Dental specialists remain open to keep dental emergencies out of ER

Posted at 4:47 PM, Mar 30, 2020

Dental offices across the country are shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, meaning teeth cleanings, checkups, and other elective procedures are on hold.

That's prompted some people with dental emergencies to show up at hospital emergency rooms seeking help.

"I think that our role as oral surgeons, specifically in what's going on right now, is to try and keep the emergency rooms free of people having dental problems," said Dr. Paul Koshgerian, a San Diego oral surgeon.

When the American Dental Association called for all dentists to postpone elective procedures, he knew his doors at The Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Specialists of San Diego would stay open.

"Patients that have toothaches or dental infections that don't have a dentist of record, oftentimes they find themselves in the emergency room," said Koshgerian. "It can overwhelm an emergency room quite quickly."

The American Dental Association estimates there's a dental-related emergency room visit every 15 seconds.

That's a growing concern now as hospital beds and protective gear around the country are in short supply.

"If you don't like the shade of your tooth, that's one thing. But if you have pain or swelling, those are things that need to be dealt with, because often times dental emergencies can become more severe quite quickly," said Dr. Koshgerian.

While they screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms, these doctors are inherently at risk working inside a patient's mouth, but they say it's a sacrifice worth making so their medical colleagues in hospitals won't have to see these patients, too.

If you're dealing with a dental emergency, first call your dentist for a recommendation, or reach out to the oral surgeon in your community.