Tuesday, April 28, 2020

What Exactly is a Dental Emergency?

We are all doing our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19. But sometimes, it’s hard to know when to stay home and when to seek care.

The American Dental Association (ADA) asked dentists to close their offices to everything but urgent and emergent care through at least April 30th. So, what exactly is a dental emergency? And if you have one, what should you do?

When to Call Your Dentist

There are some dental issues that just can’t wait. If you think you have a dental emergency, always call your dentist before coming into the office. Your dentist will determine when, and how, you need to be seen.

But in general, these situations are considered emergent:

  • Persistent bleeding: Bleeding heavily from the mouth, or gums that don’t stop bleeding.
  • Painful swelling in mouth or gums: This could be a sign of a serious infection.
  • Pain in teeth or jawbone: Sudden, acute pain or throbbing pain that persists.
  • Toothache with fever: This could be a sign of a serious infection.
  • Broken or knocked out tooth: Call your dentist right away if this happens.
  • Growths or discolored patches on gums or tongue: Most likely, your dentist will want to examine any abnormalities.
  • Braces wires hurting cheeks or gums: Call your dentist or orthodontist to determine if you need your wires snipped or adjusted.

When to Keep an Urgent Dental Appointment

A few types of dental situations shouldn’t be put off, even if they aren’t considered an emergency. The following dental appointments should be kept even during COVID-19 closures, unless your dentist tells you otherwise.

  • After surgery treatments (dressing changes, stitch removals, etc.) 
  • Denture adjustments for people receiving radiation or cancer treatment

When to Wait

Although it is hard to wait, we all must postpone routine dental appointments for now. Your dentist will call you to reschedule the following types of appointments:

  • Routine exams, cleanings, and x-rays
  • Regular visits for braces
  • Removal of teeth that aren’t painful
  • Treatment of cavities that aren’t painful
  • Tooth whitening

Call First and Avoid the Emergency Room

Most importantly, please remember:

  1. Don’t show up at your dentist’s office without calling first.
  2. Avoid the ER unless it’s life threatening. This helps reduce the burden on emergency rooms during this crisis.

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