Emergency dental care is needed when you have undergone trauma, or your teeth develop some problem that makes it difficult to carry on with normal activity until you can reach your dentist. Some problems include severe pain, knocked-out or chipped teeth, lost crowns or fillings and intense bleeding, among others.

In the absence of an emergency dentist (you should always have a contact at hand unless your dentist offers emergency services), you should visit the Emergency Room of the nearest hospital. There are things you could do to ease the pain and are described below.

1. Severe toothaches

The level of pain may indicate how serious your problem is, but often toothaches start off mild and escalate when left untreated. You can reduce pain by taking over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Placing an ice pack wrapped in cloth to your cheek near the offending tooth can also numb the site to reduce pain. If you have swelling or bleeding, this could mean that you have active inflammation or infection. Icepacks can reduce swelling as well.

Before heading out to an emergency dentist, do not self-administer any medication (apart from a single dose of pain relievers) or try home remedies such as diluted bleach, lemon juice or food-grade hydrogen peroxide. Rinse your mouth with warm, mildly-salted water if there is bleeding. Any chemicals may corrode the site of pain and increase sensitivity or even cause more damage.

2. Lost temporary crowns

What you do if your crown falls out depends on whether or not you have the crown.

If you have it:

Go to your nearest pharmacy and get temporary dental cement or denture adhesive. If this isn't an option, a small amount of toothpaste will do. Make sure you examine the crown carefully to find the correct way it sits on your teeth. You can do this by placing on the site without adhesive and biting gently to see if it 'feels' right.

Once you know how to place it, follow instructions on the temporary cement and apply on your tooth site, then follow with the crown. You can then visit the dentist or ER to have it corrected.

If you've lost a crown, you should see a dentist within three days, or else neighbouring teeth will start shifting to occupy the gap created.

If you don't have it:

Speedy treatment is necessary to avoid shifting, which isn't as big a risk when you have the crown as when you don't. If you have to eat, try to avoid chewing from the side missing the crown; teeth without crowns are often fragile and can break easily. In addition, very hot or very cold foods can affect the crown site, where sensitivity is likely to be heightened. For oral hygiene, use a toothpaste indicated for sensitive teeth, and brush gently, especially near the site.