Although the American Dental Association (ADA) has recommended that dentists not perform elective and routine dental procedures, we are still open for emergency dental needs. And if you have a dental emergency, it’s best to see a dentist, not go to the emergency room. Here’s why.
Conserve ER Resources
Even at the best of times, ER resources are limited. Now they are seriously stressed by the large number of people seeking care for symptoms related to COVID-19 and should be saved for people who might need to be hospitalized for the disease. That’s why the ADA has asked us to focus on emergency care: to help ease the strain.
Reduce Exposure Risks
Because people are seeking care for COVID-19 at the ER, the department is likely to be a hotbed of contagion for the novel coronavirus. Even when you take precautions, you are much more likely to contract the disease by visiting the ER than coming to a dentist. We have the same or better decontamination protocols, and there are fewer people with the virus (possibly even none) coming through our office.
With all the people seeking care at the ER these days, you can expect that wait times will be much longer than in the past. When you talk to the triage nurse, they are likely to put you at the bottom of the list in terms of priority. If they even treat you. They might send you away and ask you to seek care at a dental office after all.
At the ER, they can diagnose many different diseases and conditions, but they are not particularly skilled at diagnosing dental conditions. They can mistake gum disease, food impaction, and an infected tooth, especially if they’re rushed and stressed by COVID-19 patients. We can take the time to properly diagnose your condition and match you up with the best treatment.
At the ER, their main priorities are treating your immediate problem and sending you on your way, and that has never been more true than now. If they can stick a proverbial bandage on it and kick you out the door, they will. It sometimes happens, for example, that people are given antibiotics for an infected tooth. This might knock down the infection and stop your fever, but your tooth will become reinfected quickly.
We will take the time to make sure we really solve your problem and give you root canal therapy or other treatment whose results will last years, even decades.
Save Your Tooth
Another way that they deal with infected teeth at the ER is jumping right to an extraction when a tooth might be saved with root canal therapy or gum disease treatment.
Once a tooth is gone, you cannot get it back. While a dental implant is a great tooth replacement, it is not identical to your lost tooth, so it’s better to save your tooth whenever possible.
More Attractive Results
As we’ve noted above, at the ER they might rush to extract a damaged tooth. If they do so, they might not take into account the procedure to replace it with a dental implant or dental bridge. This can impact your ability to get the best replacement, and it can definitely impact the aesthetics of your tooth replacement when you get it.
But if we have to extract your tooth, we will make sure to lay the groundwork for a functional, attractive replacement tooth.
At the ER, they don’t have time to worry about your experience as a patient. They are focused on providing the essential care for you and the other patients in the department, and anything beyond that is superfluous and so it is neglected.
But we always care about giving our patients the best possible experience. Whether you’re a regular patient or new to our office, we will take care of you.
Continuity of Care
As the ER is focused on immediate care, follow-up after treatment is notoriously bad. And with dental care, it’s likely to be even worse. And even if they do arrange for follow-up, it’s very unlikely to be the same person you saw at the ER.
But when you get treatment at our office, we will follow-up with you to make sure you are doing okay. Any follow-up care will be taken care of at our office, and we’ll have access to all records of your treatment so we know what was done and what needs to be done.
Of course, you shouldn’t make care decisions based exclusively on cost, but it is still an important consideration, especially now when you might be worried about your income. Treatment at a dentist’s office is generally cheaper than treatment at the ER. Even if you don’t have dental insurance, you will still save money at the dentist’s office.