Dental emergencies can happen anytime, so it's important to be prepared. With the holiday season coming up and many dental clinics less likely to maintain regular hours, it’s especially important to know how to respond in an emergency situation.

While there's no substitute for professional dental care, knowing how to act quickly can relieve discomfort until you can see your dentist. You can also improve your chances of a speedy recovery and stop a small problem developing into something more serious.

If a dental emergency happened today to you or someone in your family - would you know what to do? Try this emergency dental quiz to test your knowledge and pick up useful tips.

1. How can I relieve a toothache?

If you develop a sudden toothache, should you...

A. Rinse your mouth with warm water

B. Apply a cold compress to the outside of your cheek

C. Take pain relief medication

D. Rub aspirin on the sore tooth or gum

Answers: A, B and C

These can all help to provide temporary relief from toothache pain, with a cold compress also helping to reduce swelling.

D isn’t correct - never place aspirin directly onto your teeth, as its acidic contents can damage tooth enamel or burn your gums.

2. How can I reduce swelling?

If part of your mouth is swollen, should you...

A. Apply a warm compress

B. Apply a cold compress

C. Take antibiotics

Answers: B and sometimes C

A cold compress or ice pack placed on the outside of your cheek can help to reduce swelling over time, as well as alleviate pain. However, if the swelling is caused by an infection, applying heat can help this infection to spread more quickly. You should only take antibiotics on the advice of your dentist or doctor.

3. My tooth is chipped or cracked. What should I do?

If one or more of your teeth is damaged by an injury or trauma, how should you respond?

A. Rinse your mouth with warm water

B. Apply a cold compress

C. Apply gauze

D. Make an appointment with your dentist

Answers: all of the above

Gauze will only need to be applied if your gum is bleeding, and this should normally stop after around 10 minutes. A damaged tooth is at risk of infection and could cause further damage if it cuts your cheek, lips or gums, so it's essential to see your dentist as soon as possible.

4. My tooth has been knocked out. What now?

If a tooth is knocked out completely, which of the below are safe responses?

A. Rinse the entire tooth with water

B. Place it back in the socket

C. Place it in milk or saliva

D. Make an appointment with your dentist

Answers: B, C, and D

Avoid A – it’s not good to rinse the “crown” of the tooth (i.e. the top part that was closest to the gum) in water.

D is the most important, but B and C can help in the meantime. If the tooth is intact and it still fits into the empty socket, hold it in place until you're able to see your dentist. If it doesn't fit, store it in a cup of milk or saliva to keep it moist (not water). You can also take pain relief medication to reduce pain and discomfort.

5. There's something trapped in my teeth. How can I remove it?

You can feel a piece of food or other debris trapped between your teeth. Should you...

A. Remove it with floss

B. Remove it with a sharp, pointed object

C. Make an appointment with your dentist

Answers: A and sometimes C

Try to remove the object gently using dental floss and your finger. If it doesn't come loose, you should make an appointment with your dentist. Never use sharp objects to try to dislodge something from your mouth, as this can puncture the soft tissues or scrape away enamel from your teeth, leaving them more vulnerable to plaque.

6. What should I do if a filling comes out?

If you notice that a filling has come loose, which steps can you take?

A. Cover the cavity with sugar-free chewing gum

B. Fill the cavity with dental cement

C. Make an appointment to see your dentist

Answers: All of the above (but especially C!)

You should make an appointment with your dentist right away. Some pharmacies sell dental cement that can be used as a temporary measure before you see your dentist, but you should only use these products if you're confident that you can apply them correctly. Chewing gum is a simple solution that can help to shield the cavity, but you need to make sure it's sugar-free, as sugar can cause pain as well as increase the risk of decay to your exposed tooth.

7. My dental crown has fallen off. What now?

If a dental cap comes loose, should you try to reattach it?

A. Reattach it using dental cement

B. Reattach it using toothpaste

C. Reattach it using superglue

D. Make an emergency dental appointment

Answer: D

Your dentist will not usually advise that you try to reattach a crown yourself, but in some cases, dental cement or toothpaste may be suitable as a temporary measure until your dentist can provide a new temporary crown while you wait for your permanent crown.

You definitely should not use superglue or other bonding agents on your teeth!

8. What should I do if my braces come loose?

If your brackets or bands come loose, should you reattach them?

A. Reattach brackets using orthodontic wax

B. Cover exposed wires with cotton, gauze or wax

C. Make an appointment with your dentist or orthodontist

D. Remove the wires yourself

Answers: A, B and C

If you have orthodontic wax, this may be used to hold a loose bracket in place temporarily, although it won't always work. If there's a risk of exposed wire ends cutting into your cheeks, tongue or other soft tissues, these ends should be covered until you're able to see your dentist or orthodontist. You should not remove any part of your braces yourself.

9. My cheek, lip or tongue is bleeding. What should I do?

If you've bitten or cut any of the soft tissues in your mouth, should you...

A. Rinse your mouth with warm, salty water

B. Apply a cold compress or ice pack

C. Apply gauze or a tea bag

Answers: All of the above

Salt water may cause brief discomfort, but it can help to reduce pain and the risk of infections. A cold compress can be applied outside the mouth to help reduce swelling, while a tea bag or gauze may be placed over the injured area to control the blood flow. If bleeding continues for more than 15 minutes, you should make an appointment with your dentist or doctor.

10. How can I prevent dental emergencies?

To reduce the risk of a dental emergency happening in the first place, should you...

A. Wear a mouthguard when playing sport

B. Avoid crunching ice and chewing other non-edible objects

C. Avoid opening bottle tops, packaging or nuts with your teeth

D. Never play sport or eat solid food

Answers: A, B and C

Prevention is often the best medicine when it comes to your oral health. Accidents can always happen, but plenty of dental emergencies are avoidable. By following your dentist's advice and taking reasonable precautions, you can improve the chance that you'll only visit the dental clinic for your scheduled appointments.

But we still recommend having a nearby dentist’s number saved in your phone… just in case!

If it's time for your check-up or you have a dental emergency, find your local Bupa-owned dentist.