Dental Emergencies Don't Require Trip To Emergency Room

Many dental offices are closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn't mean your dentist won't be available for dental emergencies.

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In recommendations updated March 27, the CDC urged the nation’s dental providers to “postpone elective procedures, surgeries, and non-urgent dental visits and prioritize urgent and emergency visits and procedures now and for the coming several weeks."

In emergency cases, the CDC instructed oral health and medical providers to work together to determine an appropriate course of treatment for patients with known or suspected COVID-19.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered to postpone all procedures that are not immediately medically necessary until April 21, 2020. The goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19, while limiting the number of patients being seen at emergency facilities and hospitals.

The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners posted this on its website:

"At this time, dental offices are not mandated to close. Dental offices may stay open to see patients for emergency procedures only. Patients in pain and/or suffering from infection/abscess would fall under the executive order provision that states “a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences.” Violation of executive orders could lead to potential fines and even jail time for those who do not comply.  

Extreme pain from a tooth infection couldn't have happened at a worse time for Mark Joslyn.

After searching for a dentist with no luck, he says he was afraid he'd have to go to the emergency room at a local hospital.

"I was concerned about having to go to the ER and what I might be subjecting myself to by going to a place like that," said Joslyn.

According to the American Dental Association, most hospitals don’t have the facilities or staff to provide comprehensive dental care. 

So many patients receive only antibiotics or pain medication, but the underlying dental problem is not addressed. 

In too many cases, the patient returns to the emergency room with the same problem – or worse.

However, if a patient can't find a dentist open during the pandemic, going to the ER may seem like the only option.

"It's a big problem and I can see that in the patients that are coming because there are some serious infections going on, people in pain, people up all night because the problem that we see is it's just difficult for them to find a place that can care for them," said West Davis Dental Dr. Sigurd Enoksen.

Dr. Enoksen is working with area dentists to create a list for DFW residents who need emergency dental care.

A group of dentists recently sparked a social media grassroots movement to help get the word out. It's called #DentalER. They put together more resources here.

You can also try calling your personal dentist to see if he/she is able to accommodate your dental emergency.

Joslyn says he hopes that sharing his story will help others realize that they don't have to live with tooth pain nor go to the hospital emergency room.

"Hopefully I can be the sounding post," said Joslyn.

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