What qualifies as emergency dental care?

July 16, 2021

What happens if you’re dealing with a sudden and severe dental problem in the middle of the night or outside of normal office hours? You’ll need to call your emergency dental clinic in Calgary right away. The question is, how do you know if the problem qualifies as emergency dental care and if it can wait until your dental clinic is open? Not every situation is considered an emergency - here’s how to recognize when it is.

Dental Care

Severe pain and bleeding

If you’re experiencing severe pain that does not go away or if your gums won’t stop bleeding, this is considered an emergency dental issue in Alberta. This is different from a toothache with pain that is manageable and bleeding that occurs when you’re flossing or brushing, which can indicate potential gum disease but is not considered a dental emergency. The rule of thumb is, if the pain and bleeding doesn’t stop, call for emergency dental services as soon as possible.

Loose teeth

It’s not normal for adults to have loose teeth. If you’ve experienced an injury that has resulted in a loose tooth, this is a serious problem and needs the attention of an emergency dentist right away.

Knocked out tooth

If your tooth is knocked out, it’s important to get emergency dental care quickly as your teeth can be saved if you act fast enough. Pick the tooth up by the crown (also known as the chewing surface), being extra careful not to touch the root. Gently rinse without scrubbing and, if possible, reinsert the tooth back into the socket. If this isn’t possible, place the tooth in a container of milk and head to your dentist.

Cracked or chipped tooth with pain

If you’ve chipped a tooth but it doesn’t cause any pain, it’s likely not an emergency. However, if the fracture is painful, it’s considered an emergency dental problem. Be very careful about a cracked or chipped tooth as the damage may not be obvious, but can be serious. Inspect the crack or chip closely and if there is a sign that a crack is up to the gumline, head to your dentist right away.

If you feel pain, gently clean your mouth with warm water and apply a cold compress on the outside of your face to reduce swelling. Avoid using a numbing gel as this can damage your gums - opt for acetaminophen instead for the pain.

Abscessed tooth

A dental abscess is a potentially life-threatening issue and needs to be treated as soon as possible. This dental condition is when the pocket of pus in the tooth has led to an infection that can spread to the jaw and other areas of the body. A dental abscess may cause fever, a persistent and painful toothache, swelling in the face, tender lymph nodes, small bumps on the gums near the infected tooth, and extreme tooth sensitivity to hot and cold.

Am I qualified for free emergency dental care in Calgary?

Alberta supports individuals who can’t afford dental procedures, including emergency dental care. To qualify, a patient must:

  • Be between the ages of 5-18 years old
  • Have no dental insurance
  • Prove low income (pay stubs, most recent notice of assessment from the CRA)
  • Have pain, visible decay, broken teeth, or an infection

What isn’t a dental emergency?

Sometimes, a problem that seems critical can wait until the next day. What’s not considered a dental emergency includes:

  • A dull but persistent toothache, as long as the pain is not severe and no other symptoms are present such as high fever, bumps on the gum, or swelling of the face.
  • A chipped tooth that does not hurt and there’s no visible crack going up to the gumline.
  • A lost crown or filling

If you’re unsure whether your issue is a dental emergency, call an emergency dentist's office and describe your situation. It’s better to be turned away for emergency dental care and see your regular dentist the next day than to wait and find out that the issue was indeed an emergency and it has led to more damage. Remember - when it comes to your teeth and gums, always err on the side of caution.

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