Identifying a Dental Health Emergency

To address the elephant in the room, COVID-19 is currently impacting health care services at all levels. A state-wide executive order now labels California dentists as essential health care providers. It asks dentists, registered hygienists, and dental assistants to join the California Health Corps. The goal is to swell the ranks of medical professionals combating the virus on the frontlines. But, a dental emergency can still occur.

As a result of the order, many of your local dental facilities and staff are devoting themselves to keeping you and your family safe. To protect them and maximize their efforts, it is imperative that individuals only seek treatment for a dental emergency during this time.

How Do I Know If It’s a Dental Emergency?

Currently, the American Dental Association’s definition of a dental emergency is very strict due to the seriousness of the virus. The desperate need for medical services means that only the most severe dental conditions are being prioritized. Otherwise, they are fighting the effects of the virus.

Your case is only considered an emergency if you are experiencing dangerous symptoms.
These include: uncontrollable bleeding, a severe oral infection with swelling that could potentially block your airways, or trauma that has damaged facial bones and risks blocking airways. These are life-threatening conditions that require immediate treatment and count as an emergency dentist visit.

Other Options for Treatment

However, there is a gray area that the ADA identifies as “urgent” dental care. These are not considered dental emergencies but may require treatment during the pandemic. If you’re experiencing intense pain, showing symptoms of an abscess, fracture a tooth, or need abnormal tissue biopsied, then call your dentist. At OC Dental Specialists, we are still available, and it cannot hurt to ask about an appointment.

Additionally, your care may be considered urgent if you need to complete work in progress. Specifically, this applies if you have a treatment that began before the shelter-in-place order. For example, you may need dressings changed or a permanent crown if the temporary one breaks. You should already have appointments in place for these services, but check with your dentist to make sure they don’t need to be rescheduled.

Based on your symptoms, your local dental office will be able to identify the urgency of your case. They will determine what precautions to take to ensure your safety, as well as the safety of the staff and other patients. You should, by no means, just walk in. Even in a dental emergency, have a friend or family member call ahead as you drive over so that the staff can prepare to receive you.

Non-Emergency Treatment

For the time being, it is in your best interest to limit dental visits to those that qualify as emergency or urgent visits. If you’re unsure whether your case qualifies, you can always call your dentist to check.

Unfortunately, for many of us, the present situation means that we have to put off our routine care. While inconvenient, it ensures our health care system can devote as much energy and as many resources as possible to fighting this virus. This is potentially saving the lives of the people who matter most to us.

Do Your Part

Practice common sense. Stay at home whenever you can. Wash your hands. Remind yourself to think of the people you could be putting at risk whenever you feel tempted to ignore government guidelines.

This situation is difficult for everyone, but our patience and resiliency are the only things keeping it from getting much worse. Your dental office will still be there once this is over.

So, for the meantime, remember to brush twice a day and floss once a day. Practicing regular dental hygiene will help to maintain your existing oral health. It will give your dentist something to smile about once everything is back to normal.

Follow this link to learn more about OC Dental Group’s emergency dentist procedures.