Dental Emergencies: Tele-Denistry and Covid-19


Unfortunately, stay-at-home orders don't stop dental and medical emergencies. Recently, while eating lunch, I realized I had pain in one of my upper teeth. Now, I admit- I've been in Wilmington for slightly over a year-half and haven't found a new dentist. It was one of those well-meaning "I will get to it soon" deals that kept getting pushed further out due to hurricanes, illnesses, camps, and annual church events.

So, what is a girl to do when she realizes she needs to see a dentist but isn't a patient anywhere? Especially during Covid-19, where most practices are closed until further notice? Luckily enough, I know a church member who owns a dental practice and looked her up. She was glad to speak with me through teledentistry first, triaging to see whether I was emergent or could wait a while.

Telemedicine, or medicine over the phone/ computer, has been around for a while but has really gained traction throughout-out Covid-19 as health care providers want to triage patients before seeing them in person. It can be kind of nerve-wracking- talking to your provider through the computer, trying to explain what you feel is wrong, and them determining how they can best help you. In my case, I ended up taking pictures of the issue and sending them to my new dentist, so that she could determine how best to help me. She ended up inviting me into her office so that we could get an x-ray of my tooth and determine how to move forward with dental care.



Here are some things I've learned:

1) If you are having an issue, don't wait to contact your provider! Websites, Social Media, and voicemail might indicate if your provider is triaging emergencies.  Leave a message! Most likely, someone is checking voicemail. If they are not seeing patients themselves, they might be able to refer you to someone that is open for emergency situations. If your provider isn't answering and you are in pain, definitely do a search and start reaching out to other providers. Many know that this time is difficult and are willing to work with you, even if you aren't a patient of their practice.

2) Your provider wants you to be safe as much as they want to be safe. I wore a mask into my dentist's practice. The dental assistant, wearing her own mask, met me at the door. She opened the door for me both coming in and departing, so I didn't have to touch handles. She immediately led me back to the chair and began work. Since I was a new patient, I did have to fill out the forms and she left me alone to do so. It was a very quick and easy process- faster than regular appointments!

3) Keep your mask on unless you are told otherwise. The dental hygienist had me lower the mask when she was taking x-rays of my tooth. Otherwise, she asked me to keep my nose and mouth covered with the mask.  If I did not come in with a mask, she would have provided me with one- but she said that she was thankful many patients do bring their own!

4) I was the only patient in the office. Practices are limiting the number of workers and patients in their offices- staggering medical emergencies as needed.

5) Don't wait to contact your provider!  My new dentist told me that she was glad I called- not only is my issue something we need to solve sooner rather than later, but she says once she starts rebooking her patients, her calendar will be less available to new patients/ patients with other needs because she needs to rebook her most emergent cases, then those that missed regular appointments.

Now, while the results of this emergency won't necessary be painless, this particular adventure was very easy! Go ahead- call your medical providers now if you are having issues. Don't wait until June, when they will be booked!




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