Current Guidance on Providing Emergency Dental Care to Patients

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Providing Emergency Dental Care to Patients

Minnesota Board of Dentistry

Dear Licensees,

There has been a lot of information circulating on what constitutes a dental emergency. Dentists are trained to diagnose and treat as appropriate in all situations. Right now, and with the recent mandatory Executive Order, dentists will be treating emergent needs only at this time. The Peacetime Emergency was declared March 13 for 30 days or until another order is issued. The Executive Order related to dentistry was issued yesterday and it references the time period in the Peacetime Emergency Order.

Dentists ultimately determine what is an emergency on their own patient, as they know them personally, have more insight into their systemic conditions, and can mitigate if postponement at this time will pose serious risk to the patient. Use your best clinical judgment and follow other guidance and recommendations as they come in this rapidly changing environment, both in dentistry and in our community. The Board also issued guidance in the past bulletin regarding treating emergencies when needed. Triage over the phone when possible, screen based on previous recommendation, wear PPE’s, and be mindful of any aerosol generating procedure. We as a dental community need to pull together and do our part, just as our other healthcare colleagues.

For us to tell you exactly what procedures dentists can and cannot determine as emergency would be clinically irresponsible, as we are not the ones diagnosing the patient that is being considered. If a dentist feels that the need is emergent then they would want to treat with extreme care and caution and with attention to the other recommendations. Keep in mind you are considering the threat to the patients life or threat of permanent dysfunction of the teeth or jaws.  

It is not acceptable to simply put on voicemail that the office is closed without providing a way to reach the dentist in case of emergency. It is also not acceptable to not respond to patients in a timely manner. This practice defers an otherwise healthy patient to seek dental emergency treatment in the ER, as that is placing further burden on an already strained system during this time of crisis.

Dentists need to be available to care for patients’ emergencies via phone triage and in clinic when needed. If you do not have staff available due to having to do layoffs, consider asking a colleague dentist in your area to assist you with emergencies. It is time to band together.

This is a confusing time for patients as well and the last thing that we want is for them to feel more helpless or vulnerable.

As always, if you have questions please email me

We are working with several colleagues and stakeholders to address the many impacts that the pandemic has caused on patients and the dental profession. The goal is to rebound from this as a stronger profession and continue to provide safe, ethical, competent care to the people of MN. 

Be well,

Bridgett Anderson LDA, MBA

Executive Director