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What Constitutes a Dental Emergency?

March 14, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — docddsarlington @ 6:26 pm
woman with toothache in need of emergency dental care

The American Dental Association (ADA) is deeply concerned about the health of both patients and dentists. That is why they have recommended that dentists temporarily suspend normal operations while the nation works to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, most dentists are still providing emergency and urgent care at this time. How can you tell whether you should visit the dentist or if you should wait until social distancing protocols end? What constitutes a dental emergency? This blog post contains some practical guidance.


According to the ADA, a true dental emergency is a life-threatening situation that requires immediate care. It can include things like uncontrolled bleeding, broken facial bones, and swelling that obstructs the airway. If you find yourself in such a situation, you should visit your local ER because your dentist may not be available right away, or they might not have the equipment to address such a serious situation. After you receive initial care, you should contact your dentist to learn about the next steps in getting your oral health back on track.

Urgent Situations

Many dentists consider the following urgent situations to be emergencies even though they are not immediately life-threatening. Left untreated, they can cause severe pain and possibly systemic illness.

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

If any of these situations happen to you, contact your dentist right away. They may be able to provide same-day care for you. You can rest assured that dental offices maintain rigorous standards of sterilization, and the team that cares for you will do everything possible to protect you from COVID-19 and other infections.

When to Wait

You should wait until dentists resume their normal operations to make an appointment if:

  • You require a routine cleaning and checkup
  • You have a small cavity
  • You need orthodontic attention (other than if you need attention for an acute problem)
  • You have other dental issues that are not posing an immediate, serious threat to your health and quality of life

Of course, you might be experiencing a situation that is not mentioned in the above guidelines. If you have questions about whether you need urgent care, simply call or email your dentist and describe your problem in as much detail as possible. They’ll respond quickly and answer all of your questions about what you should do next.

The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily shut down many dental offices, but it has not cut you off from the care you need. Your dentist is still ready and willing to help you deal with urgent oral health problems.

About the Author

Dr. Ravi Doctor is a general and emergency dentist in Arlington. He deeply cares about the health of his patients and is looking forward to when he can reopen the doors of his practice to resume normal operations. Until that time, he and his team are available to provide guidance and support to patients in need. You can get in touch with us at 817-274-8667 or email us at

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