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What Is a Dental Emergency?

Posted on March 26, 2020 in Dental Health

woman with tooth ache

Some dental conditions are urgent in nature. Learn the conditions that need immediate care and what to do if you’re in pain.

The COVID-19 global health crisis has affected practically every part of everyday life, including your scheduled dentist visit. In March 2020, federal and state agencies recommended that dentists treat only emergency dental cases and reschedule all other appointments until further notice to protect patients and dental office staff.

You may find yourself in a situation requiring urgent dental care, which may need quick action. Here, you’ll learn the dental problems that require immediate dental care and what you should do if you think you’re experiencing an emergency situation.   

Dental Emergencies and Urgent Care Defined

Dental emergencies are teeth and mouth problems that include:

  • Heavy bleeding in your mouth
  • Extreme swelling in and around your throat, mouth and jaw
  • Serious injury to your face (from a sports injury or fall, for example)

These are emergency dental problems because they can prevent you from breathing properly.  These conditions and injuries require immediate dental or medical care to fix.

Urgent dental problems on the other hand, usually are not life threatening, but they can cause severe pain and have a major impact on your life. That’s why your dentist will want to treat you as quickly as possible, so don’t delay in calling them.

Below are examples of situations and procedures that warrant urgent dental care:

  • Severe tooth pain and gum swelling
  • A broken tooth, or tooth that is partially or completely out of its socket
  • Cavities or fillings that cause pain
  • Stitches removal
  • Dental procedures that need to be done before major medical procedures

What to Do If You’re Worried

Call your dentist—don’t wait if you’re experiencing pain or other concerning symptoms—the longer you wait, the worse the problem may become.

Your dentist will ask you to describe your symptoms over the phone to determine if your problem needs immediate emergency care. Be as detailed as possible about what you’re experiencing. If you’re in too much pain to talk, get a friend or family member to speak to your dentist on your behalf.

What should you do if your dentist office isn’t open? Try calling anyway, as some offices offer after-hours emergency assistance. Their answering machine may also provide another number to call. If your dentist isn’t able to see you and you need help, you can contact Delta Dental of Iowa’s member and provider services team at 800-544-0718 for assistance. 

If your dental problem is causing potentially life-threatening problems, such as mouth swelling that is interfering with your ability to breathe, call 911 immediately. 

Dental emergencies—like all emergencies—are unplanned and often very frightening. Although you may be in a lot of pain at the time, know that your dentist will help treat the problem as quickly as possible and get you back to living a healthy, pain-free life.

Have a question about emergency coverage in your Delta Dental of Iowa plan? Our Customer Service team is here to help. Give us a call at the number on the back of you ID card or contact us here.