tooth ache

What counts as a dental emergency?

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That would have been a straight forward answer. Does it impact on your ability to sleep/eat? Yes? Go to accident and emergency at your local hospital. But we do not live in straightforward times.

Although potentially disruptive to your day, there are now many more issues which are considered non-emergency that warrant booking an appointment when possible and managing for the interim with self-care at home.

Not an emergency

Minor toothache

A toothache which comes and goes, associated with a dull throbbing pain but no swelling or redness of the gum.

Wisdom tooth pain

Wisdom tooth pain that does not stop you opening your mouth, especially in adolescents.

Temperature sensitivity

Of either hot or cold food or drink for the teeth, gums or both.

Bleeding gums when brushing

Minor bleeding of the gums during brushing of your teeth.

Sharp pain

Sharp or stabbing pain when biting down hard, or sharp pains in the jaw muscles on waking.

Mouth ulcers

Mouth ulcers are not considered urgent unless you have suffered with them for more than ten days.


All orthodontic adjustment, repairs and refitting is conceded non-emergency.


Broken and chipped teeth, a loose or detached crown or veneers that are not causing pain do not require emergency care.

If you are suffering any of these, book an appointment with your local emergency dentist.

teeth pain



Progressively spreading swelling from the gum to cheek and along the floor or roof of the mouth.

Excruciating discomfort

A discomfort which breaks concentration and makes sleep impossible.


If you recently have a tooth extracted and have bleeding which does not stop with pressure for 20 mins.

Long-term mouth ulcers

If you have mouth ulcers that are still getting bigger after 2 weeks of treatment at home.

Jagged teeth

When you have broken or chipped teeth, which are cutting and damaging the cheek and/or tongue, causing severe discomfort.

Home treatment for lesser dental problems

Chipped tooth

After rinsing your mouth of any debris of the tooth, carefully floss around it and apply a fluoride toothpaste directly to the tooth. Do not rinse it off. If this is sensitive, the root may be exposed-use cotton wool to dab clove oil on to the tooth and use paracetamol.

Filling has fallen out or a new cavity has formed

Avoid sugary and acidic foods, continue to brush as thoroughly as you can. If it is causing pain, temporary home filling kits can be found in pharmacies. Be sure to always follow the instructions that come with the kit.

How to get an NHS emergency appointment?

Start with NHS 111 who will be able to triage you over the phone and if necessary, direct you to the closest option, either a dental clinic or a hospital. For most people, emergency dental care is not free there will be a flat charge. If you are entitled to free dental care, you will still have to pay the fee but will be able to claim it back at a later date with the receipts.

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