When to Call Dr. Martin for Emergency Dentistry

By Dr. Thomas Martin

How do you know if your toothache warrants an emergency dentistry visit? Is a chipped tooth really a reason to see the dentist immediately? Can a dentist save a tooth that’s been knocked out? Dr. Thomas Martin offers emergency dentistry in Madison, TN.

Sometimes, it’s hard to discern whether a toothache or injury warrants an immediate dental visit. In today’s blog, you’ll learn when to seek dental treatment as soon as possible and when to simply schedule a dental appointment to see the dentist with a few weeks. We’ll also cover dental first aid, so should you experience or encounter someone who’s experienced a dental emergency, you’ll know the best way to respond.


From light, fleeting pain to an acute ache that keeps you from resting, toothaches come in all sizes. How can you know whether to make an appointment within the next week or get to the dentist immediately?

If oral pain keeps you from sleeping through the night or working, call Martin Dental Studio immediately. However, if your toothache only happens when eating or it comes and goes, it’s important not to ignore the pain. Schedule an appointment to visit us within the next few weeks or, if your schedule is flexible, ask to be on the waiting list for the next available appointment. When someone cancels, we’ll call you.

Toothaches can result from:

  • Cavities
  • Deep chips
  • Cracked teeth
  • Sinus issues
  • Gum disease
  • Internal tooth infection
  • Failed filling or crown
  • Accident/injury

For non-emergent toothaches you can take over-the-counter NSAID like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), aspirin, or acetaminophen (Tylenol). You might want to use OraJel, a topical analgesic, before bed or when the ache flares. A warm salt water rinse can ease oral pain, too.

If you like homeopathy, put a drop of clove oil on the aching tooth. An ice pack in a towel can be placed over the cheek on the side of the toothache to relieve swelling and pain, as well. 

Tooth Chip or Crack

Though teeth are quite strong, biting on a walnut shell, fork, or hard seed can cause a chip and in some cases, a crack. Injury from a blow to the face may also result in dental damage. Whether you need to seek emergency dentistry depends on the severity of the damage and your pain level.

Chips and cracks may be caused by:

  • Biting a hard object
  • Trauma (falls, car accidents, physical violence, etc.)
  • Grinding or gnashing teeth (often while sleeping)
  • Habitual chewing of gum, ice, pen caps, etc.

Generally, chips and cracks usually occur in people over 50 years of age. Teeth with cavities are more likely to break than healthy teeth. Most chips occur on top front or lower back teeth. However, a person of any age can experience a dental chip or crack on any tooth. 

Small cracks and chips may not require immediate care. Sometimes, you won’t see or even feel the effects of the damage. Dr. Martin may find the evidence at your next dental checkup. However, when a crack or chip extends past tooth enamel into the dentin, pain usually occurs.

Cracks may cause pain when you consume hot or cold foods or when you bite down. A dental crack can occur below the gum line, as well. When a tooth is broken in such a way that the core of the tooth is exposed, where the nerve resides, the patient can experience acute pain and should seek emergency dental care by calling Martin Dental Studio so that Dr. Martin can seal the tooth until a restoration is prepared.

If you experience pain from a cracked or chipped tooth and the core is not exposed, you may place ice wrapped in a cloth on the cheek over the affected tooth or on the gums. You can also rinse with salt water and take NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), aspirin, or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Dislodged Tooth

A fierce blow to the face from accidents like falls, sports injuries, and car wrecks can knock out one or more teeth. When this occurs, try to find the dislodged tooth, rinse away dirt, and insert the tooth into its socket. In some cases, replacing the tooth into the socket can allow the nerve to re-attach (though this is not the norm). If you can find the tooth, place it in a container and submerge it in your saliva or milk. Immediately call Martin Dental Studio and head to our office for emergency dentistry. 

Of course, if a child’s baby tooth (primary or milk teeth) is knocked out, it’s important to see Dr. Martin to make sure any unseen damage is addressed, but the tooth need not be replaced. It would eventually fall out naturally and be replaced by a permanent tooth.

Note that if you experience a knocked-out tooth and don’t seek emergency care, you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Martin. If part of the tooth’s root is still in the jaw, it will need to be removed so that infection doesn’t set in. 

Soft-Tissue Lacerations

Fortunately, our soft oral tissues heal quickly. If you’ve ever bitten your tongue or had a mouth ulcer, you’ve experienced this prompt healing firsthand. Small cuts (lacerations) that stop bleeding after 10 minutes of applying pressure do not warrant a call to your regular physician or dentist. 

Large, ragged, gaping, or deep cuts on the lips, cheeks, tongue, and gums may require stitches to stop the bleeding and prevent infection. In addition to stitches, you may need a tetanus shot.

A mouth wound on a child under a year old always warrants a call to the pediatrician or family physician.

For wounds that stop bleeding within 10 minutes, you can place ice, wrapped in a towel, on the cheek over the affected tooth or on the gums. A warm salt water rinse and taking Tylenol or Motrin can help alleviate pain. However, if you are unable to fully open and close your mouth or you experience severe pain a few hours after taking over-the-counter pain medication, call your physician.

If you notice a fever and an increase in pain and swelling after sustaining an oral laceration, you may have developed an infection. Call your physician for a next-available appointment or, if the pain is significant or if the fever is higher than 102 degrees, go to your local ER or urgent care center.

If you play sports of any kind, wearing a mouthguard can protect the soft oral tissues inside your mouth, as well as your teeth, from injury. Ask Dr. Martin about comfortable, custom-fitted mouthguards, or purchase a boil-and-bite mouthguard at your local sporting goods store.

Dislocated or Broken Jaw

Traumatic injury like a blow to the face, fall, car accident, or physical violence can result in a broken jaw. Sometimes it’s not visually obvious that a jaw is broken. If you experience or witness any of the symptoms below, call your physician or visit the local ER or urgent care center.

Symptoms of a broken jaw:

  • Pain in the face, jaw, front of the ear that worsens with movement
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Bruising and swelling of the face
  • Pain or problems chewing, talking
  • Stiffness in the jaw
  • Jaw moves to the side when you open your mouth
  • Difficulty fully opening or closing the mouth (drooling)
  • Bump or lump on the jaw or under the cheek
  • Face or jaw numbness (lower lip in particular)
  • Bite feels strange; upper and lower teeth don’t fit together any more
  • Jaw protrudes forward or locks in place

A broken jaw needs immediate attention. 

Emergency Dentistry in Madison, TN

We suggest that you enter our phone number into your cell phone right now, so when a dental emergency arises help will be at your fingertips, literally. Call Martin Dental Studio at 615-865-2260. Our office is located in Madison and we are accepting new patients!