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How to Handle Dental Emergencies

By Wyatt Dilling on April 8, 2020 in Healthy Living


Dental emergencies can be just as frightening as medical emergencies, especially during a pandemic.

Just like other important parts of the body, the mouth is subject to accidents. Sometimes the injury can be as minor as biting your tongue. Other times, the injury is more serious and requires professional care. By educating ourselves on how to handle a dental emergency, we can remain calm and in control. Research shows that, when in an emergency, education helps us remain calm.

Dental emergencies can be just as frightening as medical emergencies. Learn what a dental emergency is and how to handle it during a pandemic. Pain and stress can cause trouble thinking clearly. Educate yourself before you’re in the midst of a dental emergency for the best possible outcome. 

Dental Visits

With the added diligence that dental offices continue to undergo right now to keep you and the office staff safe, such as regular office cleanings, and possible COVID-19 screenings prior to being seen, your dentist is likely not able to see as many patients in a day as in “normal” conditions. If you are experiencing more severe symptoms, you should call your dentist to check to see if you can be seen sooner.

The ADA recommends that you contact your dentist if you experience:

  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop
  • Painful swelling in or around your mouth
  • Pain in a tooth, teeth, or jawbone
  • Gum infection with pain or swelling
  • After surgery treatment (dressing change, stitch removal)
  • Broken or knocked out tooth
  • Denture adjustment for people receiving radiation or other treatment for cancer
  • Snipping or adjusting wire of braces that hurts your check or gums
  • Biopsy of abnormal tissue

Dental offices are currently open for regular business, but there is still a chance your dentist’s office is on a reduced schedule. Always call ahead first. We can assist you in finding care by calling (800) 544-0718 or visiting us online on our blog.

If you do have an emergency while you are traveling or your regular dentist is not available, Delta Dental of Iowa members now have access to Delta Dental Virtual Visits by Teledentistry.com. These virtual visits are a safe and effective way to receive dental care and avoid the emergency room. Use Delta Dental – Virtual Visits when you:

  • Have a dental emergency and do not have a regular dentist.
  • Need access to a dentist after hours if your dentist is not available.
  • Need to consult a dentist while traveling and you don’t have a dentist.

While not a replacement for your regular dentist, Delta Dental Virtual Visits can come in handy should you have an emergency. Learn more about Delta Dental Virtual Visits at deltadentalia.com/emergency.

Visit an Emergency Room if you experience:

  • Head or eye injury
  • Concussion/confusion
  • Broken bones and dislocated joints
  • Severe cuts that may require stitches
  • Facial lacerations

Types of Dental Emergencies:

  1. Lost Tooth: If a permanent tooth is knocked out, time is of the essence. You may be able to re-implant the tooth. In order to give you the best chance, call your dentist immediately and try to get in to the office as soon as possible. Transport your tooth in a glass of milk if available. If not, a glass of saltwater will do.
  1. Toothaches: While toothaches aren't necessarily an emergency, they can sometimes be painful and make you uncomfortable. Try washing your mouth with warm saltwater and taking an over-the-counter pain medication. Contact your dentist for an appointment as soon as possible.
  1. Broken or Fractured Jaw: If you have a broken jaw, you will likely feel pain in the face or jaw and have swelling and bruising. Your jaw may not work properly or misalign teeth. To control swelling, apply a cold compress. Stabilize the jaw using a bandage wrapped beneath the jaw and tied on top of the head and get to the nearest emergency room quickly. 

Familiarity with how to handle a dental emergency will help you or someone you love to recover more quickly and easily. 

For more information on the importance of maintaining your oral health during a pandemic, check out:

*Updated September 2021