Maybe you took dental treatment for granted until now, during the coronavirus pandemic, when it’s no longer easy to come by. Since most elective medical procedures including dental treatment have been sidelined by the current public health crisis, you’re likely worried about where to get treatment when you have a dental emergency.
Although the spread of COVID-19 has upended life as we know it, you still have some options for getting the dental care you need at this time.
Is Your Dental Appointment Cancelled Because of Coronavirus?
Although requirements vary by state per the local risk factors, the general recommendation by bodies such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is for dentists to temporarily stop providing elective dental procedures. Such recommendations and regulations are subject to change at any moment given the volatility of the situation.
What does this mean for you?
You must be ready to accept the possibility that your previously scheduled dental appointment could be canceled at the last minute.
Dental offices may have to close or cut down on scheduled appointments for reasons like:
Your dentist isn’t happy about cutting back on their work. It might seem that dentists are wealthy people with few financial worries, much of what they earn goes to things like the overhead costs of running a practice, paying their staff, paying off student and medical equipment loans, and lab fees. Other expenses are a high cost of indemnity, subscriptions to journals and books but also meetings and courses they need to attend in order to keep their skills up to date.
Just know that your dentist is feeling the pinch, as well, and wants to do all they reasonably can to make sure you get the care you need. There’s no need to panic or get upset if your appointment is cancelled. Try to be understanding and realize that while a canceled dental appointment is an inconvenience for everyone, it is for a greater good in this fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Dental care currently takes a backseat to the much bigger ongoing health crisis. But dental treatment is still necessary; dental emergencies don’t stop for human coronavirus.
The good news is that even if routine dental procedures are canceled, there’s still a provision for emergency dental services.
Visiting the Dentist During the Pandemic
Here’s what you need to know about visiting an emergency dentist during this uncertain time.
In Which Cases Can I Ask for a Dental Appointment?
If you call your local dental practice or look up their website, you’ll likely get a message that they are only making appointments for dental emergencies. So you can still get in for a visit if you have a true dental emergency.
This ADA (American Dental Association) resource is excellent since it’s constantly being updated and explains exactly what constitutes a dental emergency
Basically, if you’re experiencing pain or bleeding or if you can’t eat, breathe, or speak normally because of a dental problem, then you probably do have an actual emergency.
A dental issue that’s life-threatening definitely constitutes an emergency, but you may need to head straight to the emergency room rather than your local dentist if that’s the case. If you aren’t sure, then you can call your dentist first to find out if they can see you right away and if they are equipped to help you. If not, then the office will tell you where else you should go to have your dental emergency treated.
Some common dental emergencies include:
- A knocked-out or shattered tooth
- A broken denture
- Facial trauma
- Bleeding that won’t stop
- Dry socket
- Dental abscess
- Emergency wisdom tooth removal if pain is not calming on painkillers for more than a week
- Painful and ill-fitting braces or dental restorations
- Pulpitis or any other tooth pain which can have a bad impact when eating or sleeping
- Decemented or unscrewed implant crown, or bonded crowns or bridges causing pain or discomfort
Dental Appointments During Human Coronavirus: What to Expect
What will happen when you have an emergency dental appointment during the coronavirus pandemic?
Your dentist will follow the most current recommendations for providing your treatment at this time.
Making an Emergency Dental Appointment
The dental office will need to triage your case over the phone in order to determine the severity of your emergency. Your dentist can’t see many patients at once, so the office needs to carefully plan who comes in and when. Air needs to be sterilized as well in a dental office after every patient and this procedure can take up to 40 minutes in some cases. Don’t be surprised if you’re given instructions over the phone and then even told that you don’t have to come in. If the office already has to see many emergency cases and your situation isn’t too severe, then they may not have time to see you that day.
Your dental practice carefully plans the timing of appointments to make sure that there aren’t too many patients on-site at any one time. That’s why you should make an effort to arrive exactly on time for your appointment, neither too early nor too late. Best way is also to call the office 20 minutes before your appointment just to find how the situation is and check of it's not too busy.
Arriving for Your Treatment
When you first walk into the dental office, you’ll likely be the only one there. Your dentist can’t have too many patients in close proximity to one another so they’ll limit the number of patients they have in the treatment area or waiting room at any given time.
The dental office staff follow all the usual and recommended infection control procedures to ensure that you’re safe from exposure to any pathogens. You can rest easy knowing that your dentist and other team members are using adequate PPE to provide your treatment. While being in the waiting room, you should wear a mask and even gloves if possible, if not you could ask someone in the clinic to provide you some protection gear.
