Is a broken tooth an emergency?

There are many dental issues that require immediate attention, but not every broken tooth is an emergency. In some cases where the damage is minor, a patient can wait until their next scheduled appointment while seeking temporary relief from over the counter medications. It is not always clear when an emergency appointment is necessary. Depending on the severity of the fracture, immediate medical intervention is recommended, but not always necessary.

Understanding Dental Emergencies

When a tooth is merely chipped or has a small crack, an emergency visit is not necessary. These small, though sometimes painful, problems can be addressed during regularly scheduled visits. Larger fractures or otherwise broken teeth do require calling a dentist to schedule a same-day appointment. Some may be severe enough to warrant a hospital emergency room or urgent care facility visit so that appropriate medical care can be administered as soon as a dentist or oral surgeon can be located.

Knowing when to seek emergency treatment

Tooth fractures are some of the most common dental emergencies. It is not unusual to break a tooth or teeth while engaging in sports, eating certain foods, falling, or other accidental impacts to the mouth or face. While these activities can result in severe tooth injuries, the most common broken teeth are considered non-emergencies: minor fractures and chipped teeth.

While sometimes painful, these smaller breaks do not require an immediate visit to a dentist or hospital because there is generally no real peril to the patient’s overall health. These instances can be repaired during the patient’s regularly scheduled appointment.

Major tooth fractures, however, will require emergency dental care. These more serious injuries are differentiated by a large chunk of tooth coming loose or being removed entirely and are intensely painful. When a severe tooth injury occurs, immediate dental attention is paramount.

Where to go for a dental emergency

A patient who has suffered a serious tooth injury can often go to their regular dentist for emergency care. Many dentists have time reserved for emergency or same-day visits from patients in need, so the first attempt at treatment should be to the patient’s regular dentist or other dentists in the area.

As with many other unanticipated crises, a broken tooth may occur at an inconvenient time. Most dental offices keep usual business hours, but will often have an emergency answering service or pre-recorded instructions that can direct a patient to a professional that can help them if the need occurs at night or during a holiday. Always remember that a hospital will also be able to assist a patient suffering from serious tooth injuries as many emergency rooms keep dental professionals on staff or on call.


While many tooth injuries are painful, not all require immediate attention and an emergency visit to a dentist. Depending on the severity, over the counter medication and regular maintenance will suffice until a patient's next scheduled dental appointment. If a large portion of tooth is broken, however, it is advised to immediately seek medical attention. Many dentists have the ability to fit in emergency visits, though not always, so it is best to be flexible.

Why did a piece of my tooth break off