When Do You Need An Emergency Dental Appointment?

Urgent dental care is important to alleviate pain and to prevent problems from worsening.

The word ‘emergency’ tends to indicate blue flashing lights and a matter of life and death. While it can be that, it is rarely the case when it comes to dental care. Most dental emergencies arise due to either severe pain or significant damage to a tooth or teeth. There are instances though, such as an abscess which could lead to more serious health implications if it is not treated in time.

We are aware that some of our Eltham patients may be unsure when to call AR Smiles for an emergency appointment or whether to put up with a problem until their next routine appointment, especially where any discomfort is not too significant.

In today’s blog, we take a look at what constitutes a dental emergency and what you should do if one arises.

When should you seek emergency dentist care?

An emergency appointment should be sought when the patient is in pain from a toothache or similar, or where there is damage to a tooth. Although this sometimes might seem obvious, such as if you have fallen and broken several teeth, it also applies to less serious situations. Although we British are sometimes a little overly polite and don’t want to ‘bother’ the dentist, it is what we are here for and we encourage patients to call us when needed.

This also applies where any discomfort or damage is not too severe. Even a mildly throbbing toothache or a small breakage of a tooth should not be ignored. If you do, your toothache will almost certainly become worse and a broken tooth can be exposed to bacteria and start to decay or it may break further in its weakened state.

In any instance of pain or damage, you should call our friendly reception team who will try to book you an appointment as soon as possible. Naturally, we will always try to prioritise urgent appointments for anyone in severe pain or where damage is extensive. These cases may take preference over less significant issues, although appointments for those will also be made as soon as we can. Please try to call us as early in the day as you can to increase your chances of a fast appointment.

Examples of problems requiring urgent care:


Any toothache can be uncomfortable or even painful but it is also a sign that the tooth is probably infected. If not treated promptly, not only might you have sleepless nights but the infection may become worse and the root section of your tooth might become infected and you may require a root canal procedure to save the infected tooth.

Broken tooth

A broken tooth can leave sharp edges that can cut the soft tissues of the oral cavity. It may also expose the more porous inner part of the tooth known as the ‘dentin’. This is less well protected and infection can soon occur if not promptly restored.

Knocked out tooth

If you lose a tooth in an accident, you should pick it up by the crown part and not touch the root, put it in a bottle with your own saliva or milk to keep it moist and call us immediately. In some cases, it may be possible to replace the tooth effectively. Where this is not the case, other options, such as dental implants, can be discussed.

Loose teeth and gum issues

Loose teeth are a sign that you may have periodontitis where the bone supporting the tooth has become infected. Whilst this might not be a ‘same day emergency’, it certainly shouldn’t be ignored and should be looked at as soon as possible. This also applies to other potential signs of gum disease such as sore or bleeding gums.

Restoration failure

Although generally long lasting, restorations can fail; usually towards the end of their natural lifespan. If your filling comes out, or your crown or dental veneer becomes detached, please call us so that we can reattach it for you. Please do NOT attempt to do this yourself as a special dental adhesive should be used and general adhesives are likely to damage your teeth.

What to do in the case of an emergency

You should call us straight away and talk to the reception team at AR Smiles. They will be able to advise you what to do in order to alleviate any discomfort until an appointment is available. In case of any uncertainty about what might be a complicated issue, they will discuss this with the dentist so that you receive the correct advice. They will, of course, also book you an appointment as soon as possible.

In the event that we are closed when you require urgent care, please call 111 and they will be able to guide you towards out of hours emergency dental care.

Unfortunately, accidents and painful toothaches do happen and when they do, it is good to know that help is at hand as soon as possible. Whether you require an emergency or routine appointment, please call our Eltham dental practice on 020 8856 7759 and speak to our friendly reception team.

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Site last updated December 2023
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