What is Considered a Dental Emergency?

Karim Shokraee 8 minute read Published: 23/05/2023 Last updated: 5/11/2023

Dental emergencies that are appropriate for an urgent dental appointment include:

  • Severe toothache that has required painkillers or has disturbed your sleep
  • A chipped, cracked or broken tooth
  • Swelling inside the mouth or in the face area caused by a dental problem.
  • Pain and swelling around a wisdom tooth
  • A loose tooth causing pain
  • Trauma such as broken or knocked out teeth
  • Any signs of infection related to the teeth or gums
  • A lost filling, especially if this is causing pain or cosmetic embarrassment


Critical Dental Emergencies

Some emergencies may be classed as critical.  These are serious emergencies which could potentially be life threatening.  These are unlikely to be suitable for an emergency dental appointment in a dental practice and are more likely to need urgent hospital care.  If you have any of the following go Accident and emergency or call 999.

  • Facial swelling affecting vision or breathing, preventing mouth opening more than 2 fingers width.
  • Facial swelling affecting the eyes or causing tightness in the neck
  • Fever and high temperature due to a dental infection. Please see information from the Sepsis alliance
  • Trauma causing loss of consciousness, double vision or vomiting.
  • Severe trauma involving other injuries rather than just teeth
  • Heavy or uncontrolled bleeding.


Is a Broken Tooth a Dental Emergency?

Yes, sometimes a broken tooth is considered a dental emergency, though some broken teeth or chips are very minor and unlikely to progress if untreated.  Other broken teeth are the result of deep underlying decay and could start to give severe pain if untreated.  It is very difficult to know whether a broken tooth is an emergency without assessing it.  If in doubt we would recommend having a broken tooth checked


Is a Chipped Tooth a Dental Emergency?

Patients often use the terms chipped tooth, broken tooth, fractured tooth to mean the same things.  Often the best way to tell is with an appointment to assess the chip. If the chip is small and pain-free, it may not be a dental emergency. The chip could also be a sign that the tooth underneath is decaying and attention sooner rather than later would be beneficial.


Is Wisdom Tooth Pain an Emergency?

Wisdom tooth pain can vary from mild and uncomfortable to severe pain and swelling. Often pain from wisdom teeth is caused by bacteria that is affecting the gum surrounding the wisdom tooth. This is called pericoronitis. Generally speaking mild pain can be managed with home measures such as good oral hygiene and mouthwashes.  More severe pain, if you are struggling to eat, if it becomes harder to open your mouth wide,  if there is any swelling or if you have pain which is not managed by other means then this would be considered a dental emergency. You can find out more about wisdom tooth pain on one of our other learning centre pages.


Is an Abscess a Dental Emergency?

If you have a swelling in your mouth or on your gums then this is likely to be a dental abscess.

A dental abscess can become very painful and the area of infection can spread.  In almost all cases a dental abscess would be considered an emergency and you should seek urgent care.

How Do I Get An Emergency Dental Appointment?

You can choose to book an emergency dental appointment either privately or through the NHS.  Private appointments are usually made by contacting the practice directly.  At the Vallance Dental Centre we offer comprehensive dental emergency appointment service with experienced clinicians and transparent pricing.

To book an NHS urgent appointment…  If you are registered at an NHS practice contact the practice direct.  If you are not registered or if your practice is closed then call 111 or 0333 332 3800 (Greater Manchester area only).


Book an Emergency Dental Appointment at the Vallance Dental Centre

If you are a registered NHS patient please call our reception. Urgent NHS appointments are reserved daily and released at 8.30am each morning.

For private dental emergencies (which includes unregistered patients) the quickest way to book your appointment is through our appointment portal, where you can view all available appointment times live in our diaries.

You can also telephone us any Monday – Friday from 8:30am until 8pm Wednesday until 5:30pm and Saturday until 1pm on 0161 273 5998 and speak to a member of our reception team.

Find out more about making an Emergency Dentist Appointment.

Can I Get an Emergency Appointment if I am Not Registered?

Anyone can get a private emergency dental appointment.  You do not need to be registered and you do not need to be a local resident.  Similarly, anyone can call the NHS dental emergency help line on 0333 332 3800 to try to get an NHS appointment regardless of whether they are Manchester residents or visitors.


What to Expect at an Emergency Appointment

Assuming you are unregistered and attending for a private emergency appointment you can expect the following at your emergency appointment:

  • A medical history will be taken so we understand a little about your general health
  • You will be asked to pay our initial consultation fee (£50)
  • The dentist will listen to your description problem (take the history) and ask any relevant questions
  • The dentist will examine the problem area of your mouth and do any additional tests including x-rays
  • At this stage, in the majority of cases the dentist can give you their diagnosis of the problem and give you the options to treat this problem.
  • All of the above is covered by your initial fee
  • Following the consultation and diagnosis you will be given treatment options and costs for ongoing treatment. Our emergency prices are transparent and can be viewed
  • Treatment options may include tooth extraction, fillings, temporary fillings, removing the nerve (extirpation) from a tooth, antibiotics if there is infection. In many cases the treatment may be completed in the emergency appointment but where more complex options are chosen (eg root canal treatment) this can be started but not completed.  As a minimum we will always aim to relieve your immediate pain in that initial emergency visit.
  • Should you require local anaesthetic you will be told and we will ask for your full consent before providing any treatment.
  • No treatment will be provided without the full knowledge and consent of the patient and the patient has the right to stop their treatment at any time.
  • At the end of your treatment you will be given a summary of your consultation and advice on seeking ongoing care should you need it.


Additional Information About Dental Emergencies

Most dental emergencies can be managed in general practice.  If your problem requires more specialist services the Vallance Dental Centre can arrange the appropriate referrals both on the NHS or privately

For advice on managing minor problems yourself please find the useful information on other sections of our website

To register at the Vallance Dental Centre as a patient for a none urgent matter you can find out how to join the practice.

Manchester NHS Urgent Dental Care Service 0333 332 3800 (Available every day 8:00-22:00 including weekends and bank holidays.)

For severe emergencies go to the nearest A & E department. Our local A&E Department is at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, Upper Brook St, Manchester M13 9NZ. View on Google Maps.

The local paediatric hospital department is at the Manchester Dental Hospital, Higher Cambridge St, Manchester M15 6FH. View on Google Maps.


Contact The Vallance Dental Centre