MINNEAPOLIS – As Minnesota dentists follow a mandate by the Governor’s Office to temporarily suspend non-emergent and elective procedures in order to lessen transmission of COVID-19, many dentists remain available to provide emergency care – and they urge people to seek that care by contacting a dentist if they need it.

“Oral health is an integral part of overall health,” said MDA President Dr. Stephen McDonnell of St. Paul. “Severe pain, bleeding or swelling should be taken seriously at all times, even now when most dental offices are closed for routine care. Minnesota’s dentists remain available for patients during this public health crisis and have instituted additional measures and protocols to provide emergency care.”

“We cannot stress this enough,” Dr. McDonnell added. “Patients needing urgent care should not delay treatment, nor should they go to hospital emergency rooms already stretched thin by this crisis. If you need emergency dental treatment, contact a dental office first – they stand ready to help.”  Your dentists will use their best clinical judgement on what constitutes an emergency.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may constitute an emergency:

  • Severe, persistent toothache. If you feel a toothache has become overwhelming and in need of immediate relief, you should seek care from a dentist as soon as possible. Otherwise, symptoms could worsen and other complications could arise.
  • Tooth knocked out or loose. Timing is essential when a tooth has been knocked out. The faster you are able to see a dentist, the more likely they will be able to save your natural tooth. A tooth that has become suddenly loose is typical for children, but can be a major problem for adults as it could indicate an underlying disease.
  • Broken tooth. A broken tooth accompanied by severe pain requires emergency attention. This not only causes tooth pain and facial swelling, it can also leave you more vulnerable to bacteria and infection that can threaten overall health. If a tooth is slightly chipped or broken and presents no significant pain, treatment can be postponed until regular care can be administered.
  • Dental abscess (tooth infection). If you suspect a dental abscess, seek immediate treatment. Infections could become life-threatening when they spread throughout the body or close your airway. This type of infection may cause significant discomfort that can radiate into your jaw, ear or neck and may cause headaches. Common symptoms include swelling of your mouth or face, fever, a buildup of pus, a foul taste in your mouth and swollen glands.

If you are unsure if your symptoms require immediate attention, the MDA recommends seeking counsel from your dental office. They’ll ask questions to help decide whether a condition constitutes a dental emergency. If you do not currently have a dentist or dental home, you are encouraged to contact a local dental office and inquire about their emergency protocol.  If you fail to reach a dentist, please call your ER or Urgent care facility prior to going in as they may be able to direct you to a local dentist.  True medical emergencies – such as an inability to breathe or a rapid deterioration of your overall health – still warrant calling 911.

For more information about your oral health during the coronavirus pandemic, visit the American Dental Association’s public awareness website at www.MouthHealthy.org.

The Minnesota Dental Association is the voice of dentistry in Minnesota, representing practicing dentists. It is committed to the highest standards of oral health and access to care for all Minnesotans. You can learn more at www.mndental.org.