March 15, 2020
When faced with a dental injury, you want immediate help. Most dental offices offer same-day appointments or will work to try and get you scheduled as soon as possible, but when a crisis at home occurs while the world is facing a global pandemic, what constitutes a dental emergency? Hear what the American Dental Association (ADA) and your local dentist have to say that will help you make the right decision about your health and safety.
What is COVID-19?
The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies COVID-19 as an infectious disease that causes respiratory illness. Also known as coronavirus, its symptoms often include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Currently, the only way to avoid the spread of COVID-19 is to practice what is being called “social distancing” and by washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. If these are unavailable, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is a viable alternative. It is also advised that individuals avoid touching their face.
How Does it Impact Dental Emergencies?
As COVID-19 progresses, the ADA has issued certain guidelines to help both dental professionals and patients better understand what constitutes a dental emergency. In the past, patients were able to seek immediate care for mouth injuries; however, with the reduced number of resources available and with many offices closed with dental professionals only seeing patients with dental emergencies, dentists are urged to use their best judgment to determine the severity of a patient’s needs. There are 3 categories currently being used to differentiate certain situations. These include:
- Dental Emergencies: These are potentially life-threatening injuries that require immediate attention (i.e. continuous bleeding, increased swelling that can block a patient’s airway, trauma to a patient’s facial bones)
- Urgent Dental Care: These focus more on managing various conditions to relieve symptoms and alleviate the need for ER assistance (i.e. tooth fracture, a custom restoration that is lost or broken, third-molar discomfort and pain, dry sockets, removal of sutures, denture adjustment, serious dental cavities causing pain)
- Non-Emergency Dental Procedures: These are considered routine and non-urgent (i.e. orthodontics, routine checkups and cleanings, oral examinations, tooth extractions, restorative dentistry, cosmetic dentistry)
As the information surrounding this virus continues to change day-to-day, your local dentist’s office will be able to provide valuable insight as to how you can handle certain dental emergencies while at home. If you believe you are experiencing a crisis, make sure to call them right away. Some minor injuries can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers, cold compresses, and warm saltwater rinses.
Should you need to come in for immediate care, trust that your dental team is taking the necessary steps to ensure high levels of sterilization and disinfection to keep you and your family healthy and safe from exposure.
About the Author
Dr. John Ludu is an emergency dentist in Phoenix who achieved his Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry before going on to earn his doctorate at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. Undergoing various specialty education courses, he has more than two and a half decades of dentistry experience. Dr. Ludu and the dental experts at Devoted Family Dental are working hard to ensure you and your family receive the care you need, especially during this difficult time. If you believe you have a dental emergency, contact us at (623) 444-6222.
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