Guide to Dental Emergencies & Urgent Dental Care Needs

Here’s how to tell if you or someone you know is experiencing a dental emergency, or if they need urgent dental care. As always, if you’re unsure about a dental issue, call your MDA dentist. They can help you determine if treatment is needed now, or if it can wait.

Please refer to this DOWNLOADABLE DIRECTORY provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services which outlines facilities open for emergency dental services.

If you or someone you know does not have access to Emergency Dental Care, please visit our page dedicated to FREE AND REDUCED-FEE DENTAL PROGRAMS.


Dental Emergencies

Dental Emergencies are potentially life-threatening or life-endangering situations involving the teeth, mouth, jaw, and/or bones of the face. In the case of a dental emergency, drop everything and calmly get the patient to an emergency dentist as soon as possible. It is important to relieve pressure on ERs right now, that is why you can rely on your MDA dentist to help in emergency and urgent situations.

It’s a true Dental Emergency if any of the three big B’s apply:

  • Bad Bleeding: uncontrollable bleeding from inside of or around the mouth.
  • Broken Facial Bones: and any significant trauma to the bones of the face and jaw, especially injuries that could interfere with breathing.
  • Breathing Interference: caused by trauma or an infection or swelling inside of or around the mouth and jaw.

Patients experiencing any of the above should not delay in seeking treatment.


Urgent Dental Care

Urgent Dental Care is needed to treat certain non-life-threatening problems involving the teeth, mouth, face, and/or jaw.  Delaying treatment in these instances could cause serious complications. Dental care shouldn’t be postponed when any of the following apply:

  • Tooth Pain, Mouth Pain, Facial Pain, or Jaw Pain: this isn’t a slight, quick then it’s over tooth sensitivity like when you bite into an ice cream cone.  This applies to nagging pain in the teeth, soft tissues of the mouth, or the jaw. The kind of pain you can’t ignore because it won’t quit. Also, don’t ever delay treatment for dental pain caused by:
    • Wisdom Teeth
    • Broken Fillings, Broken Crowns, or Broken Bridges 
    • Cracked Teeth, Broken Teeth, Loose Teeth
  • Abscesses & Swelling: of the tissues inside, outside, or around the mouth and jaw.
  • Signs of Infection: including pus and discharge in or coming from an area of the mouth or jaw. Check for a fever, too.
  • Facial Trauma: that knocks out a tooth or causes a tooth to become loose.
  • Post-Surgical Care: including removing stitches, treating dry sockets, and applying dressing changes.
  • Broken Dentures: that need repair in order to be worn.
  • Braces & Orthodontic Complications: where wires poke out, pierce the inside of the mouth, or cause ulcers and bleeding.
  • Cancer Patients: experiencing denture fit issues during or following chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
  • Pre-surgical Patients: who require specific dental procedures before they can receive critical surgeries.
  • Temporary Crowns & Temporary Fillings: that come out, break, or cause pain.

MDA dentists are here to provide urgent dental care to prevent these issues from becoming true dental emergencies.


Non-Emergency, Non-Urgent Dental Needs

Here are few common treatments and dentistry needs that don’t require emergency or urgent care. For now, these can wait:

  • Dental cleanings and 6 month dental check ups (for most healthy patients) & dental x-rays
  • Cosmetic procedures, including whitening or bleaching treatments
  • A chip to a tooth that doesn’t cause sensitivity or pain.
  • Treatment for cavities that aren’t causing pain or interfering with eating or drinking.
  • Minor pre-scheduled oral surgeries that won’t cause dental issues if delayed by 4-6 weeks.
  • Non-essential orthodontic treatment and care, such as picking up new aligners or procedures to have new bandings

Still not sure if the exact situation you’re experiencing is a dental emergency, an urgent dental care need, or if it can wait? When in doubt, call your MDA dentist! If you don’t have a dentist, you can find an MDA dentist near you HERE.