If you have had a tooth knocked out from playing sports, a fight, or any type of accident, then of course you need an emergency dentist. You should do everything you can to protect the area of the mouth that is missing the tooth and the actual tooth itself, as the dentist may be able to salvage it and reattach it to the gums. However, what if you haven't had a tooth knocked out but have noticed other dental conditions in your mouth? How do you know when one is a dental emergency versus times you can wait to make an appointment? Note a few factors to consider.
Missing a filling
If a filling has come out of your mouth, note how much of your tooth root or pulp is exposed. It may be that your tooth has eroded over the years due to acidic foods or poor oral hygiene, and the roots are now closer to the surface; having a filling knocked out may mean that they are exposed altogether. On the other hand, you may be missing a filling and note only a small cavity in the mouth with no exposed pulp. You don't want to wait too long to have the filling replaced, but if there are no tooth roots or nerves exposed, it may not be an actual dental emergency.
Swollen gums or cheeks
Swollen gums or the inside of the cheeks often means that there is an infection in your mouth, often caused by an abscessed tooth that is holding bacteria or which may have cut the gums. If the swelling is accompanied by pain and especially if it interferes with your breathing, you want to see a dentist right away. However, if you recently injured your mouth, then the swelling may simply be a result of that impact and it may go away soon enough. If the swelling and pain are not severe, you might wait a day or two to note if it recedes before assuming you need to see an emergency dentist.
Spots in the mouth
If spots in the mouth are not canker sores that you know will go away soon enough, you might want to visit a dentist as soon as possible. Those spots could be signs of oral cancer, and the sooner you have this treated, the better your chances of recovery. While you may not need to see an emergency dentist as soon as you notice those spots, call your dentist for the next available appointment and have your mouth checked as soon as possible.