7 dental emergencies you shouldn’t ignore during COVID-19

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From bleeding that won't stop to biopsies, find out what requires urgent dental care.

There’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to getting medical and dental care during these challenging times. The American Dental Association (ADA) has called on dentists across the United States to postpone non-urgent dental procedures through April 30, however some states may relax social distancing mandates before or after that date.¹

Regardless of your local guidelines, you can still access emergency dental care during quarantine. Putting off emergency dental care could have serious repercussions, so anyone that has a dental emergency during the quarantine period may get the care they need.

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Emergency situations

When dental emergencies happen, it’s important to get care right away to prevent pain, tooth loss and other problems that could be difficult to fix later. The situations that are considered dental emergencies include:²

  1. Bleeding that won’t stop - If you experience bleeding gums or bleeding in your mouth that is severe or that won’t stop you should call a dentist right away for immediate help. This doesn’t mean the light bleeding that can happen when you brush your teeth if you have gum disease like gingivitis. An emergency bleeding situation means significant bleeding that won’t stop even after you have tried usual methods to stop bleeding like applying pressure to the area.

  2. Painful swelling - If you notice that your gums are very swollen or if there is significant swelling near your jaw that doesn’t go away quickly, you should call a dentist for an appointment immediately.

  3. Pain in a tooth or the jaw - If you experience sharp or intense sudden pain in a tooth or in your jaw don’t wait to call a dentist. Throbbing pain can indicate a problem like a broken tooth or an infection, both of which need to be taken care of right away. 

  4. Dressing changes - If you had oral surgery before the quarantine and you still have dressings on the surgery site that need to be changed you should still go to the dentist to get those dressings changed.

  5. Broken tooth or knocked out tooth - If you have an accident at home or in the car that results in a broken tooth, loose tooth or a tooth that gets knocked out call the dentist right away.

  6. Adjusting braces - Wires from your braces poking into your cheeks or loose braces count as emergencies that you should see the dentist about.

  7. Biopsies of abnormal tissue - Anytime that you notice an abnormal growth or a patch in your mouth that has changed appearance it should be checked by an experienced dentist as soon as possible.

Situations that aren’t emergencies

The CDC recommends that during this time people postpone getting any kind of elective dental surgery as well as routine appointments and cosmetic dentistry because of the increased risks associated with COVID-19.³ The CDC guidelines indicate that you should reschedule or not make appointments for things like:

  • Annual checkups

  • X-rays not related to emergency care

  • Teeth whitening procedures

  • Consultations and assessments for braces or cosmetic dentistry

  • Teeth cleaning

  • Fillings

  • Tooth extractions

If you’re not experiencing a dental emergency, the best thing to do is continue practicing a good oral hygiene routine that includes regular brushing and flossing until it’s safe for dentists to begin seeing patients in their offices regularly again.

Safety first

If you do have to see a dentist during the quarantine period there are safety guidelines issued by the CDC to help protect you and your dentist.⁴ Your dentist will probably ask you if you have had any symptoms of COVID-19 and may want to take your temperature to be sure that you aren’t running a fever before treating you. Your dentist has thorough guidelines to follow to ensure that your risk of exposure will be minimal while you are getting treated but if you want to know exactly what is being done to minimize the risk of infection ask your dentist directly. 

Seek teledentistry services

If you are unable to visit a dentist’s office for emergency treatment, teledentistry could be a good alternative. During a teledentistry consultation, you can use your phone camera or computer to give your dentist a look at what is going on in your mouth. 

In a real-time video chat your dentist can go over a treatment plan with you and walk you through some treatments that you may be able to do yourself at home with proper supervision. If you’re not sure if your situation is a real emergency a teledentistry assessment can be a good way for the dentist to assess if an office visit is necessary. Teledentistry appointments may be covered by dental insurance the same as an office visit would be. 

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.


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  1. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/covid-19, 2020

  2. https://www.ada.org/~/media//CPS/Files/COVID/ADA\_DentalEmerg\_Patient\_Flyer.pdf, 2020

  3. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/infectioncontrol/statement-COVID.html, 2020

  4. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/dental-settings.html, 2020