When your regular dentist's office is closed and you're faced with a dental problem, you may have only a couple options. Your dentist may have an emergency line you can call if you need help right away, but that's often a more expensive option than a regular visit. The other option is to visit an emergency room or instacare facility, which is guaranteed to be expensive. So, how do you know what's a dental emergency that needs attention right away and what can wait? Here are a few tips for figuring out if you need to see a dentist right away or if you can make a regular appointment.

What Is Not A Dental Emergency?

A chipped or cracked tooth is a common issue that many people consider a dental emergency. Although it can be uncomfortable and unattractive, in most cases it doesn't require immediate attention. The repair won't be negatively affected if you wait to make an appointment during regular office hours and avoid hard or chewy foods. The exception is if the chipped or cracked tooth is causing you a great deal of pain. At that point, you should consider it an emergency.

Similarly, a toothache is a common reason that people seek out emergency dental care. Like a chipped or cracked tooth, if the pain is not severe you can wait to make a regular appointment. However, if you're in a great deal of pain or you have a fever and swelling on your face or gums, you should consider it a dental emergency because those are signs of an abscess.

What Is A Dental Emergency? 

A tooth abscess is a severe and even life-threatening dental problem for which you should absolutely seek immediate care. An abscess forms when a pocket of pus in your tooth becomes infected by bacteria. There are two types of abscesses: periapical and periodontal. Periapical abscesses occur at the tip of the tooth's root while periodontal abscesses form in the gums next to a tooth. Symptoms of an abscess include fevers, severe throbbing pain in the tooth that can spread to the jaw and neck, pressure and temperature sensitivity, and swollen lymph nodes in your neck or jaw. An abscess requires immediate attention and treatment because the infection can spread and even become life-threatening. During a nine-year span between 2000 and 2008, over 61,000 people were hospitalized because of periapical abscesses. Fortunately, abscesses are preventable if you consistently practice good oral hygiene and if you make a regular appointment with a dental clinic when you first experience a toothache.