The Northeastern District Dental Society of Minnesota is reminding people with dental emergencies to contact a local dentist instead of a hospital, especially as they prepare for an influx in COVID-19 patients.
The reminder comes after Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order to delay all non-essential surgeries and procedures that can be postponed without risk to the individual, including non-emergent dental care. The Minnesota Board of Dentistry recommended dental clinics postpone non-emergent care as early as March 17.
The governor's order went into effect Monday, meaning dentists are currently only open for emergencies.
Nathan Halstead, president of the Northeastern District Dental Society, said that prior to COVID-19 it wasn't uncommon for people without a dentist of record to seek relief from a dental emergency at a hospital, but he and others in the field are trying to minimize the number of people doing so.
"With the emergency rooms potentially being swamped with the COVID-19 patients, that is going to create a problem for them," Halstead said. "They may get turned away from the emergency room."
Halstead said dental emergencies can be life-threatening in certain situations.
People with dental emergencies should call a local dentist's office before showing up. If no one picks up, Halstead said, the voicemail message should list an emergency number.
The Minnesota Dental Association and the Minnesota Board of Dentistry have recommended best practices for offices to use to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, including screening patients before they enter. The state dental association reports that it's up to each dentist to determine whether a patient's situation rises to the level of an emergency.
Halstead said he's heard that area hospitals have seen an increase in patients with dental complaints.
"We want to help our medical colleagues out by making sure we are not having patients show up to the emergency room with dental problems while they're dealing with the COVID-19 crisis," Halstead said.
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