How to get an emergency dentist appointment

If you’re experiencing a serious dental problem or you’re in considerable pain, the best thing you can do is to see a dentist as quickly as possible. Luckily, surgeries offer what’s known as an emergency appointment to cater for this kind of situation.[1] But what do you need to do to get an emergency dentist appointment, and what should you do if one isn’t available?

How do I get an emergency NHS dentist appointment?

Firstly, you should assess the nature of the emergency. If you or someone else has an injury, heavy bleeding or excessive swelling to any area of the head or face, it’s best to go straight to A&E for treatment. This is because the situation may be more serious and you might need other medical assistance rather than just dental treatment.

If a trip to A&E isn’t necessary, then your next step should be to contact your current dentist surgery to see if they have any emergency appointments available. Many surgeries keep a few slots free throughout the day for this exact scenario, although availability can be affected by other appointments overrunning, absences in the staff and other pressures. However, it’s worth checking with your surgery, as you may be able to see someone within as little as 24 hours. Surgeries will have an answerphone message during out-of-hours periods that give you more information on what to do should you need an appointment at night.[1]

If you aren’t currently registered with a surgery, you have a couple of options to try and secure an emergency appointment. One option is to access the NHS ‘Find a dentist’ service. This simple to use database allows you to input your postcode or local area to find your nearest dental practices. You can then try calling each surgery until you find one that has an emergency appointment available. You don’t necessarily need to register with that surgery, particularly if treatment is urgent.

Alternatively, you could call NHS 111 and speak to an advisor. They can help you to find the information you need about local practices, out-of-hours surgeries and what you can do to manage your symptoms while waiting for an appointment.[2]

When should you see an emergency dentist?

Emergency appointments should be saved for people who have any of the following:[1]

  • Swelling of the gum or face
  • Extreme pain that causes a lack of sleep
  • Mouth ulcers that have been present for over 14 days
  • Bleeding caused by a tooth extraction that hasn’t stopped for over 20 minutes
  • A broken tooth that is causing pain
  • A knocked-out tooth

However, not every incident is considered an emergency, and there are some circumstances where you should try to book a normal appointment within the next couple of weeks. These might include:[1]

  • Minor toothache
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Bleeding gums
  • Mouth ulcers that have been present for under 10 days
  • A broken tooth that doesn’t hurt

Remember that to keep your mouth as healthy as possible and avoid oral problems, you should brush and floss your teeth and gums regularly. Dentek’s Triple Clean Floss Picks use multifilament textured floss to remove food particles and bacteria from between your teeth, with an added fluoride coating to help keep your teeth in good condition.[3]

How to book an emergency dentist appointment

When you contact a surgery that has an emergency appointment slot available, they’ll book that appointment for you while you’re on the phone. The surgery’s representative may ask for details about your symptoms to better understand what treatment may be required, and they’ll check with you to make sure that you’ll be able to make the date and time of the appointment.

It’s a good idea to note down the time and date so you don’t forget. And if you’ll be going to a surgery you’ve never visited before, make a note of the address and postcode. You might also find it helpful to familiarise yourself with the location either in person or using a map. This can help to make getting to your appointment on time easier when you’re in pain.[1]

What to do if you can’t get an emergency dentist appointment?

Unfortunately, getting an emergency dentist appointment within 24 hours isn’t always possible.[1] If this is the case, there are some temporary, at-home solutions available that may help to manage your symptoms until you can see a dentist.

Dentek’s First Aid Kit is ideal for problems such as loose crowns or caps, or a dislodged tooth. This kit contains a ‘tooth saver’ vial in case your tooth has come loose – this protects the tooth for a while so that a dentist can reimplant it later. It’s best to do this within 48 hours, although the sooner it can be done, the better.

If the problem is a loose cap, crown or filling, don’t worry. The first aid kit contains a temporary filling solution – similar to the one dentists use – so that you can eat and drink more easily while you wait for an appointment. Again, this is most effective when a proper fix is carried out within 48 hours – and you shouldn’t try to remove the filling material yourself. This could cause more damage, so it should only be done by a licensed dentist.

Do you have to pay for an emergency dentist?

For most of us, dental care isn’t free, so it’s likely you will need to pay for your emergency appointment. You may also have to pay for additional treatment if this is needed. This is true whether you use an NHS dentist or go private, although prices will vary.[1]

How much does an emergency dentist cost?

In an emergency, a dentist will only deal with the current issue rather than giving you a full check up. When you book your emergency appointment, your surgery of choice will make the cost clear to you so that you know what to expect. You can ask them to reiterate the price of treatment to you if you’re not sure.

Some people are entitled to free dental care on the NHS. This includes those who:

  • Are receiving low income benefits (or are under 20 and a dependent of someone receiving such benefits)
  • Have had a baby in the last 12 months or are currently pregnant
  • Are being treated by an NHS hospital dentist (some charges may still apply for bridges or dentures)
  • Are under the age of 18, or under 19 and still in full time education

If one of these criteria applies to you, you should let the dental practice know before your emergency appointment begins. On top of all that, you shouldn’t need to pay for your emergency dental appointment if your dentures need repairing or the dentist has to stem bleeding in your mouth.[1]

Resources: 

[1] https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/dental-health/how-can-i-access-an-nhs-dentist-in-an-emergency-or-out-of-hours/

[2] https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/dentists/how-to-find-an-nhs-dentist/

[3] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-teeth-and-gums/how-to-keep-your-teeth-clean/

Neil Kotak
4/10/2023
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