What to Expect During an Emergency Dental Visit: A Step-by-Step Guide

Any kind of health emergency is a stressful experience, whether you’re going through it yourself or helping someone in crisis. Dental emergencies are no different, but with this guide, we aim to give you a solid plan of attack for tackling the problem as soon as it comes to a head.

What is an emergency dental visit?

Dental emergencies are often characterised as sudden and severe dental problems that emerge without warning and require immediate professional attention. Leaving a serious dental issue untreated can have long-term consequences, including permanent damage. That’s why an emergency dental visit is the best course of action in these situations.

Reasons for an emergency dental visit

There are a number of indicators to look out for if you think you may be in the midst of an emergency. Bearing these in mind will help you differentiate between a mild-moderate issue that simply requires an appointment in the near future or a bonafide dental emergency. Here is a non-exhaustive list of some serious dental problems and why you should consider seeking emergency treatment to remedy them:

Missing filling or crown: leaves the tooth and surrounding area vulnerable to further damage and sensitivity
Severe toothache: may indicate an underlying dental issue, especially if the pain can’t be resolved with over-the-counter painkillers like panadol or ibuprofen

Broken and/or knocked-out tooth: apart from causing pain and bleeding, a chipped tooth or the violent removal of a tooth can also cause damage to the surrounding area

Swelling: whether in the gums, lips, face or cheeks, swelling may indicate an underlying issue, such as an impacted tooth or unresolved trauma

Abscess: incredibly uncomfortable, abscesses are pus-filled pockets that result from your body trying to fight off infection and generally indicate an underlying dental problem

Emergency dental visit: step-by-step

Alert your dentist or emergency dental practice

If you’re in a position to do so, try to phone ahead of time so your practice can make preparations and try to free up space so you can be seen as soon as possible. Otherwise, make sure to immediately alert reception staff upon arrival that you are experiencing a dental emergency, or else they may assume you’ve just arrived for a standard appointment.


Once a dentist is able to assess you, they’ll likely ask you questions about your symptoms, when they started, if you know what caused them, how severe they are, and the degree of pain or discomfort you are experiencing. Depending on the nature of your emergency, they may also ask general questions about your medical history and other medications you’re currently using. Having gone through this information-gathering process, your dentist will then perform a full dental examination to develop a more thorough assessment of your condition.


After gaining a more holistic understanding of the problem at hand, your dentist will walk you through the treatment options available to you. Depending on your specific dental issue, your options may be short-term, long-term or a mix of the two. For example, you may be experiencing considerable pain during your consultation but the underlying problem may require more complex surgical intervention that cannot be performed immediately or requires a specialist. In this situation, your dentist may prescribe you pain relief medication until a future appointment can be made or you can be referred to an appropriate specialist.

Aftercare, follow-ups and referrals

Whether the problem is resolved then and there or requires further treatment, you’ll likely be given aftercare instructions. These could include symptoms to look out for or side effects you may experience from any medication you’ve been prescribed. Take careful note of the instructions and, if possible, ask for a copy to be emailed to you or printed out so you can easily refer back to them.

You may also need to book a follow-up appointment for further treatment or a progress check. Your dentist will let you know an appropriate timeframe for this, and reception staff will be able to help you book in these future appointments.

If your problem is particularly complex or unique, your dentist will probably refer you to a specialist who is better placed to provide ongoing help and support for this issue.

Do you have a question about emergency dental visits? Get in contact with us today.

Alternatively, you can book an appointment online here.