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5 Signs You Have a Dental Emergency

dental emergency-urgent dental care-sugarland txHow do you know if an ache in your mouth requires a standard dental appointment or if it is an emergency? An urgent dental situation can be caused by sudden trauma or a serious infection. In certain cases, waiting until open office hours may not be soon enough. While toothaches are quite common and can be addressed during a visit to your dentist, here are “5 Signs You Have a Dental Emergency.”

Trauma, Lacerations, or Bleeding


If you have a tooth with a minor crack or chip, you can likely wait to discuss this with your dentist during your regularly scheduled checkup. More serious injuries that cause the sudden loss of a tooth, serious fractures, mouth lacerations, and bleeding, should be addressed immediately. In circumstances where the whole adult tooth has fallen out, save the tooth and try not to touch it too much. While not always possible, the dentist may be able to save the tooth.


Minor bleeding of gums when flossing can occur if it is not conducted regularly. When bleeding of the gums happens persistently, it can be an indication of Periodontal Disease. An infection that occurs below the gumline, Periodontal Disease is a systemic disease which means it travels through the bloodstream and can thus affect other organs in the body. Periodontal Disease has been associated with a number of serious illnesses including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If you are experiencing severe and unexpected bleeding of the gums, call your dentist right away.

Oral Infection

Certain oral infections including dental abscess can become a life-threatening situation that requires immediate attention. An abscess occurs when a pocket of pus in the tooth has led to a severe infection. It is important to treat the infection to prevent spreading into the neck and head. Signs of an abscessed tooth include[i]:

  • Swelling in your face or cheek
  • Severe, persistent, throbbing toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck or ear
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
  • Sensitivity to the pressure of chewing or biting
  • Fever
  • Tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck
  • Sudden rush of foul-smelling and foul-tasting, salty fluid in your mouth and pain relief, if the abscess ruptures
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing

In situations where breathing or swallowing becomes critically obstructed, do not call your dentist. Instead, call 911 or have someone drive you to the local emergency room.

Metal Taste or Foul Odor in Mouth

If you are experiencing a metallic taste or a foul odor in your mouth it is not necessarily an emergency. Different vitamins, pregnancy, prescription drugs, chemotherapy, and poor oral hygiene can affect your taste buds and breath. A sudden change in breathing or odd taste in the mouth may indicate an infection in the mouth or elsewhere in the body. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call your doctor to discuss the next steps.

Sudden Loose Teeth

As adults, our teeth should not come loose or fall out. If your teeth suddenly feel loose, or if you lose a tooth without explanation, it could be a symptom of gum disease, weakened gum tissue, or nerve damage. Contact your dentist to schedule an appointment.

Jaw Pain

Although quite rare, Ludwig’s Angina is an infection that requires emergency medical care. A skin infection that occurs on the floor of the mouth underneath the tongue, Ludwig’s Angina often happens after an abscess in which the bacteria from the abscess infection spreads through the mouth. Left untreated this infection can cause serious complications including sepsis and blocked airways and can further travel to the pericardial tissue around the heart.

Symptoms of Ludwig’s Angina[ii]:

  • Pain or tenderness in the floor of your mouth, which is underneath your tongue
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Problems with speech
  • Neck pain
  • Swelling of the neck
  • Redness on the neck
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • An earache
  • Tongue swelling that causes your tongue to push against your palate
  • Fever or chills
  • Confusion

Addressing urgent dental issues is critical to the full recovery of your mouth. As with any medical condition, if you find you are short of breath, dizzy, unable to speak or walk, do not wait, call 911 immediately or go to the local hospital emergency room.

During this time of uncertainty, we may think it’s okay to stay home and wait it out. When your body sends signals of severe illness, do not self-cure, call our office or a medical professional for help.

Your health is our number one priority. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.

Dr. Dragana Angelova
Imperial Dental Center
“We love to see you smile”