Defining a Dental Emergency During Covid

When you’re dealing with a dental problem, your dentist should be your first call. But what if you encounter a problem on a holiday, weekend, or in the middle of the night? OR you’re cooped up at home in a pandemic. If you’re dealing with a severe dental problem outside normal office hours, you will likely need an emergency dentist or even an emergency room visit.

Dental Emergency

In dentistry, an emergency is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment, including:

  • Pain that cannot be managed by over-the-counter medications
  • Oral-facial trauma (a wound to the mouth or teeth)
  • A bad infection, especially if it affects the patient’s airway
  • Prolonged bleeding

Urgent care

Urgent dental care means treating conditions that require immediate attention to relieve pain and/or risk of infection such as:

  • Severe dental pain from inflammation
  • Third-molar pain
  • Surgical post-operative problems
  • Abscess or localized bacterial infection resulting in localized pain and swelling
  • Tooth fracture resulting in pain, pulp exposure or causing soft tissue trauma
  • Extensive cavities or defective restorations causing pain
  • Dental trauma
  • Final crown/bridge cementation if the temporary restoration is lost, broken or causing irritation
  • Biopsy of a suspicious oral lesion or abnormal oral tissue
  • Replacing a temporary filling in an endodontic access opening for patients experiencing pain
  • Snipping or adjusting an orthodontic wire or appliance piercing or ulcerating the oral mucosa
  • Treatment required before critical medical procedures can be provided
  • Suture removal
  • Denture adjustments or repairs when the function is impeded
  • Other procedures that in the dentist’s professional judgement are necessary in order to minimize harm to patients and/or relieve pain and suffering

It’s important to understand the difference between a standard dental issue that can wait until morning or wait it out… And a real emergency that can threaten your health or cost you a tooth. Here’s what you should know about recognizing non-essential problems:

Non-essential care

Non-essential dental care includes:

  • Recall examinations and routine radiographs (x-rays)
  • Routine dental cleanings and preventive therapies
  • Orthodontic procedures other than those to deal with pain, infection, and trauma
  • Extraction of asymptomatic teeth
  • Restorative dentistry
  • Cosmetic dental procedures, including teeth whitening

I Think I Have a Dental Emergency, What Do I Do?

Call your dentist. They will ask you for information about your situation, including whether you have any symptoms of COVID-19, and give you advice about the next steps. If you need to visit the office, they will let you know if they can help or will direct you to another dentist.

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