4 steps to handle a dental emergency during COVID-19

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If you experience a dental emergency, you can still get treatment during COVID-19.

Under regular circumstances, when you have a dental emergency, you should visit your dentist or an emergency room as soon as possible. However, during the pandemic, it’s best to avoid going to the emergency room in order to keep local hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients. If you think you might have a dental emergency during COVID-19, here’s what you should do.

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1. Contact your dentist

Call your dentist to find out whether your condition constitutes a dental emergency that needs immediate care and whether they’re available to offer emergency treatment. They will ask you information about your symptoms and your level of pain. Depending on the problem, they may be able to see you virtually through a teledentistry consultation. They also might ask you to provide photos for a dentist or specialist to review in order to diagnose your condition and determine if you need to be seen immediately.

Emergency dental care is usually covered by most dental insurance plans – however, if you have to visit a different dentist, contact your provider to make sure the dentist is in your network.

2. Schedule an appointment

If your dentist affirms that you do require emergency treatment, schedule an appointment. If your dentist’s office is currently closed to patients, they may refer you to a different dental office.

3. Manage your pain

In the meantime, do your best to manage your tooth pain with home remedies such as over-the-counter pain medication, pain-relieving gel and saltwater rinses.

4. Exercise precautions

When you go to your appointment, exercise necessary precautions to keep you and those at the dental office safe. Wash your hands, wear a face mask, and let your dentist know if you’ve experienced any coronavirus symptoms.

What is a dental emergency?

In order to determine whether you need to take immediate action about your condition during COVID-19, first you need to find out if you’re experiencing a dental emergency that requires urgent care. The American Dental Association (ADA) requires dental emergencies to be potentially life threatening or require immediate treatment to alleviate severe pain or infection or to stop ongoing tissue bleeding¹. The following should be taken care of by a dentist at this time:

  • Uncontrolled bleeding

  • Painful swelling in or around your mouth

  • Severe tooth or jaw pain

  • Painful or swollen gum infection

  • After-surgery treatment, such as a dressing change or stitch removal

  • Broken or knocked-out tooth

  • Biopsy of abnormal tissue

Other conditions may also constitute a dental emergency. The ADA advises dentists to use their professional judgment in determining what requires emergency care. Contact your dentist if you’re unsure.

What is not a dental emergency?

Preventive dental care is important. However, at this time, many dentist offices have postponed elective and non-emergency dental care. The following may need to be rescheduled for another time:

  • Regular visits for cleanings, exams, and X-rays

  • Regular orthodontic visits

  • Treatment of cavities that aren’t painful

  • Removal of teeth that aren’t painful

  • Teeth whitening

  • Cosmetic dental procedures

If you have a dental emergency during COVID-19, contact your dentist as soon as possible. Even during these uncertain times, it’s possible to get the urgent treatment you need.

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.


  1. https://success.ada.org/~/media/CPS/Files/Open%20Files/ADA\_COVID19\_Dental\_Emergency\_DDS.pdf


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