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What Does an Emergency Dentist Do?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated Feb 04, 2024
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An emergency dentist takes care of dental emergencies. Generally, a dental emergency is one that involves extreme pain or tooth damage. For example, if a tooth needs immediate extraction or a filling or crown becomes detached and causes pain, it is a dental emergency. On the contrary, if a person needs his teeth professionally cleaned or has a cavity that needs filled but is painless, it is not a dental emergency. Most emergency dentists are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to handle dental emergencies whenever they occur, though availability of an emergency dentist often depends on a patient’s location.

Usually, an emergency dentist deals with situations involving intense pain and damage. Such urgent situations can include extreme tooth decay, an abscessed or infected tooth, or a shattered tooth. Often, emergency dentists perform extractions or, if the tooth is salvageable, fill a cavity. These dentists might also treat painful gums that are swollen due to infection or disease. Whether the dentist prescribes or provides any medication, such as pain medicine or antibiotics, depends on each patient’s specific situation and that dentist’s policy.

Some dental emergencies are more complicated than an extraction or filling. For example, an emergency dentist might need to perform an emergency root canal. If there is pain involved, he might replace a crown that has fallen out, or apply a temporary crown until the patient can make an appointment to obtain a permanent replacement. Similarly, if a tooth becomes cracked, but isn’t shattered or falling out, an emergency dentist might stabilize it until the patient’s regular dentist can repair it. People who lose teeth due to accidents or other injuries can visit emergency dentists for reimplantation.

Due to the nature of their profession, emergency dentists typically offer around-the-clock services. This means the office is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Thus, a patient who wakes up at three o’clock in the morning with a severe toothache can seek emergency dental services immediately, rather than waiting for business hours to make an appointment.

Unfortunately, emergency dentists are not located in all areas. Generally, big cities are home to one or several emergency dentists, while smaller, rural areas have dentists who work only traditional hours. For some patients, this means driving an hour or more to find an emergency dentist, but for others it means waiting until their regular dentist opens for business.

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