Coronavirus update: Do you have a dental emergency? What to do during COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus cases in the UK have now surpassed 25,000 and 1,789 deaths have been confirmed. A sharp increase in cases over the last few weeks has led to strict government measures being put in place. Schools, pubs, restaurants, gyms and other businesses have been closed, public gatherings of more than two people have been banned, and people have been ordered to only leave their homes if they’re buying basic necessities, such as food and medicines, for exercise, medical care or work when it cannot be done from home.


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But what should you do if you have a dental emergency? asked London dentist Dr Richard Marques for his expert advice.

Under the government’s news measures, all dentist practices have been advised to closed.

But severe dental emergencies such as swelling and constant pain keeping a patient awake at night will be triaged.

Most dental emergencies should be managed with remote support to limit the spread of COVID-19 advised Dr Marques.

What to do if you have a dental emergency

Call your dental practise in the first instance as they may have setup a helpline, and if symptoms continue, call NHS 111.

Dr Marques added: “If the situation is serious, you may need to go to A&E – however you should only do so if 100 percent necessary and advised by medical professional.

“Try to stay calm as stress will cause the body to react in way that will worsen the symptoms.”

What is considered a dental emergency?

It’s important to first understand whether or not the situation is emergency or not, said Dr Marques.

Issues such as a lost filling, dull toothache, mild sensitivity or a smell chip in a tooth can all be treated at a later date.

Dr Marques explained: “Examples of more serious issues which would constitute an emergency include gums that will not stop bleeding, extreme tooth sensitivity or toothache causing constant pain, a tooth that has been knocked out/is jagged, and swollen cheeks/gums and general extreme pain from swelling or possible infection.”

What is bleeding gums a sign of?

Bleeding gums are a sign of gum disease (gingivitis) which is an inflammation of the gums caused by a build-up of bacteria.

Dr Marques advised: “You may be suffering if the delicate tissue around your teeth becomes red, swollen and sore.

“Gums bleed where the tissue is so thin which can range from uncomfortable to very painful.”


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Can you correct tooth sensitivity or toothache yourself?

At the first sign on tooth sensitivity, there are several things you can do to help alleviate the symptoms. Tips as follows:

 1. Switch to a desensitising toothpaste. The active ingredients can block the tiny holes in the surface of the teeth and act as a shield by calming any exposed nerves.

 2. Cut out any exceptionally hot or cold beverages. Extreme temperatures will trigger sensitivity, so stick to room temperature drinks and use lukewarm water when brushing your teeth.

 3. Ensure you’re using a soft bristled or electric toothbrush and brush gently in circular motions. Aggressive brushing can wear away tooth enamel, exposing teeth to sensitivity.

 4. Use a mouthwash that is high in fluoride and will help strengthen tooth enamel, but that does not contain harsh or abrasive chemicals including alcohol.

 5. Try to avoid acidic food and drink including fruit, vinegar and alcohol. The high sugar content and acidity can cause erosion and damage the enamel – both of which are leading causes of sensitive teeth and gums.

 6. Make sure you drink through a straw. In doing so the liquid will bypass the teeth, giving you a better chance at avoiding both damage and sensitivity.

 7. Wait at least half an hour after eating or drinking to brush your teeth. This will give the enamel a chance to re-harden. Brushing too soon could actually push acids deeper into the teeth which can cause erosion.

 8. Hold off on any whitening treatments when sensitivity becomes uncomfortable. You can still use natural whiteners such as strawberries and coconut oil to keep your smile bright!

 9. Maintaining good overall dental hygiene is the best defence against sensitivity. Brush, floss and rinse thoroughly but carefully twice a day, and visit your dentist every six months for a check-up.

What should you do if your tooth’s been knocked out?

If a tooth gets knocked out the first thing you should do is place it in a glass of milk until you’re able to be treated safely.

Dr Marques explained: “The milk helps keep an acid-alkaline ratio meaning the tooth won’t swell,

“If you don’t have milk, spit into a container and keep the tooth in saliva.

“Call your dental practise in the first instance and it they’re unavailable call 111 and follow medical advice.

“Do not touch the root as it will be extremely sensitive.”

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