Mar 16, 2020

During this time of COVID-19, the American Dental Association (ADA) has recommended that dental practices temporarily suspend normal operations. Many dentists are only offering urgent and emergency care. But how can you tell if you need prompt professional dental attention or if you should wait until COVID-19 social distancing measures end? An emergency dentist is here to give you some practical guidance.


The ADA defines a true dental emergency as a life-threatening situation that needs immediate care. If you are experiencing uncontrolled bleeding, broken facial bones, or swelling that makes it difficult for you to breathe, do not hesitate to seek professional care. It is best to visit your local ER before you go to the dentist. Later, you can contact your dentist for follow-up care so they can help you to get your oral health back on track.

Urgent Situations

Most dentists offer emergency care, but it is geared toward urgent, but not life-threatening situations. Urgent dental problems can cause severe pain, and if they are left untreated, they may lead to serious and long-lasting consequences. Such issues include:

  • A severe, throbbing toothache
  • A broken tooth
  • A dental abscess
  • Abnormal postoperative pain
  • A partially or fully dislodged tooth
  • Extensive dental decay
  • Other problems that cause significant discomfort or hinder the oral function

If you experience any of the above-listed problems, call your dentist right away and describe your situation. They will make efforts to see you as soon as possible, perhaps even on the same day you call or the next day. Prior to your appointment, they will likely give you advice that will help you take the edge off your pain and prevent further damage to your oral health.

You do not have to worry that visiting your dentist will greatly increase your risk of contracting COVID-19. Dental practices are serious about sterilization and about protecting patients from contagions.

When To Wait

Of course, there are some dental issues, that while they require attention, are not particularly urgent. If you require any of the following services, you should wait to make an appointment until your dentist resumes normal operations:

  • Routine preventive care
  • Small fillings
  • Elective procedures, such as teeth whitening or porcelain veneers

If you are ever unsure about whether you should visit your dentist right away or wait, ask a professional. Call your dentist’s office or send them an email. They’ll give you personalized guidance on what your next steps should be.

Most dental offices have suspended routine operations, but that doesn’t mean your dentist isn’t ready to help you. Don’t hesitate to contact them regarding your oral health concerns!

About the Author

Dr. C. Romesh Weerasooriya, affectionately known as Dr. Mesh, is a general and emergency dentist in Englewood. Since he finished dental school over 25 years ago, he has continually honed his skills and advanced his knowledge with the goal of providing the best care possible to his patients. He and the rest of the team at Tarpon Shores Dental are ready to help patients throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Contact us at 941-548-1351 to learn more about how we can serve you.