Even though you need to see a dentist if an emergency dental problem arises, there are steps you can take to prevent permanent tooth damage. In many cases, you may help save your tooth if you know how to handle a dental emergency until you can get professional dental care.

Knocked Out or Broken Tooth

If one of your teeth gets knocked out, you need to see a dentist as quickly as possible—preferably within 30 minutes after the incident happens. Hold the tooth by the crown so that you don't disturb any tissue fragments on the root. Carefully rinse the tooth with water.

Place the tooth back in its socket, but don't force it. Gently bite down on the tooth to hold it in place or use your fingers to hold it in the socket. If you can't get the tooth back in place, put it in a cup of milk until you get to the dentist's office. You need to keep the tooth moist, but don't put it in regular tap water.

If a tooth isn't knocked out, but it chips or breaks off, collect any pieces. Rinse your mouth and the broken pieces with warm water. Apply gauze to the area until any bleeding stops.

Lost Filling or Crown

Decay that develops between the tooth and a filling or crown can cause the restorative material to come loose and fall out. Unfortunately, exposed tooth tissue can be sensitive and painful.

If a filling falls out, fill the space with some sugarless gum and then call your dentist. In the event that he or she can't see you right away, you can use an over-the-counter dental cement as a temporary fix.

If a crown falls off, clean the inside of the crown and then coat it with denture adhesive, an over-the-counter dental cement, or petroleum jelly to hold it in place. Slip the crown back over the tooth until you can see your dentist. You may not have to see your dentist that same day, but waiting too long can result in more damage to the tooth the crown normally protects.

Tooth Abscess

If you have an abscessed tooth, see your dentist as soon as possible to prevent bacterial infection from damaging gum tissue and teeth or spreading to other parts of the body. Severe tooth decay and gum disease are frequent causes of a tooth abscess.

When an abscess causes a throbbing toothache, rinse your mouth with a mild salt water solution to help ease pain until your dental appointment. You can also take an over-the-counter pain medication before you see your dentist. He or she will drain the abscess by making an incision in the infected gum tissue, performing root canal therapy, or extracting the tooth.

Learn more about what to do by contacting an emergency dentist.