When to See an Emergency Dentist vs. Going to the ER By Bruce Wilderman on December 11, 2020

Closeup of woman with a toothacheWith sudden pain and dental emergencies, having a plan can save hours of agonizing pain and further harm. No matter what, it is always good to be well prepared. You may be wondering when to see an emergency dentist vs. going to the ER.

At Artistic Expressions Dentistry, we can help you determine which is appropriate. We’ve helped countless patients in Philadelphia and Doylestown, PA, and all of Bucks County. When you speak with one of our expert emergency dentists, they can answer your questions and schedule emergency appointments if necessary. We will guide you on whether your dental issue needs immediate action or if it is okay to wait for a dental visit.

What Constitutes a Dental Emergency?

First, it is important to understand what constitutes a dental emergency. It is important to note that most emergency rooms do not have dentists on hand. If you run into any of the following, instead reach out to your emergency dentist immediately.


Substantial bleeding is a sign of a serious dental issue. If your gums or teeth start bleeding spontaneously, that could be a sign of a serious problem as well. Bleeding gums from flossing is not an emergency, although it does typically indicate signs of periodontitis. Blunt force to the mouth which causes bleeding may not need dental work. Call an emergency dentist about bleeding from your gums or a tooth.

Severe Pain

Whenever tooth pain becomes unbearable, visit your dentist as soon as soon as you can. This threshold is different from person to person, so do not worry if you are unsure whether the pain warrants an emergency dentist call. If a toothache passes your pain threshold, reach out immediately.

Knocked Out Tooth

If you act quickly, a knocked out tooth can be reattached by an emergency dentist. If your tooth gets forcibly removed through trauma and you are able to locate the tooth, handle it by the chewing surface; the other end of the tooth contains delicate fibers and tissues that are critical for reattachment. Place the tooth in a cup of milk or water and reach out to an emergency dentist.

Swollen Cheeks or Jawline

Infection can spread from the teeth and gums to your cheeks or jaw. When this happens, pain and discomfort usually accompany the inflammation. This can lead to serious issues, so set up an appointment with a dentist as soon as possible.

Abscessed Tooth

When pus builds in or around a tooth, it is referred to as an abscessed tooth. When inside a tooth, it can be deadly serious, spreading to the surrounding bone tissue, and potentially infecting other parts of the body as well. Look for a swollen lump on your gums by the painful tooth. This indicates an abscessed tooth and should be treated by a dentist immediately.

When Should I Visit the ER Instead?

The emergency room is better suited for severe, life-threatening trauma. We recommend calling 911 over an emergency dentist for the following situations.

Severe Face or Jaw Trauma

A broken jaw or lacerations to the face require the attention of ER doctors and surgeons. Bleeding profusely from the face warrants an ER visit before visiting the dentist.

Difficulty Breathing

Swollen cheeks and tongues can restrict airflow. If you find yourself having trouble breathing, this is life-threatening and must be treated immediately. Emergency room doctors can help.

Untreated Infection

If you have had an infection for more than a couple weeks, it may have spread. If you are experiencing any fatigue, soreness, or pain, especially around the face, neck, or jaws, you may need to see an ER doctor. The problem may be beyond the realm of dentistry.

Call Us for a Dental Appointment Today

Our practice is ready to answer any questions you may have. Give us a call at (215) 340-1199 or send us a message online to schedule an appointment today.

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Dr. Wilderman on cover of suburban life

Artistic Expressions Dentistry

Dr. Bruce Wilderman has been providing comprehensive cosmetic dentistry services since 1986. By combining a true sense of artistry with state-of-the-art technology, he can provide stunning results. At Artistic Expressions Dentistry, we are proud to be affiliated with:

  • The American Dental Association
  • The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry

For more information about our services, contact our practice online or call (215) 340-1199 today.

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