In response to the spread of the novel coronavirus and its resultant illness COVID-19, the American Dental Association has asked all dentists to suspend elective dental procedures. The goal is to make sure we have enough capacity to handle dental emergencies so they don’t need to go to the emergency room. 

We can help you with a dental emergency during this time. However, how do you know if you have a dental emergency? Here are some cases of dental emergencies that you should contact us about. 

Man with toothache holds the side of this face


Toothaches can be a sign that you have an infected (or abscessed) tooth, which should be treated as an emergency. Left untreated, a tooth infection can spread through the body, leading to serious, sometimes fatal infections. However, when treated with root canal therapy, an infected tooth can be restored to healthy function and an attractive appearance. 

Here are symptoms that show you might have an infected tooth:

  • Painful tooth is discolored
  • Sores on gums near infected tooth
  • Foul smell or taste from tooth
  • Pus or discharge from tooth
  • Local warmth 
  • Fever

If you have several of these symptoms associated with your painful tooth, consider it an emergency and seek treatment right away. 

A Note about Fever: Fever is a generalized symptom of infection, and it’s one of the symptoms of COVID-19. If you have other COVID-19 symptoms, such as coughing or difficulty breathing, or if you’ve been exposed to someone with a documented case of COVID-19, please seek treatment with a doctor. 

Objects Stuck in Teeth

Objects stuck in your teeth can sometimes be considered a dental emergency. They can lead to infection if left untreated. However, you should first try to handle the situation at home. 

First, try to remove the object with normal dental care tools, such as dental floss, toothpicks, water flosser, etc. Never use a tool not designed for use on your teeth. 

Do not panic if you can’t remove it right away. However, if the object is causing you serious pain, please contact us. If it’s not, leave it alone for several hours, then try again to remove it using dental tools. If you can’t remove it, contact us for help. 

Tooth Trauma

Tooth trauma can be an emergency if it knocked out, loosened, or cracked a tooth. If you knocked out a tooth, treat it as an emergency. First, locate the tooth. Pick it up only by the crown (the white part that’s normally visible). Don’t touch the root. If the tooth is dirty, clean it under water. Store the tooth in saliva or warm salt water, and contact us immediately. If you don’t have a handy way to put the tooth in a liquid bath, you can store it in your mouth. If it fits easily back in place, you can put it there (making sure it’s facing the right way), but don’t force it. It’s as good to put it between your cheek and gums. Often, a knocked out tooth will heal, but if not we can replace the lost tooth

A loose tooth that feels like it might come out should also be considered an emergency. A tooth that wiggles a little can be left alone for a few hours to see if it stabilizes, but if it remains loose, contact us. 

A chipped tooth can be either cosmetic or serious. One of the easiest ways to tell the difference is suck in air over the chipped tooth. If this causes you sharp, serious pain, then you might have exposed the tooth pulp (the living inner part of the tooth), which is vulnerable to infection. This should be considered an emergency. Observe any chipped tooth and see if it shows signs of infection over the next few days. 

Lost Restorations

Large animated tooth next to a first aid kitIf you lose a small filling, this might not be an emergency. Test it as you would a chipped tooth: suck in air over the tooth and see if it causes sharp pain. In addition, if a filling creates a hole in your tooth that you can’t clean, you should contact us to replace the filling. 

If you lose a crown, veneer, or bridge, that should be replaced quickly. Contact us immediately. 

Always See a Dentist for a Dental Emergency

If you have a dental emergency, it’s best to see a dentist, rather than go to the emergency room. Right now, it’s especially important because local emergency rooms either are or might soon be overwhelmed. But it’s always a good idea. 

A dentist is better equipped to handle dental emergencies than an emergency department at the hospital. At the hospital, they will triage you lower on their priority list, which means you can spend a long time waiting for help. When you do get help, you might be given a treatment for the immediate problem (such as antibiotics), then sent away without a long-term solution. Or they might decide to take the simplest solution and pull a tooth that might be saved. 

At our office, we can handle your problem quickly and efficiently. We can plan a solution that not only restores the health and function of your tooth, but preserves your smile as well. 

If you are looking for an emergency dentist in St. Louis, please call (314) 678-7876 today for an appointment at City Smiles.