As of the writing of this column, on Wednesday March 25, 2020, the state and much of the country is shut down. Since information is changing so rapidly, and this print is a week old, I am going to concentrate this week on things that will occur regardless of how long it takes for things to return to normal.
Dental offices will NOT be open for routine care for many more weeks at the rate we are going. Dental problems will continue to arise. It is important that you understand what general dentists are considering emergencies vs. non-emergencies.
In addition, all dental problems, including any questions you have, should be directed to your general dentist. Many of us are doing consultations via video (FaceTime, Zoom, etc.). I have found these to be very helpful in determining who needs to be seen, and who can wait.
If you do NOT have a general dentist and have a dental problem, PLEASE do NOT go to the emergency room.
Please ask family members or friends for recommendations to a general dentist. Check their website. Call their office to listen to their message. Check their Facebook page. You should be able to get in touch with a general dentist to assess your particular situation. They should be the one who determines if you should be seen and/or if you need a referral to a specialist for care.
What constitutes a dental emergency? Is a dental emergency different than an urgent dental need?
True dental emergencies are not as common as urgent dental care. Dental emergencies are potentially life threatening, require immediate treatment to stop ongoing bleeding, or alleviate pain or infection. Trauma would also be included in this category. This would typically not include routine toothaches. The general dentist can use their referral network of specialists as needed for these situations. The emergency room should be used as an absolute last resort.
Urgent dental care focuses on management of conditions that require attention to relieve discomfort and/or risk of infection. These should be treated by a general dentist or specialist. Severe tooth pain, dental abscess or tooth fracture, missing temporary fillings, or anything else you have concern about should be directed to the general dentist and left to their discretion on how to handle.
Please keep doctors, nurses, all people in healthcare, and anyone else who is potentially at higher risk of exposure due to their profession, in your thoughts and prayers during this time.
Please do not hesitate to send any non-urgent questions to my email below. You can also get more up-to-date information at my blog, also listed below.
Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can view all previously written columns at www.jpeterstclairdentistry.com/blog.