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How to handle dental emergencies during COVID-19

  • Author: Shelby Tatomir

Just like other parts of the body, the mouth is subject to accidents. Sometimes as minor as biting your tongue, and other times serious enough to require professional care.

Dental emergencies can be just as frightening as medical emergencies. Pain and stress can cause trouble thinking clearly. But knowing how to handle a dental emergency, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, can help us remain calm and in control.

Educate yourself before you’re in the midst of a dental emergency for the best possible outcome. Learn what a dental emergency is and how to handle it during a pandemic.

Dental visits during a pandemic

The CDC is recommending that routine dental care visits dentist be postponed. Routine dental visits are when you go to the dentist but don’t have pain or a problem to correct. The American Dental Association (ADA) is also advising dentists to limit appointments to urgent and emergency procedures.

Reschedule the following dental services for a later date:

●      Regular visits for exams, cleanings, and x-rays

●      Regular visits for braces

●      Removal of teeth that aren’t painful

●      Treatment of cavities that aren’t painful

●      Teeth whitening and other cosmetic procedures

The ADA recommends that you contact your dentist at this time if you experience:

●      Bleeding that doesn’t stop

●      Painful swelling in or around your mouth

●      Pain in a tooth, teeth, or jawbone

●      Gum infection with pain or swelling

●      After surgery treatment (dressing change, stitch removal)

●      Broken or knocked out tooth

●      Denture adjustment for people receiving radiation or other treatment for cancer

●      Snipping or adjusting wire of braces that hurts your check or gums

●      Biopsy of abnormal tissue

Some common types of dental emergencies include:

  1. Losing a tooth: If a permanent tooth is knocked out, time is of the essence. You may be able to re-implant the tooth. Call your dentist immediately and try and ask if it’s possible to visit as soon as possible. Transport your tooth in a glass of milk if available. If not, a glass of saltwater will do. 
  2. Facial Swelling: If you notice an advanced amount of swelling in your mouth and/or around your face, you may have an abscess or infection. You may feel a throbbing sensation when you lie down or you may not even have any pain. An abscess can be dangerous and even life threatening in some cases. Contact your dentist immediately to determine next steps for possible treatment.
  3. Toothaches: While toothaches aren't necessarily an emergency, they can sometimes be painful and make you uncomfortable. Try washing your mouth with warm saltwater and taking an over the counter pain medication. Contact your dentist to explain your pain and discuss what should be done.
  4. Broken or Fractured Jaw – If you have a broken jaw, you will likely feel pain in the face or jaw and have swelling and bruising. Your jaw may not work properly or misalign teeth. To control swelling, apply a cold compress. Stabilize the jaw using a bandage wrapped beneath the jaw and tied on top of the head and get to the nearest emergency room quickly.

Healthcare facilities are especially busy and susceptible to impacts from the pandemic, so visiting an emergency room should be used if you experience:

●      Head or eye injury

●      Concussion/confusion

●      Broken bones and dislocated joints

●      Severe cuts that may require stitches

●      Facial lacerations

Familiarity with how to handle a dental emergency will help you or someone you love to recover more quickly and easily.

For more information on maintaining your oral health during a pandemic, check out our blog.