth that hurts. Clean the painful area using a brush and floss. Rinse with warm salt water. Do not place an aspirin on the gums or tooth as this may cause a burn. Apply a cold compress to any facial swelling. Take acetaminophen and call your dentist as soon as possible.

Mouth sores

Avoid acidic foods, such as oranges and pineapples, which can “sting” the sores. Often, sores in the mouth are canker sores, which are small ulcers. Call your dentist if your mouth sores persist for more than two weeks. If you notice any lumps or white patches in or around your mouth, you should see your dentist immediately, as they may indicate a more serious problem.

Soft tissue injury

The tongue, lips or cheeks may be bitten, cut or punctured. If there is bleeding, apply firm pressure with gauze or a clean cloth. If bleeding doesn't stop within 15 minutes, contact your dentist immediately. Stitches may be necessary. Otherwise, clean the area with either warm water on gauze or a clean cloth. Apply an ice compress to the bruised or swollen area and contact your dentist for further instructions.


Whenever you have a tooth injury or pain, it’s important to seek care from your dentist as soon as possible. Keep your dentist’s phone number handy!


Help your kids get excited about taking care of their teeth with the fun games and activities in Marshall Molar’s Kid Corner! Many topics also are available as downloadable flyers in our oral health flyers section.


Source: American Dental Association,, accessed September 2011.