Holiday Dental Emergency? Tips for handling the 6 Most Common Situations

It’s safe to say that no one wants to spend time in the dental chair over the holidays. After all, there’s a reason that holiday songs don’t mention toothaches or fillings! But, to make matters worse, it’s hard to get care for a dental emergency at this time because many dental offices are closed. Thankfully, there are some easy ways to handle an emergency so that you can get back to feeling joyful and merry – instead of dealing with dental pain! Keep reading below for tips on how to handle the 6 most common scenarios you might encounter.



Whether it’s a permanent or temporary crown, this usually happens when you’re chewing, so hopefully you can avoid swallowing it. Gently rinse and dry the crown and put a dab of dental cement from the drugstore in it (or toothpaste in a pinch) before putting it back over the tooth.

Don’t try to glue the crown back on with super glue or any kind of adhesive! That will make the dentist’s job more difficult when you arrive for treatment.


Call a dentist’s emergency number right away, even if it’s a holiday. The sooner you can be seen, the better the chance of saving the tooth (preferably within a couple of hours). In the meantime, gently pick up the tooth by the crown, not the root, and rinse it off (be sure not to scrub it). Then try to put the tooth back in its socket, facing the correct way.

If you aren’t able to do that, it’s crucial that the tooth stays moist until you can be seen, so put it in a glass of cold milk. You can also put it in a cup of water or hold it in your cheek pouch as a last resort.


Start by gently flossing the area to remove any food debris and then swish with lukewarm salt water several times. Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling and take over-the-counter pain medication as directed until your appointment.


If you have a swollen cheek or notice a pimple-like bump on your gums, you may have a serious infection. This can spread to other areas of the body and become dangerous if it’s left untreated, so call a dentist right away. They may prescribe an antibiotic over the phone or arrange to see you as soon as possible.

Until you’re seen, you can use over-the-counter pain medication and apply a cold pack to the area for 20 minutes at a time.


To manage any tenderness or pain, apply a cold compress to your cheek and take an over-the-counter pain medication as directed. Avoid hard or crunchy foods.


If you’re in pain, call a dentist right away and take your usual over-the-counter pain medication until you can get care. If you’re not in pain and simply have a sharp edge, you can use dental wax or cement from the drugstore to cover the area.

Also, avoid chewing on hard or crunchy foods so you don’t break the tooth further.

Hopefully, you won’t experience any of these emergencies this holiday season. But if you do, you’ll be better prepared to handle them so you can get back to enjoying yourself!


Dr. Jerry Bock is a general, cosmetic and restorative dentist with decades of experience who is committed to professional excellence. He knows how much dental emergencies can put a damper on the holidays and is always a phone call away to advise patients on the best way to handle them. If you have any other questions, he can be reached via his website or at (773) 358-2966.

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