Your Dental Health and COVID-19

Governor Inslee announced new restrictions on non-urgent dental procedures so the state can make sure Washington health care workers have enough protective equipment to wear as they work the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order applies to any non-urgent procedure that requires dental professionals to wear personal protective equipment.

But your oral health is important, and some dental problems require help right away or soon. The order from Gov. Jay Inslee doesn’t apply to dental emergencies or urgent dental problems.

This page will help you determine whether your dental issue is an emergency, is an urgent situation, or can wait until the restriction is lifted. We also have tips for protecting your oral health.

If you need urgent dental care, call your dentist. They may still be seeing patients for urgent issues. If you need help finding a dentist, text or call DentistLink* at 844-888-5465.

*Arcora Foundation, the foundation of Delta Dental of Washington, is using its dental referral service, DentistLink, to connect people with urgent dental care. People needing urgent dental care who don’t have a current dental provider or can’t access their current provider can call or text DentistLink at 844-888-5465. DentistLink serves everyone, but is especially focused on people who have Apple Health (Medicaid) or do not have insurance. The service is provided at no cost to users, dentists and community partners.

 

What’s a dental emergency?

A dental emergency is a life-threatening problem that requires immediate treatment. Avoid the emergency department unless your problem is immediately life-threatening. Dental emergencies include:

  • Severe trauma to your mouth.
  • Uncontrolled bleeding.
  • Severe infection that results from an untreated dental abscess. You may feel very unwell, with a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, swelling in the floor of your mouth, face or jaw, and severe pain that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter painkillers. Cellulitis, a serious, spreading infection, also can make it difficult to breathe.
  • Life-threatening dental conditions that could include difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, tongue feeling elevated, or severe extraoral (outside the mouth) swelling.

What to do?

If you visit an urgent care or emergency department, please stay at a safe distance (at least 6 feet) from others, wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer often, and avoid touching your face, surfaces and shared items.

What’s an urgent dental problem?

Urgent dental care provides immediate relief for severe pain or problems that could lead to serious infection. These problems should be addressed by a dental provider offering urgent care, not in the emergency room.

  • Severe toothache.
  • Swelling in your gums, face or neck.
  • An abscess, or a pocket of pus caused by infection, in the gums.
  • Dry sockets after a tooth extraction. Signs of dry socket: pain, loss of blood clot, visible bone, and/or pain that radiates from the site to the ear or temple on the same side.
  • Recent injury to your mouth that’s not life-threatening.
  • A painful tooth fracture.
  • A painful lost filling.
  • Painful tooth decay.
  • Denture problems that significantly impair your ability to eat.
  • An orthodontic wire that’s cutting your mouth.

What to do?

Call your dental provider or local safety-net clinic. Tell them how you feel, including if you have a fever, a cough or chest pain. Your dental team will tell you what to do next. Your dentist may talk with you about your symptoms on the phone or over video chat.

People needing urgent dental care can text or call DentistLink at 844-888-5465.

What can wait?

Nonemergency and non-urgent procedures can wait until Governor Inslee lifts the restrictions affecting dental care. Here’s what to schedule for later:

  • Treatment of cavities that aren’t painful.
  • Removal of teeth that aren’t painful.
  • Regular exams, X-rays, treatments and cleanings.
  • Orthodontic procedures other than those to treat immediate problems such as pain or infection.
  • Restorative dentistry including treatment of asymptomatic carious lesions.
  • Aesthetic procedures.

What to do?

Call your dental provider’s normal phone number and re-schedule after restrictions are lifted. If you do not have a dental home call DentistLink at 844-888-5465.

How to protect your oral health

Healthy habits can go a long way to protect oral and overall health. Cavities and gum disease are preventable. Healthy habits can help ensure you and your family have better oral health for a lifetime. Here are four tips to keep your mouth healthy:

  • Brush twice a day. It is especially important to use toothpaste with fluoride. Spokane is the largest city in the state without the right balance of fluoride in the water to prevent cavities.
  • Floss daily.
  • Eat tooth-healthy snacks such as nuts, cheese and fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Drink water for thirst, avoid sugary beverages including juice, soda and sports drinks.
 

Additional Resources

dentistlink.org
dentalemergencyspokane.com
ada.org/en/member-center/coronavirus-resource-toolkit-for-ada-members
coronavirus.wa.gov
srhd.org/covid19faq
betterhealthtogether.org/covid19-resource-center