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Emergency Dentist: All You Need to Know

Haleigh Pouliot

Written by Haleigh Pouliot

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An emergency dentist is a general dentist who makes themselves available to treat unexpected and dental urgent cases.

When to See an Emergency Dentist?

What exactly constitutes a dental emergency?

Well, the biggest sign may be that excruciating pain in your mouth that has you hurrying to find an urgent dental care office that can see you right away.

You should be aware, however, that there are some kinds of emergencies that even an emergency dentist cannot treat.

when to see an emergency dentist
emergency dentist when to go

For example, if you have severe bleeding from your mouth or have just been in a traumatic accident that damaged your face, then you should go to the emergency room or call an ambulance. A regular dental office isn’t usually equipped to handle a situation that severe.

Additionally, if you’re having a severe and unexpected allergic reaction to a dental material or medication your dentist prescribed, then you should contact another emergency provider instead of your dentist. The same goes for if you start experiencing symptoms like fever, vomiting, difficulty breathing, or seizures that may be related to a dental problem.

You should also consider calling 911 if your dental emergency happens outside normal office hours. Most emergency dentists maintain availability in their daily schedules to see patients with dental emergencies, but they aren’t available to take calls and see patients at odd times like the middle of the night.

There are some clinics that almost exclusively treat dental emergencies. These offices are staffed by dentists and assistants who work in shifts so that there’s always someone available to handle emergencies, even during holidays and in the middle of the night.

You can locate one of these clinics by searching for a 24/7 emergency dentist in your area. This is a good backup to have in case you experience a dental emergency outside of the time your regular dentist is available.

Just remember that even a 24/7 emergency dental clinic isn’t the same as an emergency room in a hospital. They can only address true dental emergencies and not other kinds of traumatic injuries.

On the other hand, you don’t want to take an unnecessary trip to the emergency room. So how can you know if you have a true dental emergency?

Common dental emergencies include problems like:

Dental emergencies aren’t usually black-and-white, but fall on a continuum in terms of severity and urgency. When you call an emergency dentist, you will likely have to explain your condition over the phone so that they can screen your situation and determine whether or not you need to be seen right away.

Before Seeing an Emergency Dentist

If you aren’t sure whether your situation qualifies as a dental emergency, ask yourself these questions:

If you can answer yes to any of those questions, then you have a justifiable dental emergency. But if you still aren’t sure, then it’s perfectly fine to call an emergency dentist to see what they think.

It’s wise to be prepared for a dental emergency to the best of your ability. Prepare by having the phone numbers of your regular dentist and an emergency dentist somewhere that you can access at a moment’s notice. You may even want to back a kit of emergency dental supplies that you can have handy if you expect to travel to a place where you won’t be near an emergency dentist or if you’ll be participating in an activity where there’s a risk of suffering an injury to the mouth.

Seeing an Emergency Dentist with Insurance

Whether you’re seeing your regular dentist in an emergency or visiting an emergency dental clinic, make sure that you have up-to-date insurance information. It’s good to keep your current records somewhere handy such as keeping a card in your wallet. This way, you can grab what you need in a hurry as you head to the dentist.

If you don’t have your documentation with you, then this can add more time to your check-in process at the office and have you waiting in pain for longer than necessary.

Check with your dental insurer to find out which emergency dentists in your area are in network. This way, if you have to see a different dentist for your emergency appointment, at least you can rest easy knowing that you’re covered.

Seeing an Emergency Dentist Without Insurance

Finding an emergency dentist when you don’t have insurance can be a little anxiety-inducing. If you have a dental emergency, then now may be a good time to get established with a new dentist who can see you and treat your emergency.

Look up a dental office in your area that accepts emergency cases and offer some kind of financing options for patients without dental insurance. You will likely find an emergency dentist who becomes a reliable regular dentist for you from now on.

Consider the urgency of your situation before you start searching for an emergency dentist without insurance. If you panic, you might agree to visit the first dentist you find and then end up with another huge shock when you get the bill.

If your emergency can wait a day or so, then you’ll have time to shop around for a more affordable emergency dental care provider. Check out the dental school program at the nearest university, for example. Just about every dental school offers emergency dental services. Since the dental school students are still learning, you can get quality treatment from them at a fraction of the cost of seeing a more experienced provider.

In the meantime, you can alleviate dental discomfort by gently swishing with warm salt water and taking the same kind of over-the-counter painkiller that you’d take for a headache (excluding aspirin which can aggravate bleeding).

Finding an Emergency Dentist Near You

Once you’ve determined that you have an actual dental emergency on your hands (or in your mouth, we should say), then it’s time to quickly locate a dentist who can help you.

How to Find an Emergency Dentist

In your search for an emergency dentist, you might start by calling your regular dentist. This is a good first step since your regular dentist knows you best and already has records of your medical and dental history as well as documentation of your allergies and current insurance information. This will speed up your check-in process and help you get relief and treatment as soon as possible, which is naturally ideal in an emergency situation.

But not all general dental practices are open at all times to see emergency patients. If your regular dentist isn’t available, you’ll have to start asking friends and family members for recommendations or do a quick Internet search to find an emergency dentist near you.

find an emergency dentist

It’s still a good idea to call your regular dentist in a dental emergency even if you know they won’t be open, however. The practice number may have some helpful information or recommend another number that you can call in an emergency.

You can also check out here to get more info about this emergency dentist network that locates and coordinates treatment with emergency dentists in your area who can be available to see dental emergencies at any time. You can see the extensive list of locations they have listed right on their website, but you can contact the network via the main number listed at the top of their page.

How Much Is an Emergency Dentist?

Despite your dental pain and fear, you still can’t help wondering: how much does it cost to visit an emergency dentist?

Cost of seeing an emergency dentist with insurance

Seeing your dentist for an emergency appointment shouldn’t cost more than visiting them for a regular appointment. You should pay the same rate for services provided in an emergency as you would if they were provided under different circumstances and your insurance should cover them at the same rate.

However, keep in mind that your insurance plan may have a deductible or coverage limitations that could leave you with some unexpected costs in a dental emergency. Let’s say you’ve already had two crowns placed in the past year and your insurance only pays for two. If you need one more crown to fix a broken tooth in an emergency, then that expense will be on you.

Cost of seeing an emergency dentist without insurance

An emergency dentist can let you know their rates before starting treatment if you don’t have dental insurance to help you determine whether or not you can afford them. Emergency dentists also may be able to set you up with special financing, if you need.

Taking preventative measures is the best way to save money if you don’t have insurance that covers a dental emergency. You can prevent many an emergency simply by taking good care of your teeth and by getting small but important dental treatment done promptly.

For example, paying $200 out of pocket for a little dental filling might not seem like an urgent or worthwhile expense. But that’s much more manageable than paying close to $1,000 for an emergency root canal.

So if you don’t have dental insurance, definitely don’t wait for an emergency to pop up before seeking care.


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