If you are suffering from a toothache, chipped tooth, loose filling or other dental emergency, it's important to call your dentist as soon as possible. Toothaches may be an indication of a cavity or other serious problem - such as a bacterial infection - that will need to be addressed quickly and should not go untreated. Until a professional treats you, here are some at-home tips to calm oral pain and what to do when an unexpected emergency arises.

With most dental emergencies, severe pain may be a factor. Aspirin or aspirin substitutes should be avoided as they can slow clotting. If you cannot manage the pain without assistance, you may consider ibuprofen or naproxen sodium - but only if you have no previous allergies or medications that can interact with these painkillers. Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist and carefully follow your doctor's and label instructions.

Cavity Calming SolutionsApplying ice (on and off) to the affected area or to the cheek may help sooth irritated nerves and reduce swelling. Oil of cloves (from the pharmacy), or even fresh cloves from the spice rack, have been known as an aid in relieving pain naturally. Never place an aspirin directly on a painful area inside the mouth. Very gentle massaging and flossing can help to remove irritants, while rinsing with a tepid crystal salt water solution will help reduce swelling and detoxify the mouth. Real vanilla extract placed on a cotton ball and then dabbed around an irritation may also help relieve pain.

Broken ToothRinse your mouth with a warm crystal salt-water solution and get to your dentist as soon as possible. Bleeding may be stopped with gentle pressure to the gums, not to the tooth. Remember to bring any tooth fragments to the dentist with you and keep them hydrated in a solution such as milk or salt water. A soft piece of wax or a temporary filling material from the pharmacy may help to prevent further irritation.

Knocked-out ToothHold or place your tooth in the socket if possible or wrap in clean, wet gauze until you can see a dentist. A tooth has a better chance of being saved and re-implanted if you can get to a dentist within 30 minutes. Call an emergency room or 24-hour dental service if you can't reach your dentist in time. Biting down on a moistened tea bag may help sooth and slow bleeding.

Crown or Bridge Fell OutUse a little petroleum jelly or denture adhesive available from the pharmacy under the crown to hold it in place - as a very temporary fix - until you can see a dentist. Do not chew on the crown or bridge.

Bitten Tongue or LipApply a cold compress and gentle pressure to help stop bleeding. If bleeding does not stop, go to an emergency room.

Object Caught Between TeethIf you cannot remove an object with gentle flossing, do not cut your gums or use any sharp objects to remove the obstruction. You should rinse with warm crystal salt water solution until you can see a dentist.

We often say the mouth is the gateway to total wellness. Treat your mouth with respect and care, including eating a healthy, antioxidant-rich diet, and exercising and brushing three times a day. Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and oral health exams. Your dentist may be able to prevent a possible emergency by catching dental problems before they begin - saving you a lot of discomfort and a potential emergency visit later. And common dental issues, such as gum disease, may be precursors to other, more serious illnesses. Studies from Harvard and other major medical institutions have proven that poor gums can put you at high risk for diabetes, heart disease and other illness.

Many people see their dentist more than they see any other doctor. If you are like many who are afraid to see the dentist regularly, ask about "pain free" dental care. In fact, many of our patients find our treatments and procedures soothing and even comforting. Today's dental science has come a long way - and patients should not be afraid to seek good oral health options. If you are concerned because you do not have insurance, talk to your dentist about possible payment options or other forms of help that may be available. Dr. Gerald P. Curatola is a renowned aesthetic dentist and pioneer in the emerging field of rejuvenation dentistry, which improves patients' overall health and appearance by integrating total wellness with cutting edge oral care and restorative procedures. In addition to his private practice, research, and work as a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU College of Dentistry, he is an internationally sought after speaker, author and expert who has been featured widely in print and broadcast media. For more information, go to DrGerry.net