If you have a dental problem outside of clinic hours, then you may not be sure whether to see an emergency dentist or not. Your own clinic should have an emergency number to call or you may have found a 24-hour dentist in your area.

However, you can't necessarily just turn up to a clinic outside working hours. You're likely to have a screening call first, either with a receptionist or dentist. Why is this necessary?

Check Whether You Need Emergency Treatment

It's sometimes hard to know when a dental problem is a real emergency. While some problems, like knocked-out teeth, are likely to need immediate treatment, other problems can wait. For example, if you have a bad toothache, then the person who takes your call will ask questions about when the toothache started, how it feels and whether you've taken any pain relief medication. In some cases, you may be able to wait to see your own dentist for a regular toothache that is responding to painkillers.

However, if you're in extreme pain and it gets worse when you drink something warm or hot, then you may have an abscess. This might require more immediate treatment, especially if you have some swelling in the cheeks around the tooth and you're running a fever.

This initial call assesses your problem and helps the dentist decide if they do need to see you quickly. It keeps emergency appointments free for people who really need them.

Get Tips on Non-Emergency Care

While it's a relief to learn that your dental problem isn't serious, finding out that you don't need an emergency appointment doesn't fix the problem right now. If you call with a toothache, it'll still be there when you hang up. The person you talk to on the phone is a useful source of help in these cases. They can give you advice and tips on how to manage your problem until you can see your own dentist.

Get You to the Right Place

While some dentists run emergency services on their clinic premises, some work on a group basis. So, for example, a group of clinics in a geographical area sometimes band together to offer out-of-hours care. Their dentists take turns to cover emergency shifts. If the person who talks to you first feels that you need to see someone urgently, then they organise this for you. Rather than turning up at a clinic that isn't open, you'll get an appointment at the clinic that is on duty at the time.

Your dentist can explain how their own emergency services work. If they don't have 24/7 cover, they can tell you who to contact if you have a problem in the future.