While many dental issues are upsetting and uncomfortable, most are not life-threatening emergencies. They are generally best handled by a dentist and don't require a trip to an emergency department (ED) or urgent care facility. In these situations, these facilities primarily serve to relieve pain and do not treat underlying causes.
In fact, a recent report by the National Institutes of Health states that dental care provided in hospital emergency departments resulted in an estimated 90% of patients receiving pain medications or antibiotics without oral treatment. Patients are then referred to a dentist for care. This same report also suggested that opioid prescriptions are up to five times more likely when dental care is treated in a hospital emergency department or urgent care facility rather than a dental office, which can lead to other issues.1
If dental issues can be handled by traditional methods such as ice-packs and over-the-counter pain medications until you can see a dentist, do so. Dentists are well-equipped to stabilize most issues and develop treatment strategies to address any underlying problems. If the issue occurs after normal business hours, most dentists offer 24-hour emergency service arrangements.