What Qualifies as a Dental Emergency or Urgent Care?

Updated: Feb 2

Dental Associations have been given guidelines regarding what qualifies as a dental emergency or conditions requiring urgent care.


Dental emergencies, according to the Canadian Dental Association, “are potentially life threatening and require immediate treatment to stop ongoing tissue bleeding or to alleviate severe pain or infection.” Conditions include uncontrolled bleeding; cellulitis or a diffuse soft tissue bacterial infection with intraoral or extraoral swelling that potentially compromises the patient’s airway; or trauma involving facial bones that potentially compromises the patient’s airway.”


As part of the emergency guidance, the Association added urgent dental care which “focuses on the management of conditions that require immediate attention to relieve severe pain and/or risk of infection and to alleviate the burden on hospital emergency departments.”

Examples of urgent dental care treatments, which should be treated as minimally invasively as possible, include: • Severe dental pain from pulpal inflammation. • Pericoronitis or third-molar pain. • Surgical postoperative osteitis or dry socket dressing changes. • Abscess or localized bacterial infection resulting in localized pain and swelling. • Tooth fracture resulting in pain or causing soft tissue trauma. • Dental trauma with avulsion/luxation. • Dental treatment cementation if the temporary restoration is lost, broken or causing gingival irritation. Other emergency dental care includes extensive caries or defective restorations causing pain; suture removal; denture adjustments on radiation/oncology patients; denture adjustments or repairs when function impeded; replacing temporary filling on endo access openings in patients experiencing pain; and snipping or adjustments of an orthodontic wire or appliances piercing or ulcerating the oral mucosa.

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