Emergency Dental Care and the COVID-19 Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, every aspect of our lives has taken a drastic turn. And while many activities grind to a halt, health-related conditions don’t always follow the same strategy. Dental problems often occur at the most inopportune time, and our current situation amplifies that challenge. 

The American Dental Association (ADA) guidelines currently recommend that dentists suspend elective care and provide emergency and urgent care only.  In addition, many states have mandated similar restrictions.  As a result, many dentists and patients find themselves with unprecedented treatment restrictions.

GUIDELINE GOALS: Prevent the spread of COVID-19 AND preserve supplies of Personal Protective Equipment for hospital providers.

What Is Elective Care?

The easiest definition of elective care is dental care that you can reschedule for another time without developing pain or infection in the near future. This includes:

  • Regular checkups, professional cleanings, and x-rays
  • Removal of teeth that aren’t causing pain or swelling
  • Filling cavities that aren’t painful
  • Braces visits
  • Regular denture adjustments or relines
  • Crowns for asymptomatic broken teeth
  • Teeth whitening
  • Implant placement
  • Gum surgery for non-urgent issues

Other procedures may fall onto this list, and the restrictions could change weekly. Some states have even seen different restrictions implemented in different counties.

What Is Emergency Dental Care?

True dental emergencies are problems that are potentially life-threatening and need immediate attention. Time is of the essence in these cases:

  • Uncontrolled bleeding
  • Diffuse swelling spreading underneath the eye
  • Diffuse swelling spreading below the jawline into the neck
  • Swelling in the neck that’s creating difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Trauma to the bones of the face that affect the airway
  • Fever accompanying these conditions

These conditions require immediate evaluation and treatment. If you’re unable to be seen by us or another dentist right away, an ER visit is warranted.

What Is Urgent Dental Care?

Urgent dental problems require immediate attention to treat severe pain and/or the risk of infection. Guidelines allow treatment of these problems:

  • Persistent bleeding that doesn’t stop with pressure
  • Swelling in your mouth or face
  • Tooth pain
  • Gum swelling with pain or swelling
  • Removal of stitches or dressings after surgery
  • Broken or knocked-out tooth from trauma
  • Denture adjustment in cancer treatment patients
  • Trimming or adjusting braces that are hurting gums
  • Dental care required before critical medical treatment
  • Placement of a final crown or bridge if the temporary is broken or irritating the gums

Other problems may be treatable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please reach out to our team if you have any questions.

Bottom Line: Conditions that involve bleeding, pain and/or infection are considered emergency or urgent care problems.

What Kind of Treatment Can I Expect?

Our primary goal is to keep you safe, comfortable and pain-free. We want to accomplish that as conservatively as possible, and we try to minimize treatment as outlined in published guidelines. Also, we don’t want patients to end up in the ER unless it’s a life-threatening emergency.

Together, we’ll get through this. We’ll do everything we can to help you until this crisis passes, and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

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