Emergency dental care during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a real challenge. Dental offices everywhere are instructed to follow strict health and safety protocols to keep operating. Fortunately, this year, dentists can now provide non-essential and elective care alongside dental emergencies and essential or urgent care.
Your visits to the dentist during this pandemic are going to be different. You will need to undergo screening before you can enter the clinic. As much as possible, you’re also required to schedule an appointment first before getting a check-up or elective procedure. Walk-ins are discouraged, except for when you have a dental emergency that is potentially life-threatening and needs immediate attention.
Even then, if you have a dental emergency, you should call your dentist before storming into the office so they can assess over the phone the best course of action for you. Whether you’re coming into the clinic or heading straight to the emergency room will be up to your dentist.
Common Dental Emergencies
To help you figure out whether you have a dental emergency or not, the Canadian Dental Association provides this list along with the first steps to handle them:
While a toothache isn’t necessarily an emergency, it can sometimes be too painful and make you uncomfortable. Your toothache can occur for several reasons ranging from eating or drinking cold or hot food (depending on your sensitivities) to underlying gum infection, among others.
First, call your dentist, explain your symptoms, and schedule a dental appointment as soon as possible. Then, find a way to ease the pain. Try washing your mouth with warm salt water, or take over-the-counter pain medicine that works for you, but do not put the pills on your sore tooth. Do not put a heating pad or a heating bottle on your jaw, since it will only make things worse. Instead, hold an ice pack against your face.
Chipped or broken tooth
Your natural tooth can crack while you are eating if you bite into a hard piece of food, hard candy, or ice. Fortunately, a chipped or broken tooth can almost always be saved with a tooth filling or a dental crown. Mostly, your tooth can be repaired to look as it did before the incident.
Call your dentist and explain what happened and they will see you right away. If it’s a small break, they will use a filling. But if the break is serious, a root canal and a crown may be needed.
Badly bitten lip or tongue
Almost everyone bites their lip or tongue at some point. This usually happens when you’re enjoying something to eat and you bite wrong, making your lip or tongue bleed.
If there is bleeding, use a clean cloth and press down on the part of the mouth that is bleeding. If your lip is swollen, use an ice pack to keep the swelling down. If the bleeding does not stop, go to a hospital right away.
When you have a severe lip injury, it can alter your teeth structure, affect your ability to close your mouth, or even cause trauma to your teeth. So even if you already went to the emergency room to get your lip stitched up, you should make a dental appointment to make sure that you don’t have any long-lasting oral health issues.
Knocked out tooth
Your tooth can get knocked out if you hit your mouth hard against an object. If your tooth is knocked out or you have lost your tooth, it is important that you call a dental office that offers dental emergency service right away because dentists consider a knocked-out tooth a situation that requires urgent dental health care.
If you knocked out your tooth, stay calm and contact your dentist. Hold the tooth by the crown only and rinse the tooth in water. You should also rinse your mouth with warm water, and apply a cold compress to your face in the area of the injury.
Something stuck between teeth
When you have something stuck between your teeth, use dental floss and carefully and gently remove the object. Don’t poke between your teeth with a pin or any sharp object, since it can cut your gums or even scratch the tooth surface. If you experience pain while flossing, it can be an indication that you might have a dental infection. If you can’t get the object out, see your dentist immediately.
Dental fillings don’t last forever and sometimes, the filling can get lost or fall out. When this happens, the first thing you need to do is call your dentist to set up an appointment. In the meantime, put a piece of softened sugarless chewing gum in the spot where the filling was lost and avoid chewing on the area of the exposed tooth.
When calling your dentist, let the dentist know that you’re in pain so they can suggest over-the-counter pain medicine that you can take if your dentist can’t see you right away.
Steps for Handling Dental Emergencies
When you are experiencing a dental emergency during this COVID-19 pandemic, consider the risk if you don’t visit your dentist. So here are steps that will help you handle dental emergencies:
Call Your Dentist First
With health protocols in place, patients are asked to make a call before heading to the dentist. Your dentist will assess over the phone whether you can do first aid on your own, or if what you have is a dental emergency and need to visit the dental office right away for proper treatment.
It is also recommended that you contact your dentist immediately when you experience:
- Swelling in or around your mouth
- Broken or knocked-out tooth
- Paint that doesn’t go away even after pain medicine
While the rule of thumb is to contact your dentist first, there are certain exemptions. You need to need to visit the emergency room if, besides your dental concern, you are experiencing:
- Head or eye injury
- Broken bones and dislocated joints
- Severe cuts that may require stitches
- Facial lacerations
Perform First Aid
You need to know how to perform first aid in order to reduce pain and swelling and find any chips or knocked-out teeth so that they can be inserted back into your mouth.
For your mouth injuries, swelling, and toothaches, apply cold compress to your face in the area of the injury. You can also take pain medication, like Tylenol, or you can use an oral anesthetic to reduce the pain.
Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water helps reduce pain and draws out any infection from mouth injuries, abscesses, or extremely painful toothaches.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What do I do if I think I have a dental emergency?
Call your dentist and tell them about your dental emergency. They will give you advice on whether they can help you, or will direct you to another dental or emergency clinic.
2. Is it safe to visit the dentist now?
Yes. Dentists are required to follow strict infection prevention and control procedures and their main priority is the protection of their patients and staff.
3. Is the dentist going to ask about my COVID-19 vaccination status?
Your dentist can ask for your health status and medical history if it will affect your treatment and dental care. However, current screening protocols do not include a question concerning one’s COVID-19 vaccination status.
4. Can I ask my dentist if they and/or their staff have been vaccinated?
No. The vaccination status of a person is considered personal health information. Any health information about the dentist and the staff cannot be shared externally with anyone.
5. Can my dentist provide prescriptions over the phone?
Your dentist can decide if you need over-the-counter medications or prescriptions, or if you need to be seen in their office. If you need a prescription, your dentist can directly send it to the pharmacy.
6. What do I do if I am COVID-positive and have a dental emergency?
You can take an online self-assessment tool to determine if you need to seek care. Most importantly, call 911 and advise them of your symptoms and travel history. DO NOT go straight to the dental office or emergency room.
7. If I have a dental emergency, can I go to a hospital near me?
As much as possible, contact your dentist first to see if they can help you with your dental emergency. Going to the emergency room for a dental emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic is not recommended, unless facilitated by your dentist and/or 911 Services or if you are experiencing other serious life-threatening non-dental symptoms mentioned above.
Emergency Dentist in Sarnia
Dental emergencies need to be addressed immediately. Don’t wait for your condition to get worse. Call Lambton Family Dental at 519-334-5747 if you or your loved one is experiencing pain or other symptoms that need urgent dental care.