Updating Your Medical History
In addition to the usual questions you have to answer about your medical and dental history, you may also have some extra questions about coronavirus symptoms. Try to answer these questions honestly and calmly. As medical professionals, the dentist and staff at the office have responsibility to inquire about this for their own protection, the safety of other patients, and for your own good. They’re in a position to help you if you have any questions or concerns about how COVID-19 affects you.
Your visit with the dentist may be brief, depending on the nature of your emergency and the kind of care you need. You probably won’t receive any other elective procedures like dental cleanings or teeth whitening. Additionally, you may be feeling the financial pinch of coronavirus. If you’re concerned about affording the cost of an emergency dental visit, then call the office in advance to find out what their payment policy is. This will help you avoid an unpleasant surprise after your treatment is done. Prices might go up as PPE is usually not cheap and hard to find, and usually all the staff and sometimes patients need to wear it.
Are Dentists Still Open Today During the Coronavirus Lockdown?
Many dentists are still providing emergency dental treatment during times of lockdown, quarantine, and shelter-in-place orders. They provide an essential service in a safe environment so their offices are still open.
The difference is that the services provided by dentists in the United States today are greatly reduced. There are currently no cleanings, routine checkups, or cosmetic or elective procedures being done, only emergency appointments. Office hours are likely also reduced.
Teledentistry: A Vital Solution During Coronavirus Spread
Have you ever taken a day off of work, traveled a half hour or more to the dentist, waited almost an hour to be seen, spoke with the dentist for three minutes when he didn’t even touch your mouth, travel all the way back home, and then received a ridiculous bill for treatment?
That scenario probably had you thinking “why all this trouble just for the dentist to tell me I’m fine?”
Teledentistry is the up-and-coming solution to that waste of time and money. It’s also emerging as a shining new standard of care in dentistry during this time of COVID-19 when elective dental treatment is off the table.
What Is Teledentistry?
According to the American TeleDentistry Association, “Teledentistry is the use of electronic information, imaging and communication technologies, including interactive audio, video, data communications as well as store and forward technologies, to provide and support dental care delivery, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, transfer of dental information and education.”
Teledentistry can include phone calls and video chats with your dentist along with the exchange of digital records like prescriptions, photos, x-rays, and medical records.
Via teledentistry, a dentist can give you advice and recommendations for treatment, answer your questions, and refer you to other dental professionals all without you having to leave your home. The model works just fine in any other countries as pharmacies have started to send even antibiotics to patient’s door using online prescriptions. This is a great option for emergency dentistry, too. A dentist can remotely triage your case and let you know what steps to take next.
Even if you don’t have an emergency, teledentistry can come in handy when you’re stuck at home due to travel restrictions, quarantine, or illness. More dentists are offering this treatment option these days since teledentistry requires zero patient travel and reduces the dentist’s need for in-office staff and PPE like gloves and masks.
Treatment Options for Dentistry Online
Besides your local dentist, you have other options for online dentistry during the coronavirus pandemic.
There are several teledentistry companies that offer treatments you can order from your home and have delivered right to you. For example, there are teeth whitening kits, toothbrush and toothpaste subscriptions, and even online teeth aligners that you can purchase without setting foot outside (like the ones listed in our review of the best invisible braces).
Some companies offer online assistance with their products and services. Byte, for example, is an approved partner of the American TeleDentistry Association and it offers both orthodontic and teeth whitening services. Byte has remote dental experts who can oversee your clear braces treatment via the Internet. Check out our Byte review for more information.
HiSmile is a trendy at-home teeth whitening system that offers a Help Center and other support. AlignerCo is yet another clear aligner company with a home delivery treatment model and a 24/7 chat system to address your concerns.
What About Do It Yourself (DIY) Dentistry?
Sitting around in home quarantine with a toothache might inspire you to get creative with the DIY dentistry. But it’s actually very dangerous to experiment with at-home dental treatment. You risk having an allergic reaction or causing more damage if you attempt to fix your own teeth. Pulling teeth out is always a bad decision as no matter how painful a tooth can get, medications can help rather than being in pain or with serious complications resulting after the” self extraction.
Even if online dentistry isn’t an option, there are safer ways to get some relief.
One thing you can try is making a homemade toothpaste that includes clove oil for pain relief. You could also try coconut oil teeth whitening, which is at least safe, even if not as effective as professional teeth bleaching.
You can also try using a dental repair kit or emergency denture repair kit, both of which are affordable temporary solutions that you can pick up in your local drugstore. These kits can help you stay comfortable for the next couple of weeks if you aren’t able to see a dentist.
Online Dental Treatment Alternatives During Coronavirus
You might be battling quarantine boredom by trying some self-care projects like dyeing your hair or exercising more. What if you could improve your smile at the same time? You don’t currently have the option to visit your dentist for elective procedures like braces and whitening. But a little dentistry online magic can help you out. So have fun exploring your options for online dentistry!